Smart Ideas: How to Eliminate Cars

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Aug. 21, 2018, 8 p.m.

The end of cars

Emily Atkin, writing for The New Republic

The best way out of the climate-change mess is to “overhaul the gas-powered automobile and the culture that surrounds it. The only question left is how to do it.” Given that they are the largest net cause of climate-change pollution, and “account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions,” the conclusion is inescapable. However, automakers have refused to take meaningful steps to combat the problem. Electric cars still use energy, and in fact could be more harmful to the environment than a traditional car if deriving its electricity from a coal plant. The solution: electric cars charged by renewable energy. Governments worldwide could “require drastic improvements in fuel efficiency for gas-powered vehicles, while investing in renewable-powered electric car infrastructure. At the same time, cities would overhaul their public transportation systems, adding more bikes, trains, buses and ride-shares. Fewer people would own cars.”

Democrats diverge on shape of government reform

Paul C. Light, writing for the Brookings Institution

Surveys of American attitudes on the size of the federal government and the need for reform show that “the number of Americans who said the federal government was basically sound and needed only some reform dropped from 58 percent in 1997 to just 31 percent in 2018, while the number who said the federal government needed very major reform jumped from 37 to 60 percent”; the former group (known as rebuilders) accounts for half of Democrats, while those who want a larger government with major reforms (expanders) are one-quarter of Democrats.

Let coal compete on its own merits

The Editors, writing for the Washington Examiner

The Trump administration need not subsidize coal; it just needs to take an active effort to let it compete in a fair market, beginning with “the repeal of unreasonable regulations that Obama created in order to kill the industry as fast as possible.” Trump announced Tuesday in West Virginia “his intention to let states make their own decisions about carbon regulation,” a move that environmentalists fear will lead to more coal plants. But there’s a good reason that the industry was dying “even before Obama’s regulatory assault on the industry. Utility customers generally don’t pay higher prices just to make a point, unless government stupidly makes them do so. ... Trump should drop all ideas about subsidizing coal. If the market demands, coal should be allowed to make a graceful exit. If coal cannot even survive in a friendly regulatory environment, then it simply cannot be saved. This is, as they say, the way the world works.”

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