U.S. States & Regions
States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More
By: David L. Greene and Steven E. Plotkin
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Project Director: Judi Greenwald
Project Manager: Nick Nigro
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:
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.
These states have set standards specifying that electric utilities deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources. Most of these requirements take the form of a "renewable portfolio standard" (RPS) or "alternative energy portfolio standard" (AEPS) which requires a certain percentage of a utility’s power plant capacity or generation to come from renewable or alternative energy sources by a given date. The standards range from modest to ambitious, and qualifying energy sources vary. Some states also include "carve-outs" (requirements that a certain percentage of the portfolio be generated from a specific energy source, such as solar power) or other incentives to encourage the development of particular resources. Although climate change may not be the prime motivation behind these standards, the use of renewable or alternative energy can deliver significant greenhouse gas reductions. Increasing a state’s use of renewable energy brings other benefits as well, including job creation, energy security, and cleaner air. While the first RPS was established in 1983, the majority of states passed or strengthened their standards after 2000. Consequently, while many of these efforts have increased the penetration of renewables; others have not been in effect long enough to do so. Many states allow utilities to comply with the RPS or AEPS through tradeable credits. While the success of state efforts to increase renewable or alternative energy production will depend in part on federal policies such as production tax credits, states have been effective in encouraging clean energy generation.
For more information on state renewable and alternative portfolio standards, please refer to our resources: Comparison of Qualifying Resources for Individual States’ RPS and AEPS and Detailed Table of State Policies (including RPS/AEPS targets, carve-outs, tiers, classes, incentives, hydropower definitions, and relevant authorities).
Please refer to our Renewable Energy Credit Tracking Systems map to see how credits verifying renewable energy generation can be tracked and traded across U.S. regions.
For more information on federal portfolio standards, please refer to our: CES Resource Page.
Some states coordinate their RPS or AEPS with an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). Learn more about states with an EERS here.
Hurricane Sandy inflicted tremendous damage on New York’s coastal communities. The threat of more intense, more frequent storms driven by climate change has led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to propose limiting development in vulnerable locations. Just as Sandy provided a preview of future climate risks, the governor’s proposal may offer an example of one effective response.
The nine states in the northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative took an important step this month that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase funding for energy efficiency and clean energy without unduly burdening businesses or consumers. That step was to adjust their cap-and-trade program by tightening the emissions cap and increasing compliance flexibility for businesses.
After a comprehensive two-year program review, the nine Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) participating states released an updated Model Rule, planning the program’s first major overhaul since its 2008 initiation.
If adopted by the states, the updated Model Rule would tighten the program’s 2014 CO2 budget, or “cap,” by 45 percent -- from 165 million to 91 million short tons (to match actual emissions from 2012). Actual emissions in RGGI states have fallen well below RGGI’s original cap due to a variety of factors including the low cost of natural gas. The new cap would decline by 2.5 percent each year from 2015 to 2020, aiming to surpass the states’ current goal of reducing CO2 emissions from the power sector 10 percent between 2009 and 2018.
Besides making adjustments to the cap, the updated Model Rule includes provisions to expand its offset program, most notably by adding a forestry protocol. This protocol was modeled after the forestry offset protocol under California’s cap-and-trade program, which emphasizes conservation and reforestation.
Other additions in the updated Model Rule include the creation of a cost containment reserve (CCR) of allowances, denominated by one short ton of CO2 per year. The creation of a CCR would provide a fixed additional supply of allowances, but would only be “triggered” and made available if allowance prices exceed predefined price levels. The CCR provisions would also simplify existing compliance flexibility measures.
Analysis of the updated Model Rule indicates that the proposed changes would result in allowance prices of approximately $4 in 2014 and $10 per allowance by 2020, compared to less than $2 in 2012. The updated program would cause average electricity bills for residents in these states to increase by less than 1 percent, but would generate $2.2 billion for investments in energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by about 15 percent from current levels.
The next step is for the updated Model Rule to be formally adopted by RGGI member states through legislative or regulatory processes.
For More Information
C2ES: RGGI Page
C2ES: Benefits of RGGI
RGGI: Updated Model Rule
RGGI: Home Page
Statement of Judi Greenwald
Vice President, Technology and Innovation
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
“We applaud today’s plan by the nine states in the northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to adjust their cap-and-trade program by tightening the cap and increasing compliance flexibility for businesses. Combined, the adjustments would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase available funding for clean energy without unduly burdening businesses or consumers. C2ES believes that market-based policies are the most effective and efficient means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and we appreciate the continued leadership of the RGGI states.”
Contact: Laura Rehrmann, 703-516-0621, firstname.lastname@example.org
To adapt to the problems caused by global climate change, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently issued an executive order requiring state agencies to consider the risk of coastal flooding and sea level rise when proposing projects for new state-owned structures. The directive will come into effect after July 1, 2013, when state agencies release requirements for such facilities.
Marylanders have already lost 13 islands in the Chesapeake Bay and continue to lose 580 acres of shore per year. The state’s coastline is the fourth longest in the continental United States and is considered a “hotspot” for sea-level rise because levels are rising at an annual rate three to four times faster than in other parts of the world. According to the USGS, the shoreline has experienced an increase of 2-3.7 millimeters per year compared to a global average of less than 1 millimeter. Testimony from the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources also shows that, in the last century, the level of the Chesapeake Bay has risen more than a foot due to the combined forces of regional land subsidence – receding land movement – and global sea level rise.
At greatest risk are an estimated 40,000 homes and 257,000 acres of land located in areas just above the high tide line. The state is also at greater risk from a 100 year flood, which scientists now predict to have a 22 percent chance of occurrence by 2030.
The executive order follows the state’s 2008 Climate Action Plan, which includes a section on "Reducing Maryland´s Vulnerability to Climate Change" and focuses on the erosion impacts from coastal storm surges. As part of the plan, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources created a CoastSmart Communities Program that provides local training, grants, and technical assistance to areas that are likely to be affected by sea level rise. The program provides users with access to an online mapping tool and has awarded more than $500,000 to coastal areas in order to adapt to climate change impacts.
Besides those in Maryland, many other U.S. state officials are taking measures to address their vulnerability to climate change. State plans range from evaluating the impacts of potential sea level rise, as does Executive Order 09-05 in Washington, to addressing concerns relating to prolonged drought and severe forest fires in Arizona’s Executive Order 2005-02.
However, many scientists believe that more state action will be needed as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s predicts up to a two-foot global sea level rise by 2100.
For More Information
Despite some modest steps forward, the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha was a reminder of the slow-paced nature of international negotiations. Annual conferences like these aim to achieve international agreement on reducing the man-made emissions causing climate change, but 20 years after the launch of the U.N. climate process, global emissions continue to rise.
Progress is being made at the domestic level, however, and in many cases, the policy of choice is emissions trading. One of the major challenges going forward is linking these emerging trading systems to achieve the efficiencies of an integrated global greenhouse gas market. The European Union and Australia have announced plans to link their trading systems, and California and Quebec are working toward linking theirs.
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission recently approved Phase I of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program. This program will implement a low carbon fuel standard, one of a handful of actions set out in HB 2186 (2009) that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) may adopt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is the first of two required approval rounds for the program, eventually aiming to lower fuel greenhouse gas emission intensity to ten percent below 2010 levels.
Phase I will require fuel importers and suppliers in the State of Oregon to monitor and report fuel volumes and carbon intensity (the amount of carbon emissions per unit of energy). Importantly, the program will use lifecycle analysis to incorporate total emissions from fuel uses, including the production and refining processes as well as direct fuel combustion.
If approved after further study and development, Phase II would require fuel suppliers to gradually lower fuel greenhouse gas emission intensity until it is ten percent below 2010 levels, with achievement anticipated by 2025. Covered entities could lower emissions in the production, storage, transportation, and combustion of fuels, as well as by providing an increased percentage of biofuels, such as biodiesel or ethanol, or other alternative fuels, such as electricity. Additionally, companies could participate in a credit market to buy or sell credits to fulfill their requirements. Approval of Phase II would extend the program past its current expiration, or ‘sunset date,’ at the end of 2015.
Proponents of the program argue that it is a flexible and effective approach to addressing greenhouse gas emissions. A support coalition has formed, called Clean Fuels Now; its members emphasize the economic benefit from new business opportunities related to clean technology and alternative fuels. Contrarily, opponents expressed concern that the new Clean Fuels Program will be expensive due to monitoring and reporting costs, as well as increased fuel prices. However, there are protective safeguards in place to avoid consumer fuel price increases. Another concern is that the program is moving too quickly, particularly in light of a pending lawsuit against California’s similar low carbon fuel standard, part of that state’s global warming law, AB 32.
The transportation sector produces approximately one-third of Oregon greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Fuels Program is intended to complement, not replace, the Oregon Renewable Fuel Standard, which passed in 2007 and requires that gasoline contain at minimum ten percent ethanol and diesel contain at minimum five percent biodiesel. Additionally, the program is an important component of Oregon’s broader climate change actions – such as the Global Warming Commission’s Roadmap to 2020.
Oregon was one of the first states to adopt a low carbon fuel standard in 2009. For more information on low carbon fuel standards across the country, this C2ES map covers states that are considering or have approved similar policies.
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.