Interview with Pete Buttigieg : „Speed is a real challenge for the U.S.“

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany. Bild: dpa

The U.S. secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg talks about heroic Ukrainian railway workers, his favorite mode of transportation and the importance of speed limits.

          4 Min.

          Secretary Buttigieg, an intact infrastructure is essential for the Ukraine to be able to defend itself effectively in the war. How can we help with this?

          Corinna Budras
          Wirtschaftskorrespondentin in Berlin.

          My international colleagues and I are arriving at the International Transport Forum with a shared sense of purpose to do everything we can to support the people of Ukraine. It is clear that transportation plays a major role. It is important to move the people to safer places and to move goods to more dangerous places within the country. We need to find alternative ways to move their goods. Ukrainians have been able to maintain a surprisingly large proportion of their agricultural production and have even reactivated much of their industrial production. But especially with the issues in the Black Sea, they have a difficult time to export their goods. We should be partnering with them to find means to help them.

          Are there any findings on how destroyed the infrastructure is in Ukraine?

          The resilience of Ukrainian workers is remarkable. When a piece of rail infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, it takes only a short time for workers to heroically put it back into operation. But we also know that Russia has very specifically targeted the country's transportation infrastructure in this brutal attack because they know how important it is for prosperity there. Their airports have taken a lot of damage.

          The U.S. Congress has just passed the next $40 billion aid package. Germany is also helping, but is it doing enough?

          We are doing this work together. The U.S. really values the decisions Germany has made: Some of the steps are major for Germany. The word „Zeitenwende“ is a new German word I learned on this trip. It captures quite well how fundamental the changes of the last few months have been.

          The war on Ukraine has put a lot of pressure on supply chains. What are you doing about it?

          For the long run, we are working to improve our infrastructure. We are making almost unprecedented investments in our ports, our roads and bridges, our railroads, every piece of infrastructure that relates to the movement of goods. Of course, we can't wait for these improvements to be done. Every sector has a role to play. A lot has to do with better information sharing among the various players in the system.

          It doesn't sound like you're rolling back globalization. You don’t want to become more local?

          That's another important dimension. We will always be trading with our trading partners, that will always be important. But we have found out that we are too dependent on unfriendly sources in a number of areas, notably some of the raw materials that we're going to need more and more of for our electric vehicle batteries. That's why we're working with manufacturers on alternatives in terms of their battery technologies, which raw materials they need the most. Some of the issues actually have to do with the refining capacity. We move more of that on shore or we are looking for refining capacity in friendlier countries. But we also have to think about recycling. That's important not only from a waste perspective, but also from a sourcing perspective.

          As Minister of Transport, you are also concerned with achieving climate targets. Transport is a huge source of carbon emissions.

          Reducing carbon emissions is a major priority in our transportation policy. Transportation in the U.S. is the largest sector in the U.S. economy creating green house gases. So we should have an aspiration of being the largest part of the solution. And there are several ways we can do that. First, we need more electric vehicles. Secondly, we should reduce the need for these trips in general, with better public transit. Thirdly, for the longer term, joining our transportation policy with our urban design and planning policy so fewer long and inefficient trips take place.

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