Economics

Advancing public and private policymakers’ understanding of the complex interactions between climate change and the economy is critical to taking the most cost-effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
 

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation

January 2011

By: David L. Greene and Steven E. Plotkin

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Press Release

E&E TV Interview

Project Director: Judi Greenwald

Project Manager: Nick Nigro

 

Executive Summary:

This report examines the prospects for substantially reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, which accounts for 27 percent of the GHG emissions of the entire U.S. economy and 30 percent of the world’s transportation GHG emissions. Without shifts in existing policies, the U.S. transportation sector’s GHG emissions are expected to grow by about 10 percent by 2035, and will still account for a quarter of global transportation emissions at that time. If there is to be any hope that damages from climate change can be held to moderate levels, these trends must change.

This report shows that through a combination of policies and improved technologies, these trends can be changed. It is possible to cut GHG emissions from the transportation sector cost-effectively by up to 65 percent below 2010 levels by 2050 by improving vehicle efficiency, shifting to less carbon intensive fuels, changing travel behavior, and operating more efficiently. A major co-benefit of reducing transportation’s GHG emissions is the resulting reductions in oil use and improvements in energy security.

It develops three scenarios that diverge from “business as usual,” based on the assumption that the United States is willing to change the incentives and regulations that affect the design of vehicles, the types of fuels that are used, the choices made by individuals and businesses in purchasing and using vehicles, and how communities and their transportation infrastructure are built and used.

This report is an update of the Center's 2003 report on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Transportation

 

Related white papers on Transportation Reauthorization:

A Primer on Federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund

Saving Oil and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through U.S. Federal Transportation Policy

 

 

About the Authors:

David L. Greene is a Corporate Fellow of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Senior Fellow of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy and a Research Professor of Economics at the University of Tennessee.  He is an author of more than 200 publications on transportation and energy issues.  Mr. Greene is an emeritus member of both the Energy and Alternative Fuels Committees of the Transportation Research Board and a lifetime National Associate of the National Academies. He received the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Barry D. McNutt Award for Excellence in Automotive Policy Analysis, the Department of Energy’s 2007 Hydrogen R&D Award, and was recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for contributions to the IPCC’s receipt of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University, an M.A. from the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University.   

Steven Plotkin is a staff scientist with Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research, specializing in analysis of transportation energy efficiency. He has worked extensively on automobile fuel economy technology and policy as a consultant to the Department of Energy, and was a co-principal investigator on ANL’s Multi-Path Transportation Futures Study. Mr. Plotkin was a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report Climate Change 2007:  Mitigation of Climate Change and has been selected to participate on the Fifth Assessment Report. He was for 17 years a Senior Analyst and Senior Associate with the Energy Program of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) and prior to that he was an environmental engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Plotkin has a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Columbia University and a Master of Engineering (Aerospace) degree from Cornell University. He is the 2005 recipient of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Barry D. McNutt Award for Excellence in Automotive Policy Analysis.

David L. Greene
Steven E. Plotkin
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States look to “green banks” to leverage private investment in clean tech

Clean energy and energy efficiency can save wear and tear on the environment and climate, but sometimes it takes money to take action. And in a time of tight government budgets, where will that money come from?

A new and growing solution to this energy finance problem is called the “green bank” or “clean energy bank” -- government-created institutions that help facilitate private sector financing for clean technology projects. States have used a variety of tools and incentives over the years to promote technology deployment. Green banks put many of the tools used to encourage private investment in one place.

Connecticut was the first state to open a green bank in 2011, and the idea is catching. New York opened a green bank in February. California state Sen. Kevin De Leon has proposed creating a green bank in his state. And U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) plans to introduce legislation to establish a federal green bank.

Green or clean energy banks can leverage a small amount of public money to significantly increase private investment in clean technologies. This leads to accelerated deployment of solar power, energy efficiency upgrades, and other clean technologies without creating a large burden on public budgets.

Private finance can break down barriers in AFV market

Private finance is playing a critical role in accelerating the deployment of clean energy technologies that will reduce the impacts of our energy use on the global climate. Can some of these innovative financing tools – or new tools – also help spur alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and fueling infrastructure?

That’s a question we have set out to answer in a new initiative with the National Association of State Energy Officials. As a first step, we’ve explored some of the key barriers in the AFV market that private investment could help address.

Conservatives debate a carbon tax

The discussion of a carbon tax continues. Conservatives met recently in Washington, D.C., to debate the mertis of a carbon taxt at an event hosted by the R Street Institute and the Heartland Institute, featuring representatives with opposing viewpoints from four conservative think tanks.

A 2013 C2ES brief found that a carbon tax was one way to put a price on carbon emissions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and raise significant revenue for the federal government. A tax starting at about $16 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2014 and rising 4 percent over inflation per year would raise more than $1.1 trillion in the first 10 years, and more than $2.7 trillion over a 20-year period. This revenue could fund a wide range of things, including deficit reduction, a reduction in statutory corporate income tax rates from 35 percent to 28 percent (often cited as a goal by both conservatives and liberals), and research and development into low-emitting technology.  Importantly, such a carbon tax could also reduce CO2 emissions by 9.3 billion tons over 20 years.

Market Based Climate Mitigation Policies In Emerging Economies

Market Based Climate Mitigation Policies In Emerging Economies

December 2012

by Sara Moarif and Namrata Patodia Rastogi

Download the full report (PDF)

Press Release

Summary

Used by governments for decades, market-based policies are mechanisms to control environmental pollution at various leverage points. They work by changing relative prices – raising the cost of emissions-intensive activities and/or lowering the cost of lower-emitting alternatives – to provide producers and consumers with a financial incentive to adopt the latter. Policies that can be considered market-based include taxes and fees, subsidies, and the use of pollution control trading systems. Market-based policy instruments provide financial incentive to elicit specific behavior from entities responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whether consumers or producers.

This brief provides an overview of market-based policies aimed at reducing GHG emissions in several major emerging economies: Brazil, China, India, South Africa and South Korea. By implementing regulatory and marketbased policy instruments across their economies, these countries are seeking to promote cleaner technologies and behavior change while also promoting economic development and growth.

Sara Moarif
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We could find common ground on a carbon tax

I recently replied to a question on the National Journal blog, “Is Washington ready for a carbon tax?”

You can read other responses at the National Journal.

Here is my response: If we’re going to get serious about reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, the most efficient and effective policy is to put a price on carbon.

Why we could see climate change action

I recently replied to a question on the National Journal blog, "Do the results of the 2012 election pave the way for Washington to achieve bipartisan energy and environment policies?"

You can read other responses at the National Journal.

Here is my response: In his victory speech, President Barack Obama called for an America “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” With mostly the same players who failed to pass any significant climate legislation returning to Washington, can we expect a different result?

Possibly -- and for two reasons.

California leads the way on climate action

California, a leader in efficiency and clean energy policies for decades, is about to embark on another pioneering climate change program.

November 14 marks the first auction in its cap-and-trade system, which uses a market-based mechanism to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.

On its own, California’s program will drive down harmful emissions in the ninth largest economy in the world. But perhaps more importantly, California’s example could guide and prod us toward national action against climate change.

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