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Pew study finds that changes in technology, policy and consumer behavior could combine to deliver up to 65% reduction in US transport GHG by 2050

US transportation GHG emissions under the Base Case and three Mitigation Scenarios. Source: Greene and Plotkin (2011). Click to enlarge.

A new study by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change finds that combined actions across three fronts—technology, policy, and consumer behavior—could deliver up to a 65% reduction in transportation emissions from current levels by 2050. The study was written by David L. Greene, Corporate Fellow of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Steven Plotkin, a staff scientist with Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research.

Currently, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the US transportation sector represent 27% of the GHG emissions of the entire US economy and 30% of the world’s transportation GHG emissions. Without shifts in existing policies, the US transportation GHG emissions are expected to grow by about 10% by 2035, and will still account for a quarter of global transportation emissions at that time.

The study provides three plausible scenarios of improved transportation efficiency and reduced GHG emissions through 2050, with technology progress and policy ambition and agressiveness 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.

The Base Case is the EIA’s 2010 AEO Reference Case projection, extrapolated from 2035 to 2050, and includes relatively high energy prices, the US Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), and existing emission standards. Under the base case, transportation’s CO2 emissions increase 28% from 1.8 gigatons in 2010 to 2.3 gigatons in 2050. Heavy-duty truck emissions increase the most (0.2 gigatons) and the fastest (a 70% increase over 2010).

All three scenarios incorporate a price on carbon, obtained directly from a carbon tax or indirectly from a carbon cap-and-trade system.

  • The Low Mitigation Case includes post-2016 GHG emissions standards for LDVs requiring reductions of about 2% per year. The scenario includes an energy efficiency indexed highway user fee, modest improvements in energy efficiency in non-highway modes, and little additional alternative fuel use beyond the Base Case.

  • The Mid Mitigation Case reflects a greater public commitment to reducing GHG emissions, more rapid technological progress, and a tolerance for some additional innovative pricing policies. Emission standards are more stringent, and public commitment is reflected in greater reductions from energy-efficient driving, land use strategies, an acceptance of feebates, and minimum liability PATP (pay-at-the-pump) vehicle insurance.

  • The High Mitigation Case assumes rapid technological progress and aggressive emission standards. Public urgency about addressing climate change is reflected in greater effectiveness of policies such as eco-driving, land use policies, and the acceptance of congestion pricing and more comprehensive PATP insurance. In the High Mitigation Case, a transition to electric and/or hydrogen vehicles is well underway by 2050. Finally, automated highways are introduced by 2050 on major routes.

Technological improvements to vehicle energy efficiency, low-carbon energy sources, and all other strategies make roughly comparable contributions to GHG mitigation in the High Mitigation Case. No single technology, policy, or mode is able to accomplish a 65% reduction in total transportation GHG emissions. Achieving reductions of that magnitude requires a comprehensive strategy, with strong public support, sustained by rapid technological progress.

Transportation will remain a cornerstone of the US economy and a fundamental contributor to Americans’ quality of life to 2050 and beyond. The enormous value to society of the mobility of people and commodities must be preserved. Because rates of technological progress and future energy prices are uncertain, the GHG mitigation strategy for transportation must be adaptable. This can be accomplished by monitoring technological progress to insure that policies remain cost effective, taking advantage of faster progress when it occurs, and adjusting to disappointments accordingly.

—Greene and Plotkin, 2011

Resources

  • David L. Greene and Steven E. Plotkin (2011)

Comments

HarveyD

We could but will we continue to go the other way?

Arnold

I could definately pare down my parsimonious road behaviour, or , get a new ubeut bells and whisles boom boxing chick magnet, but just asking for that at the counter would probably leave me totally exhausted let alone learning to fly everything.
Does that make me a luddite?
Meanwhile my pony sized 3/4 horse, 4 legged ambulator wil throw more thrills than is good for my fit ticker so I dont need an upgrade just yet.
There is a genetically modified version on the drawing board and I hope I'll be up to the challenges of training and starting the next model.~ 14.1 - 14.3 HandsHigh and terrifyingly good hill climbing and high speed off road rock hoppin ability.

Decisions decision.
Any good 40 - 60KW lighweight (~100 +- 20 Kg ) E-motard coming out that would suit a 120K min round trip for the morning paper or a liter of milk? No? then its pretty easy,Stick with the diesel and duals - 2ton tipper as that's a handy, if rapidly rusting away rig, get the ponies playing together and see what pops up.

Sounds like a plan.

mahonj

It is really down to the cost of gas at the pumps.
If it stays low (as now) people will tootle around at 20-25 mpg.
If it goes > $5 or %7 or $10 (already $7 in most of Europe), usage will reduce.
Most of the fuel savings are already available, it will just take high prices, nudged by CAFE standards to bring usage down.

phoenix1

We don't need a nudge. High fuel costs and high electricity costs have gutted the middle class in Europe. They don't have electric vehicles or super efficient appliances or green houses b/c the technology wasn't readily available when the taxes started. Companies weren't ready to take the risks to develop the new technologies, and consumers didn't have the money to transition either. As a result, the government is continually nudging the citizens along and spending massive amounts of money in the process. Best year for Prius sales was 2007, before the oil crisis began, but during a time when people had purchasing power.

This study has a few decent policy suggestions, but overall, it's pointless, and I wish people would stop forecasting the future in order to encourage the clumsy, heavy hand of government to start slapping people around. We have no idea what the future holds so it isn't terribly bright to forecast the future based upon the idea that nothing will change (the least likely version of the future). Battery costs are dropping quite rapidly, and the next gen PHEVs may feature 100mpg for around $25,000 (4th gen Prius?). If the VW L1 comes out, it will probably make around 150mpg. When consumers start to see those kinds of figures, they will be more excited about the technology, and the possible savings over the life of the vehicle.

Let the market work. If we can slash oil imports, we will send the price of oil tumbling, and the middle class will end up with more purchasing power. Don't blow it, by putting that money in government tax coffers. If the price of oil starts to plummet, then we can introduce feebates to make sure we don't go backwards.

HarveyD

Let the market work = let the speculators run the show.

Look a what happened to the USA Banking systems and Real Estates under Bush! Speculators (unregulated market) paradise purposely creates one bubble after another so millions will lose their investments as they (speculators) will rack it in.

This has been going on over and over again in USA for 100+ years. It created bubbles and great depressions. Lately, to soften it up, governments came to the rescue and gave the speculators more $$$B. The end results, the country and the people are going deeper in debt and speculators are going from being millionaires to billionaires. If this is allowed to go on for much longer, we will see the first $T (Trillionaires) speculators before the end of the century. Eventually, like in a MONOPOLY game, we will have only ONE multi-trillionaire. Will he be from China? Europe, USA? Russia?.

SJC

It takes money to make money and the rich get richer at the expense of the many. That consolidates power in the hands of fewer people that were never elected...no thanks.

Arnold

Phoenix1,
There are many generic chips around that are capable of many and varied tasks that are not fullty realised because, even though they are installed,(think electric toaster TV, cordlesss phones, wall warts, any, - there is an extra incremental cost in realising and exploiting just a few of the possibilities availavble to better paid talented designers.

Those same designers that you meet working at Macdonalds or stacking supermarket shelves in the 'market ecionomy'.

The incremental costs of implementing good design principles is overlooked in the rush to compete against the "more upmarket more costly (sometimes by a few cent)" product that looks the same to mr and mrs average consumer - of course the colour matters.

The free market gives us in return Leeman? bros Harvard law school graduates and the rest of the best the US has to offer bankrupting the world if not the entire universe!

Low wages no freedoms, no justice, no health care,not much of anything usefull really when it comes to the wrong end of a "free trade deal"

'The market' includes human misery and body parts and small arms , land mines and for the more adventurous at heart - how about some nice never used Nukes?.

The market is not any holy grail, but often used as mantra by 'fairly ignorant types that often through the priviledges of theirs and their forebears sociopathic personalities hold disproportionate influence and sway over the rest of us.

HarveyD

Free market may have been a good idea a few centuries ago, but greed and speculators have turned it into a growing mess.

Wild speculations have to be effectively regulated to avoid further world economic degradation. Of course, those who benefit will do all they can NOT to be regulated and to continue using the system to embezzle and pilfer the majority of their accumulated savings every 5 or 10 years.

The very last tax exemption/reduction for people with higher revenues is a perfect example of what NOT to do. Even Warren Buffet said that they are not taxed enough. Taxing them less is pure nonsense.

ToppaTom

The next oil crises will be anticipated by speculators not the government.

Higher taxes? Why? The government screws up anything the do, and we pay.

Private enterprise screws up? They pay.

You think GM screwed us? No, the government did, with the bailout.

You think raising corporate tax would cure that ? How?

We still have the freest markets in the world and are still the most successful and powerful, even after our massive housing/banking fiasco – except maybe for China, but who wants totalitarianism?

A government that taxes it’s people to provide what it decides the people need is what Greece had.

ToppaTom

Speculators, like Warren Buffet are not the problem.

People "owning" houses they could not rationally qualify for, nor even afford to rent, is the problem. Freddie and Fannie and the banks were pushed to put the have nots into houses and they eagerly did - and treated them as speculators – if they have the deed and the value goes up 25% it’s a win-win. If not – we lose.

If the banker loans money out and makes money, he wins – if it’s a bad loan, we lose.

Reel$$

The grey Karl Marx is smilin' boys!

"The free market gives us in return Leeman? bros Harvard law school graduates and the rest of the best the US has to offer bankrupting the world if not the entire universe!"

A true market allows equal access to the village square. Markets corrupt when one seller co-opts a product or service or a cartel locks out competition.

Trade, aka a market, has been a mainstay of human evolution for thousands of years. It appears to be common ground for nearly any intelligent species. Please don't prove us wrong!

HarveyD

Overdeveloped unchecked greed can push the best economy and democracy over the ridge. Too much power in hands of politicians or speculators is a step backward. One is as bad as the other.

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