Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Mary Peters, President Bush’s Secretary of Transportation, is best known in green circles for blaming bike-riders and pedestrians for the decay of the nation’s roads and bridges. But green-transit-hating Peters seems to be singing a different tune, now that the Highway Trust Fund is threatened by a decrease in driving.

Congress yesterday approved an $8 billion relief package for the fund, to compensate for decreased revenues from the federal gas tax. And in a telephone press conference with reporters recently, Peters acknowledged that high gas prices and the threat of climate change will inevitably change the transit habits of Americans. Perhaps, then, it’s time for a new method of funding highways, she said:

We need a sustainable, supportable source of funding for our transportation system in our nation. And if we in America move away from the dependence we have on fossil-based fuels, run more efficient vehicles, run more renewable fuels, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we need to find a funding mechanism that will be sustainable, that will be responsive over time. The gas tax is simply not that mechanism … we need to hear from Congress, from others in the community, and come up with a long-term solution.

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Some straight talk from a Bush appointee in the final months of the administration. Now what can the federal government do to help spur the transition away from fossil-based fuels? Not a lot of details on that in the materials Peters’s office released last week.