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Backers of plan to reduce transportation emissions in northeast find it a difficult sell

Significantly lowering Greenhouse Gas emissions from New England will require significant cuts in emissions from source, aside from the electric industry, which has received the most attention so far. The biggest source of emissions is transportation. Policy makers in many northeast states have considered a proposal to create economic incentives to lower emissions. However, the Transportation Climate Initiative has been a difficult political sell in most areas.

“There are not many options,” Jurgen Weiss, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School said about cutting transportation emissions, “You could shift to electric cars at the same time that you clean up the electric system. You could…You could increase the efficiency of cars by higher m.p.g…. Or you could potentially also substitute fuels that have lower carbon contents.”  

The Transportation Climate Initiative is a cap-and-trade program, under which permits are auctioned off to sellers of substances such as gasoline that cause emissions and then fewer permits are issued over time. Proponents of TCI estimate it would add up to 9 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline. They estimate the auctions would bring in millions of dollars in revenue to be devoted to infrastructure repair.

Thirteen eastern states originally signed on to the TCI, but most have dropped it. In Rhode Island, the plan won approval from the State Senate this year but not from the Rhode Island House. In Massachusetts, the administration of Governor Charlie Baker says it has the authority to move forward without additional legislative action. In Connecticut, TCI was removed from the state budget, but supporters have expressed hope it can be approved separately.

“There is nothing in TCI that will reduce emissions,” Michael J. Fox of Connecticut based Gasoline and Automotive Service Dealers of America told And Another Thing, “They're counting on getting the cost of gas up so high and using electric vehicles, which we don't have the infrastructure of.”

“Years from now, our kids and our grandkids are going to ask, ‘what did we do to fight the greatest challenge of our time? What did we do to stop this existential threat to humanity?’ And in Connecticut, the Democrats are going to be able to say that we fought for clean air and clean water, that we pushed to modernize school busses so kids didn't breathe in diesel exhaust on the way to and from school,” Democratic Connecticut State Senator Will Haskell countered in a conversation with And Another Thing.