Congressional Livable Communities Task Force Envisions "Freedom from Oil"

As gas and energy prices climb, leading some in Congress to call for more domestic oil drilling, the Congressional Livable Communities Task Force intends to change the conversation in Washington DC. On June 2, the group, led by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, released a report titled "Freedom From Oil," outlining a clear set of common-sense actions that government, businesses and individuals can take to help move America toward a future free from foreign sources of energy.

As the report notes, the solution to our current energy dilemma is about more than better gas mileage and alternative fuels for automobiles (though those also remain important). It's also in the way we plan and live in our communities. Quite simply, reducing petroleum dependency means creating better places to live, and vice versa. By increasing transportation options and safety, building complete 20-minute communities, and promoting energy efficient buildings, for example, we can be well on our way toward achieving freedom from oil. And we can do so without more drilling in America. Best of all, making these kinds of choices will also help us address the challenge of climate change, while creating new economic opportunities and saving consumers money.

Although Blumenauer and the other members of the task force, who hail from districts all over the nation, hope to work their recommendations into the upcoming federal transportation reauthorization bill, the report also outlines potential actions at the state and local levels, as well as things that businesses and individuals can do to move our country away from its decades-long dependence on petroleum. It's a bold plan, but most of its propoals are surprisingly straightforward.

Among the key recommendations of the report, which you can read in full here (pdf):

  • Continue to increase fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles, which could save drivers the equivalent of $1.00-1.70 per gallon of gas.
  • Increase investment in alternative fuels like electric vehicles, which could save drivers $1000 in fuel costs each year.
  • Set clear national priorities for our transportation system, including a strategy and performance measures for reducing oil consumption.
  • Require Metropolitan Planning Organizations to evaluate the effects of new transportation projects on regional petroleum consumption.
  • Promote Pay-As-You-Drive insurance, allowing consumers to pay less if they drive less.
  • Encourage lenders to use transit accessibility and location efficiency as a factor in mortgage rates, taking into account the reduced spending on gas and making it easier to purchase a home that allows transportation savings.
  • Provide consumers with information about the transportation costs associated with the location of a house through a tool like the Transportation and Housing Affordability Index
  • Use the tax code to encourage businesses to offer comprehensive commuter benefit programs that level the playing field for alternative, non gas-dependent transportation.
  • Increase federal funding for transit, including allowing capital funds to be spent on operations, helping transit agencies deal with increased fuel prices without compromising service or access.
  • Increase funding for “Safe Routes to School” programs so that parents and children have the option to get to school safely without driving.
  • Support “Complete Streets” policies that design streets for all users, making it safer for people of all ages to travel by bike, foot, or public transportation.
  • Authorize the Office of Sustainable Communities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provide funding to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities so that the agencies can continue to provide technical assistance, planning, and capital support to communities.

1000 Friends of Oregon is working hard for many of these goals, envisioning a future where our communities are better places to live, residents have more transportation and housing options, and natural resources and farmlands are properly valued and protected. Learn more about our work in these efforts here.