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Bernie Sanders’ green deal – $216 billion for electric trucks

Sanders wants to see zero emissions by 2050. Credit: CHP/Donner Pass

Bernie Sanders wants to spend $216 billion to replace all long-haul diesel trucks with fast-charging electric trucks if he is elected president in 2020.

“Because this nation depends heavily on goods that are shipped all over the country by truckers, we must ensure that they are able to keep up their pace while we meet our climate goals,” Sanders argued. “Truck drivers from the largest fleets to small owner-operators will be able to access this funding.”

The proposal is part of the candidate’s $16.3 trillion “Green New Deal,” unveiled on August 22, which sets an ambitious goal for the United States of 100 percent renewable energy for transportation by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050.

“We will create domestic energy alternatives to power our cars and trucks and move our transportation sector beyond oil by running our cars and trucks on renewable sources,” according to Sanders’ plan. “We will build affordable, reliable, quick and efficient public transportation, and high-speed passenger and cargo rail. And we will create millions of good-paying, unionized jobs building the automobile fleet of the future.”

Sanders takes the name for his environmental strategy from the “Green New Deal” offered up in a “non-binding resolution” earlier this year in the U.S. Congress by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts). The resolution calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as technologically feasible,” through investments in zero-emission vehicles and high-speed rail. 

Their plan, which also sets a zero emissions goal by 2050, has been deemed unrealistic by Republicans in Congress and conservatives, although some in the freight transportation industry have acknowledged the economic opportunities behind striving for zero-emissions.

Sanders asserts that while his plan ensures that U.S. freight transportation is fully renewable by 2030, to ensure that the transportation networks are safe he would provide $5 billion for competitive grants to build or repair critical pieces of the infrastructure located in rural areas.

Sanders also maintains that his plan would pay for itself over 15 years, to be accomplished by “making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.” His plan would generate revenue through energy sales from the regional power authorities. “Revenues will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.”

Sanders would also shift money away from the defense budget by scaling back military spending, according to the plan, and he would also “make the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share” through tax increases.

According to the most recent polling data compiled by the website Real Clear Politics, Sanders ranks second among Democratic candidates to Joe Biden, scoring 16.0 percent to Biden’s 28.8 percent.

Sanders is not the only 2020 candidate who has offered a plan for trucking in his climate agenda. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang – who’s polling at 1.8 in the same poll – has warned that self-driving trucks could have a devastating effect on trucking employment.

“Truck drivers are 94 percent male, average age 49, average education high school or one year of college – there are not necessarily other opportunities for them that will pay a comparable salary,” according to Yang. “Additionally, hundreds of communities are built around the trucking industry and those communities are also at risk from the coming automation.”

If elected, Yang would appoint a Trucking Czar to “ease the transition” to self-driving trucks. According to his plan, profits derived from automation would be taxed to create severance packages for drivers whose lose their jobs as a result of the change.

“The estimated cost-savings and efficiency gains of automated freight are $168 billion per year, which is enough to pay the truckers significant sums and still save tens of billions per year.”

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.