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U.S. Can Cut Transportation Emissions 65% by 2050

Feb 09, 2011 - SustainableBusiness.com

The U.S. could reduce transportation emission 65% from current levels by 2050, according to a new report.

From burning oil, transportation accounts for more than one-fourth of all U.S. GHG emissions. The report, by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, identifies reasonable actions across three fronts--technology, policy, and consumer behavior--that could cut U.S. transportation emissions and oil use now and move toward cleaner, alternative fuels.

“The Gulf oil disaster tragically reminds us that our oil dependence carries significant risks for our security and environment,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “Cost-effective transportation solutions exist now to begin to manage these risks. By supporting meaningful policies as citizens and choosing advanced technologies as consumers, we will drive the nation toward a cleaner, safer transportation future.”

Authored by David L. Greene of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy and Steven E. Plotkin of Argonne National Laboratory, the study provides three plausible scenarios of improved transportation efficiency and reduced GHG emissions through 2050, with technology progress and policy ambition increasing from the first to third scenario. The scenarios show emissions reductions of 17%, 39%, and 65% below 2010 levels by 2050. The findings were based on a wide range of existing transportation literature and the authors’ own analysis.

Policies can pull existing technology to market, support future technology development, and correct market failures to reduce oil dependence, the report finds. Effective policies, such as performance standards; pricing mechanisms; and Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment (RDD&D); should be employed now and adapted over time as we learn how technologies and polices perform in the real world.

Today’s technologies, if widely used, can already make substantial gains in fuel efficiency and emission cuts, while a fuel mix of electricity, biofuels, and hydrogen could significantly reduce gasoline-powered vehicles by mid-century, the report states. In fact, freight truck emissions could be slashed by 30% to 50% with current technology and achieve greater reductions over the next several decades.

Starting now and sustaining efforts to cut transportation emissions over time is critical. The interplay between policies, technologies, and the choices of citizens and consumers can drive adoption of cleaner transportation solutions across the economy.