Yesterday the House of Representatives approved President Obama’s $819 billion economic recovery plan (the vote was supported by all but 11 Democrats, with 177 Republicans voting against).

As anyone following the recent events in the US will know, this package places a strong emphasis on ‘green’ development – stimulating economic growth while increasing investment in environmental solutions. The large – and revolutionary – increase in the investment in renewable energy (the original proposal included $32 billion to “transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology” ) was hailed by environmentalists across the board.

Somewhat less attention was paid to the big investment planned (about $20 billion) to increase energy efficiency in public housing and private homes. This of course reduces American dependence on foreign oil, a favorite mantra, even further; but it will also make improving home and businesses energy efficiency accessible to anyone, which will in turn demonstrate how reducing CO2 emissions is not just about climate change and future generations but also makes financial sense in the here and now. Finally, being efficient won’t be just for the environmentalists.

But what about public transport? While $30 billion was allocated for highway construction, with a further $36 billion added in separate spending programmes voted on yesterday by the House as well, a mere $10 billion were allocated for “transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption”.

The United States however is in need of a major overhaul in the way it approaches transportation infrastructure. According to a report by the Brookings Institute the US is “one of the few industrialized countries that fails to link aviation, freight rail, mass transit and passenger rail networks“, and reliance on private cars is so great, that only a substantial shift in attitudes, both by the public and the government, will bring the change needed for a more sustainable transportation infrastructure.

This deep rooted change will apparently have to wait for now, but hopefully only a little while longer.

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