States have an important role to play in the transition to a greener transport future. However, each state is at a different stage of its own energy journey. A new report helps states determine the next step for each one, including Maine.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) recently published a report, “Methods for State DOTs to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector.” The nearly two-year research effort resulted in a guide (and accompanying document easy to use web resource) for states on how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their transportation sector based on the individual challenges each faces today.

Jonathan Rubin, professor of economics at UMaine and director of the Margaret Chase Policy Center, is a member of the NCHRP Advisory Board and co-author of the report. In the past, Rubin’s research has been supported by the US State Department, the National Science Foundation, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Energy. He is also a member of the Maine Climate Council’s Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and Transportation Working Group.

Rubin said this NCHRP report is important because it not only addresses the particular role state policymakers must play in greening the transportation sector relative to their local and federal counterparts, but it also addresses the states where they are found.

“States are all over the map,” Rubin said. “Some states are ahead and some are behind. Some states, for essentially political reasons, are not making the same effort. With this guide, we are trying to say that the first thing is that states should honestly assess where they are, we try to meet them where they are.

Although Maine isn’t as advanced as, say, California — which Rubin says is by far the leader in green transportation — the state is catching up fast, with a relatively clean power grid, financial incentives for electric cars. One of the state’s biggest challenges, however, is the fact that Maine is largely rural.

“In a rural state like Maine, it’s very difficult. We don’t have a transit system that can meet everyone’s needs,” Rubin said. “We have public transit, but we’re not talking about subway systems or the infrastructure that exists in major urban areas.”

For this reason, switching to electric vehicles is an essential step for Maine’s greener transportation future. Rubin said access to charging is “probably the thing most EV owners will be concerned about” in Maine, since most public charging infrastructure is currently available in urban areas.

“Most people charge door-to-door, so in that sense being rural isn’t necessarily a liability, but then you have to say how far do I have to drive on a given trip. I don’t think it’s something that can’t be solved with careful planning, but it’s a challenge,” Rubin said.

Realistically, Rubin said Mainers can expect the cost of electric vehicles to come down in the coming years and the technology to improve, although supply chain issues have caused some back. The current volatility in oil prices is also encouraging consumers to switch to electricity.

However, Rubin said the most important part of transitioning to green transportation — in Maine and beyond — is for everyone to benefit, especially low-income people who might not have the financial resources. to, for example, buy an electric car.

“It’s a transformation we need to make and we need everyone to benefit from it. We can make the progress we want, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. I’m optimistic, but I’m also realistic. Rubin said.

Contact: Sam Schipani, [email protected]