Op-Ed: Electric vehicles will put NJ on the road to better public health

Investing in electric vehicles will fight air pollution and climate change in New Jersey
Dr. Herb Conaway

The health of our economy goes hand in hand with that of our community, and in the New Jersey Assembly and as the chairman of the Health and Senior Services Committee, I have fought for policies that will improve both public health and our economy. As the only member of the state Legislature with both a medical and a law degree, this has led me to focus on solutions that will benefit all of New Jersey’s hard-working families.

One of these solutions is investing in electric vehicles (EVs), buses and trucks. The transportation sector is our nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, which dirties our air and makes climate change worse. Bold investments in clean vehicles will improve public health, grow our economy and ensure an equitable future for all New Jerseyans.

President Joe Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal included smart investments in clean transportation, including for expanding the electric vehicle market through tax credits and building out EV infrastructure. Manufacturing already employs 251,000 workers in our state, and investing in EVs will create even more manufacturing and engineering jobs in New Jersey. Biden’s Justice40 Initiative also calls for at least 40% of the benefits of these proposed investments to be directed toward those communities that have borne the brunt of pollution and environmental injustice.

These are the investments New Jersey needs if we are going to cut dangerous pollution from cars and trucks, while fighting climate change in the process. Air pollution only worsens respiratory ailments, and more than 140,000 children and 585,000 adults suffer from asthma in New Jersey. The American Lung Association recently gave the Burlington metro area poor marks for its air quality, ranking us 21st for ozone pollution, 39th for short-term particle pollution, and 17th for year-round particle pollution in the nation.

Devastating consequences

This pollution is also driving climate change, with devastating consequences for our state. From 2010 to 2020, New Jersey experienced 23 extreme weather events, costing our state up to $50 billion in damages. We see the impacts of climate change every day, and our state is experiencing the fastest sea-level rise on the East Coast.

While I am proud that New Jersey has already taken steps to embrace the transition to a clean-energy future, including moving to create our own electric school bus pilot program, this moment demands more. I remain encouraged that South Jersey’s own Rep. Andy Kim and other members of our congressional delegation have been champions for our communities, but we need their support at the federal level to prioritize bold investments in clean energy and transportation infrastructure.

These investments are supported by New Jerseyans. A recent poll found that 65% of voters in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District support investments in electric vehicles and more charging infrastructure, and 84% support addressing the climate crisis by investing in more modern public transportation to ensure it is cleaner and able to serve more people.

Congress must meet this moment by making bold investments in clean transportation. Significant investments in EVs will create economic opportunity and improve public health for all New Jerseyans. With support from our leaders in Washington, New Jersey can lead the way and seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

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