While high-speed rail in the U.S. has become a highly politicized issue, the European Commission, on the other hand, is doing everything in its power to get its population out of cars.
According to a proposal by the European Commission, no petrol or diesel cars will be allowed in city centers by 2050. By 2030, conventional car usage will be cut by half in cities, as an attempt to reduce pollution and decrease the European Union's dependence on oil from the Middle East (last year, Europe imported $295 billion worth of oil). The European Commission said that all vehicles used in cities should be powered by fuel-efficient energy, which in turn, will cut emissions by 60 percent.
Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas noted that "business is usual," was not an option.
Considering EU countries will start capping CO2 from cars next year, car manufacturers from Honda to BMW have been investing in new car technologies to fulfill the growing need for fuel-efficient vehicles.
“The gradual phasing out of ‘conventionally fueled’ vehicles from the urban environment is a major contribution to significant reduction of oil dependence, greenhouse-gas emissions and local air and noise pollution,” the commission, the EU’s executive arm, said in the paper.
By introducing measures like road pricing, the proposal is also pushing for all freight journeys over a 186 miles to move towards rail or waterborne transport, by 2030, further reducing shipping emissions by 40 percent.
The commission also said the EU should triple the length of the existing high-speed rail network by 2030 (which seems ironic considering it's been so incredibly hard to get bi-partisan support for high-speed rail to even kick off in the U.S.).
The EU aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions between 80 to 95 percent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.
While the proposal is only in the planning stages right now, and the UK Transport Commissioner has already said that he doesn't think the European Commission should be "involved" in individual cities' transport choices, the proposal will mark a significant change in travel patterns -- and that could have enormous benefits in the long run.
If successful, it will also give other countries a blue print of ways to cut their own emissions.