Department of Transportation Investments in American Innovation

Ed. Note: Cross-posted from  the Fastlane Blog.

The transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of of US oil use and contributes about one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, transportation professionals have a special obligation to take action.

The good news is that transportation's pressure on these twin problems creates an obvious opportunity for our sector to help work toward solutions. And, with President Obama's leadership on energy independence and climate change, the Department of Transportation has been doing precisely that.

Here are a few of DOT's efforts toward greater sustainability and a cleaner environment that you may have heard about last year:

But I also want to highlight three initiatives from 2010 that might be less familiar to readers:

Federal Aviation Administration's CLEEN program envisions greener airspace.
Through its Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise program, the FAA is working to reduce commercial jet fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and noise. In June, the FAA announced a set of contracts with five companies to evelop and demonstrate new technologies, procedures, and alternative fuels that help us meet those goals. The recipient companies also agreed to commit matching funds, doubling the effectiveness of our investment. This is in addition to the fuel savings we hope to achieve through the NextGen system's more efficient airspace management. Since FAA forecasts significant air traffic growth over the next 20 years, this effort is good news for all of us.

Federal Transit Administration supports alternative fuel development for transit buses.
The FTA and our Research and Innovative Technology Administration have invested in cutting-edge research to help put a new generation of clean, fuel-efficient, zero-emission buses on our streets. And I’m very excited to see those investments are paying off--and generating many new green jobs in the process. In December, the world’s first battery-powered electric bus--fully chargable in only 10 minutes!--rolled off the new assembly line at Proterra, Inc.’s expanded manufacturing facility in Greenville. Foothill Transit in California is using a $6.6 million Recovery Act grant to put Proterra’s new Ecoliner into service, the first transit agency in the country to do so.  And, in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently retired its last diesel transit bus. That's right; thanks in part to grants from the FTA, Los Angeles is now operating a fleet of buses entirely powered by alternative fuels.

Maritime Administration chooses corridor, projects for America's Marine Highway program.
Last August, MARAD announced the 18 corridors, 8 projects, and 6 initiatives designated as part of our new America's Marine Highway program. This program seeks to move some of our nation's cargo and passenger traffic--particularly in areas where there are known bottlenecks--from roadways to waterways. Making better use of our rivers and coastal routes offers an intelligent way to relieve some of the biggest challenges we face in transportation--roadway congestion, climate change, fossil fuel energy use, and soaring road maintenance costs. There is no better time for us to improve the use of our rivers and coasts for transportation.

The projects I've shared here are really just the tip of the iceberg. Your DOT is working hard to make all modes of transportation more fuel-efficient and easier on the environment. New jobs, cleaner air, and greater mobility--the lesson from DOT is crystal clear. When our government invests in American innovation and taps into our collective ingenuity, we reap the rewards in the form of economic growth and home-grown solutions to our most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

Ray LaHood is the Secretary of Transportation
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