Chuck Schumer Proposes Electric-Only Cars by 2040, But That Won't Solve Climate Change

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
Photo: Getty

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a $454 billion plan to remove gas-guzzling vehicles from U.S. roads by 2040. In doing so, the plan would start to address the largest chunk of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Sounds pretty dope, right? Sure, except his plan doesn’t include any mention of revolutionizing the archaic public transit infrastructure across the U.S. Electric cars are cool and all, but they’re not as cool as high-speed rail, zero emission buses that actually run on time, or stops that will keep you dry when it rains. Improving public transit needs to be coupled with efforts to electrify our vehicle fleet. That’s how we’ll actually reduce our emissions to protect the climate and make sure everybody has the ability to get around, not just those who can afford a car.

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Schumer’s plan—put forth in a Thursday New York Times op-ed—involves removing all dirty vehicles off the road by 2040. To accomplish that, the senator proposes subsidies for electric vehicles. Trade in your dirty-ass car and get a discount. Low-income customers would receive special discounts on their electric vehicle purchases. Schumer said the plan would result in 63 million fewer dirty cars on the road in 2030.

All these electric cars will need charging. Our gas stations will need to be transformed into charging stations, and Schumer’s got a plan for those, too. He wants to offer states and cities grants to build charging stations, especially in low-income, rural, and underserved communities. And to make sure the technology doesn’t fall behind, the senator wants to the U.S. to manufacture cars and batteries in the U.S.

The plan sounds hella cool, and it would require hundreds of billions of dollars to be spent over 10 years. Schumer doesn’t say where all this money would come from, but he sounds pretty confident in his ability to make this plan a reality if Democrats take the Senate in 2020.

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“I have promised that if Democrats win control of the Senate in November 2020, I, as majority leader, will introduce bold and far-reaching climate legislation,” he wrote in the Times. “This proposal for clean cars would be a key element of that bill.”

I sure hope that his bill includes more than just electric cars, though. Where is the love for public transit, Schumer?! As a senator for New York—home to one of the world’s oldest and largest public transit systems—he should know better than to ignore the role of buses and trains in transforming the transportation sector. I live and New York and don’t own a car (though I do own a motorcycle) because a car makes no sense here. The subway gets me around quickly and easily and helps me reduce my carbon footprint. Transit here and around the U.S. will have to play a key role reducing our national carbon footprint as well, Ben Fried, the communications director for the TransitCenter, told Earther.

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“What models consistently show is that electrifying the vehicle fleet is necessary but not sufficient to achieve the kind of rapid reduction in carbon emissions that we need,” he said. “Transit has to be a part of the solution.”

Not only does this transit-minded shift help reduce the number of cars on the road, it also encourages compact housing development, which also results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The smaller the space people occupy, generally the smaller their emissions are.  And, look, cars need space.

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A big deterrent to owning a car in New York is parking. People are ruthless in these streets. I wouldn’t want to wake up to a broken side mirror or dented rear bumper. Cars need protection, and that encourage garages, driveways, and, well, single-family houses. And that’s just not the future, man. Especially if we want to have a habitable climate.

Plus, not everyone can afford a car. Most people can afford a train ticket, but that only matters if they can walk to a station. Public transit needs to become accessible to the communities that need it most so that people aren’t going into debt to buy the cars they need to get to work every day. And housing needs to be affordable for everyone near transit hubs as well, something some cities haven’t done a great job with recently.

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“We need to build a transportation system where the costs of car ownership are not mandatory to get to your job and to get around for your basic daily needs,” Fried said.

So Schumer, where’s your public transit plan? I love electric cars just as much as the next environmentalist, but the NUMTOTs demand better public transit, dammit!

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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