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Biennial of the Americas Seeks Answers to Tough Energy, Climate Challenges

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaks at the Americas Roundtable on Energy and Climate Change at the Biennial of the Americas in Denver.

Cross posted from the DOT blog.

Today was a great day to be in Colorado. First, I toured a Federal Railroad Administration facility--the work the FRA crew is doing there really deserves its own blog post, so stay tuned for that one next week.

Then, I learned about an exciting new municipal bike-sharing program in Denver with 43 bike stations and more than 400 bikes spread around the city. Mayor Hickenlooper and I even had a chance to test the system by checking out a pair of bicycles and riding them to another station.

But what really drew me to Denver was the Biennial of the Americas, a month-long celebration of the Western Hemisphere. I was there for the Americas Roundtable on Energy and Climate Change: Designing Answers for Today's Challenges and to discuss how DOT is working to manage those challenges.

Why is a Transportation Secretary at an energy and climate change roundtable? Because the transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of of US oil use and contributes about one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, transportation professionals have a special obligation to take action. The good news is that transportation's pressure on these twin problems creates an obvious opportunity for our sector to help work toward solutions.

Now, we know that there's no silver bullet for ending our reliance on petroleum or solving the climate crisis overnight. But the Obama Administration is putting America on a new path toward sustainability and a cleaner environment. Best of all, we're doing that while building more vibrant, livable communities for American families. Communities that feature more--not fewer--transportation options.

Here's a sampling of the actions I shared:

  • Raising fuel-economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks to 35.5 mpg by 2016
  • Treating biking and walking as valid and valued elements of our transportation network
  • Realigning the criteria for transit funds to re-emphasize making our lives and our commutes--better, not just faster
  • Beginning to build a high speed passenger rail system
  • Increasing fuel-efficiency in aviation through the NextGen air traffic control system
  • Supporting development of renewable and alternative energy sources for transportation

I've logged thousands of miles in the past 18 months, and the fact is that Americans are excited about these changes. They're telling me everywhere I go that they want policies that bring affordable housing and transit closer together. They want investments in sidewalks and bike paths and light rail. They want more options--sustainable, efficient and affordable options--for getting from one place to another.

Americans are ready for change; our energy and climate challenges demand change; and the Obama Administration's DOT is bringing it.

Ray LaHood is the Secretary of Transportation