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Report by Pew Center examines paths to sustainable US transportation

13 January 2011

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change released a new report, titled “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation”, that examines cost-effective solutions to reduce emissions and oil use in US transportation and move toward cleaner, alternative fuels. The study is authored by David L. Greene of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy and Steven E. Plotkin of Argonne National Laboratory.

From burning oil, transportation accounts for more than one-fourth of all US GHG emissions. The report identifies reasonable actions across three fronts—technology, policy, and consumer behavior—that could deliver up to a 65% reduction in transportation emissions from current levels by 2050.

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 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, medium- and heavy-duty truck emissions could be slashed by 30 to 50% with current technology and achieve greater reductions over the next several decades. Some of the available fuel consumption reduction options for trucks quoted in the report include aerodynamics, improved tires and idle reduction; mechanical turbo compounding; variable valve actuation; advanced exhaust gas recirculation; and Rocky Mountain double trailers.

Source: Pew Center (Press release | Full report)