As the Biden administration takes office, it has released a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 2050 largely through transitioning to electric vehicles. While green energy groups have praised the proposal, there is widespread outrage among small business advocates who worry that reduced consumer demand caused by increased teleworking could be disastrous for their businesses.
The proposal calls for reducing “commuting miles” and travel demand through an increase in remote work and virtual engagements such as education. Although U.S energy use declined during the pandemic leading to a 10 percent reduction in emissions, travel has since returned to pre-pandemic levels causing carbon emission rates to rise again last year.
Beyond the environmental benefits of reduced emissions, some argue that transitioning to a remote working model will create cost-saving opportunities for businesses and individuals alike. However, this ignores the fact that many small businesses are unable to transition their services online without significant investment into digital infrastructure or hiring high-tech personnel. It also fails to account for those jobs which require physical presence such as retail, hospitality, and healthcare workers – many of whom have already been struggling as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions on movement.
Furthermore, if enforced nationwide, this transition could lead to further job losses due to decreased consumer spending resulting from fewer people commuting or traveling for work or leisure activities. The disparity between large corporations with access to greater resources and smaller establishments unable to compete in an increasingly digitalized world would be exacerbated even further as these companies struggle with rising overhead costs incurred from remote working practices while experiencing decreased profits from a lack of customers patronizing local shops and services.
Although well-intentioned by those looking out for the environment, Biden’s plan may have unintended consequences which result in permanent damage not just economically but socially too due largely in part due to increasing reliance on technology at expense of organic human interaction. This would be especially devastating in communities where local businesses are key sources of income and employment; particularly those traditionally underserved regions with limited access (or no access) to broadband internet capabilities required for virtual operations and communication.
Therefore while reducing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from transportation is no doubt crucial if we are serious about combatting climate change it must not be done at expense of small business owners whose livelihoods depend on physical sales operations – not virtual ones – going forward into the future.