by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Collin Anderson writes for the Washington Free Beacon about a key element of the Biden administration’s plan for fighting climate change.
The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t all bad, a new Biden administration plan to fight climate change argues: It at least “highlighted major opportunities” to reduce travel demand and lower carbon emissions through “remote work and virtual interactions.”
The plan — which President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency and Energy, Transportation, and Housing departments released in January—aims to “eliminate nearly all greenhouse gas emissions” from the transportation sector by 2050, mostly through a transition to electric vehicles. Also included in the plan, however, is a controversial call to reduce “commuting miles” through “an increase in remote work and virtual engagements,” including in education.
“Telework and other components of a digital economy … can improve convenience by reducing travel demand, especially for work commuting,” the plan states. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted major opportunities for telework, with some studies showing the possibility of 10 percent long-term reduction in annual vehicle miles traveled.” The plan goes on to identify “remote access to services like health care and education” as one of the “key determinants of future travel demand.”
The administration’s COVID-inspired call to reduce travel demand is certain to satisfy leading green energy groups, which have voiced similar rhetoric since the pandemic’s onset. In April 2020, for example, the Rocky Mountain Institute touted “opportunities to reduce vehicle miles traveled via telework.” But the plan is already prompting outrage among small business advocates, who point to the fact that more than 100,000 small businesses closed permanently during the first few months of the pandemic alone as owners dealt with decreased demand. For Job Creators Network president Alfredo Ortiz, that history would repeat itself if widespread telework was adopted in the name of climate change.