The House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming met Thursday to discuss smart growth and its ability to reduce energy use and emissions.
"Witnesses included Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, who works in smart growth in Abu Dhabi; Steve Hewitt, administrator of Greensburg, Kan., the town that's rebuilding green after a tornado leveled it last year; Gregory Cohen, President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance; David Goldberg, director of communications for Smart Growth America, and Steve Winkleman, transportation director of the Center for Clean Air Policy.
Goldberg and Winkleman spoke to the virtues of promoting denser, better-planned cities with good mass transit and pedestrian-friendly design. Goldberg noted that families in areas where you can get by with one or no car save an average of $6,000 a year, not to mention reducing their personal emissions.
Winkleman noted that pretty much any savings created by the increase in fuel efficiency standards laid out in last year's energy bill would be more than negated by the ever-increasing number of miles Americans travel each year.
Cohen was brought on as the skeptical voice on the panel, arguing that reducing vehicle miles traveled isn't the best solution -- it's creating "congestion relief" plans. "Instead of restricting travel, an effective congestion relief plan would be better for people and the planet," said Cohen, who also said that smart growth is "based on ideology" rather than practicality, and that advocates are pandering to "special interests.""