Congress has an opportunity for a significant achievement this year – possibly one of only a few opportunities we have to work together and get something done for the American people: improving our infrastructure.
Infrastructure is an issue which typically does not get politicized. As the saying goes, there are no Republican roads or Democratic bridges.
However, the recently introduced framework for the Green New Deal threatens to hijack what has traditionally been a bipartisan issue.
We can all agree that we want clean air and clean water for our communities and families. As a farmer, I know the environment is important to both quality of life and our economy. And it’s in all our best interests to be good stewards of the land.
I also know that when we talk about how we interact with and respond to our environment through the laws we create, we need to work together to find solutions that actually work.
We don’t live in a fairy tale.
I have deep concerns that the Green New Deal will unnecessarily hijack and politicize our infrastructure with a “government-knows-best,” “one-size-fits-all” approach to infrastructure and the environment.
For example, according to key supporters of this “New Deal,” we should aim to make air travel “unnecessary” by relying on wide-scale high-speed rail.
To show how out of touch that goal is, look no further than the California high-speed rail project: billed as the premiere project of its kind in the country.
This project first began receiving funding when its development was rushed out the door to get funding from President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. Since then, the project has been consistently mismanaged, and its budget skyrocketed to somewhere north of $70 billion.
With over $3 billion in federal taxpayer money already committed, California’s governor earlier this month finally acknowledged the poor management, cost overruns, and delays and dramatically scaled back the project.
Last week, the Department of Transportation, based on this “significant retreat,” coupled with missed schedules, lack of funds, and more, announced it intends to pull back almost a billion dollars in unspent federal funds, and may seek more.
According to key supporters of this “New Deal,” we should aim to make air travel “unnecessary” by relying on wide-scale high-speed rail. Look no further than the California high-speed rail project to show how out of touch that goal is.
This is just one perfect example of why the Green New Deal’s heavy-handed approach is the most imperfect way to govern.
It’s also illogical. Some proponents of the Green New Deal, which calls for replacing all gas-powered cars with electric vehicles, also support an increase in the gas tax – a fossil fuel – to fund our transportation infrastructure needs.
There’s a disconnect here. Perhaps more than one.
Top officials from the Obama administration called the Green New Deal “impractical,” “unrealistic,” and a “fantasy.” A top labor union official referred to the “economic and social devastation” the plan would cause.
In reality, solutions for our infrastructure and environment need to be realistic and workable.
In recent years, under Republican Congresses, we passed good bipartisan infrastructure legislation that addressed environmental issues. The FAA Reauthorization Act, among other things, established an FAA-industry partnership for developing low-energy and low-emission technologies; the Disaster Recovery Reform Act focused on making our communities more resilient to natural disasters, and three Water Resources Development Acts have addressed ecosystem restoration, flood risk reduction, and storm risk reduction projects.
The fact is the private sector is responding to industry-driven and consumer-driven market demands for cleaner energy and cleaner technology. We continue to see more car, truck, train, and aircraft engines that are cleaner, more fuel-efficient, or use alternative fuels. Using less fuel, or using it more efficiently, has built-in market-based incentives for both companies and individuals.
Congress must continue to ensure that states, local governments, and private industry have the tools and flexibility to address their unique needs and keep innovating. They don’t need sweeping regulatory mandates from proposals like the Green New Deal that ignore our economic realities and the unique needs of our communities.
That approach will just drive entire industries and communities straight into the very earth we all want to protect. Instead, we need bipartisan, consensus-based solutions to improve our infrastructure and address our environmental issues.