FIGURE 6.1 Trends in impacts of U.S. light-duty vehicles.
SOURCE: DOT, DOE, and EPA statistics.
zoning of land use. Higher levels of government traditionally show substantial deference to local prerogatives.
Academic understanding of the links between land use and transportation has translated only slowly into policies that might restrain travel demand growth tied to land use. Researchers have identified five land-use features, the “five Ds,” influencing demand for automobile travel: population density, land-use diversity, neighborhood design, major destination accessibility, and transit stop distance from departure and arrival points of transit stops (TRB 2009, p. 52).
Although only recently considered in the context of transportation-related petroleum demand and GHG emissions, programs that support or constrain the expansion of croplands and managed forests used for sourcing biofuel feedstocks or for carbon sequestration through afforestation and grassland restoration are another important aspect of land-use policy. Determining the optimal use of land with respect to climate protection raises issues that may require rethinking of such policies (Righelato and Spracklen, 2007; Wise et al., 2009; Zhang et al., 2008).
Transportation policies center on the provision and operation of the infrastructure needed for mobility. For the automobile, they have focused on building, maintaining, and supporting roadways. In urban areas, transportation policy also supports mass transit, as well as sidewalks and bike paths, and so affects the availability and affordability of alternatives to auto travel. There is a clear emphasis in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) official mission statement on ensuring speed of conveyance as well as safety and efficiency. With the automobile being by far the dominant mode of transportation for most Americans, facilitating auto travel has been a major part of DOT’s mission. Much of the necessary investment for highways and major roads is accomplished through a federal-state partnership approach, while most local roads are handled by municipalities with varying degrees of state involvement.
A key financial reason for the success of automobiles is that the vehicles themselves are purchased by individual consumers, who also pay for operating costs, notably fuel. That leaves to government the provision and maintenance of infrastructure. This contrasts with public transit modes, which require a public or public-private partnership to acquire and operate the vehicles and their supporting infrastructure. Consumers ultimately pay for all aspects of any transport system, with taxes or other user fees supporting the publicly provided elements.
U.S. energy policies have roots in natural resource policy. Most pertinent to the auto sector are policies that have facilitated the development of petroleum resources over the years and those related to ensuring access to overseas supplies and securing them vis-à-vis geopolitical considerations. On the domestic front, policies supporting the economic development of oil and gas resources confronted environmental considerations and the need to balance competing players’ demands for use of lands and offshore locations. Thus, the U.S. Department of the Interior long has been involved in petroleum-related activity. The Energy Research and Development Administration was created in 1974, and its successor, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was formed in 1977, following the 1970s petroleum crisis.
In recognition of the importance of petroleum for military operations and as a critical resource for the entire economy, efforts to secure and expand the supply of petroleum have long been and continue to be a key part of U.S. energy policy.