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Reaching U.S. climate goals requires reducing commercial trucking's impact

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If you want to reach this country's climate goals, you have to reduce emissions in transportation, which includes commercial trucking. And this month, the government unveiled a strategy to do that. A Martínez talked about it with Gabe Klein, the executive director of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation.

GABE KLEIN: Transportation broadly is the largest sector for emissions, at 33%. So exactly one-third of all U.S. emissions are from transportation. When you look at medium- and heavy-duty trucks, they account for only 5% of the miles traveled but 20% of the transportation emissions. And this government, under President Biden, committed to a goal of 100% clean heavy-duty and medium-duty trucking by 2040.

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: Where will the money come from to make this roadmap a reality?

KLEIN: There is a tremendous amount of funding coming at the federal level. We've already invested $253 million through the Department of Transportation. That's charging and fueling infrastructure grants. And that was just recently. But there's also a great deal of private-sector funding. And really, the goal here is to supplement the private sector - not to supplant their funding.

MARTÍNEZ: So I live in Los Angeles, and I see lots of electric passenger vehicles all over the place. You know, that's LA, right? So, that's...

KLEIN: Yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: There are going to be EVs. A lot of them are going to be in California. But I don't see many big, heavy-duty trucks or freight trucks as electric trucks. So, I mean, is that something that could be more of a West Coast thing?

KLEIN: Yeah. Well, definitely, there is regionalism. There's geographic differences. California, on the whole, has almost, you know, doubled the number of vehicles in the electric vehicle category being sold than the rest of the country. But also, we're seeing, you know, big investments in the infrastructure there. The federal government actually recently invested $63 million for medium, heavy-duty, commercial electric vehicle charging on Interstate 10. We also awarded North Central Texas Council of Government 70 million for hydrogen. So there's a lot of activity right now, but California is definitely a leader in this country for sustainable transportation.

MARTÍNEZ: What are some of the limiting factors, though, that maybe don't have freight companies just rushing out to buy these kinds of vehicles?

KLEIN: Yeah, I think that there's a couple of challenges. I mean, the overarching challenge is aligning the market-driven desire from fleets to adopt zero-emission freight vehicles with the resources that are required to make it successful. And right now, they cost more. We are not at cost parity, and that's why the federal government is providing subsidies to bring it down closer to cost parity. But I will also say that the charging infrastructure is, of course, a limiting factor. So we need to make sure that everybody has access - not just the big fleets and companies.

MARTÍNEZ: That is Gabe Klein, executive director of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. Thanks a lot.

KLEIN: Thank you so much, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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