Infrastructure Funding Could Lead to Higher Carbon Emissions

Billions in federal infrastructure funding slated to go to states with few strings attached could fund roadway construction and widening projects that will raise greenhouse gas emissions and worsen climate change.

2 minute read

February 13, 2022, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Freeway Interchange Construction

Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock

As the Biden administration prepares to distribute billions in infrastructure funding to state and local agencies, Brad Plumer writes, some experts caution that the funds could inadvertently worsen climate change by supporting road widening and construction projects. 

"The new $1 trillion infrastructure law invests billions in climate-friendly programs like electric car chargers and public transit. But it also gives states $273 billion for highways over five years, with few strings attached. One analysis from the Georgetown Climate Center found that this money could significantly increase emissions if states keep adding highway lanes."

Increasingly, experts warn that if states want to slash planet-warming emissions from cars and trucks, it won’t be enough to sell more electric vehicles. They’ll also have to encourage people to drive less. In a nation built around the automobile, that’s not easy.

Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the Center for American Progress, calls the plans for roadway expansion being proposed by many states "a major blind spot for politicians who say they care about climate change." Environmentalists point to the well-documented phenomenon of induced demand: when roads get bigger, more people choose to drive on them, and congestion quickly returns to the same levels as before.

While the Federal Highway Administration has issued 'guidance' that urges states to focus on repairs and maintenance before building new or expanded roads, as we noted earlier this week, some top Republican lawmakers encouraged governors to ignore the FHWA's recommendations.

Thursday, February 10, 2022 in The New York Times

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