Press Release: Climate Change and the U.S. Transportation Sector

For Immediate Release
May 29, 2003

Contact:   Katie Mandes

Climate Change and the U.S. Transportation Sector: New Report Reveals Available Policy Options to Reduce GHG Emissions

Washington, DC —Transportation sources in the U.S. account for nearly a third of our nation's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and are rising faster than in any other sector. It is critical that an effective climate change policy for the U.S. address these emissions. A new report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation, written by David L. Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Andreas Schafer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, identifies a number of policies and technologies that can achieve GHG reductions of the necessary scale.

"The U.S. is the owner of the world's largest transportation system, and reducing emissions from this system is critical to an effective GHG reduction strategy," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The U.S. transportation system emits more CO2 than any other nation’s total economy, except that of China, and presently accounts for seven of ten barrels of oil this nation consumes. Many of the actions that would reduce emissions from transportation would also address other national priorities, including U.S. dependence on imported oil.

If we start now with existing technologies and investments, it will be possible to reduce carbon emissions by about 20 percent by 2015, and almost 50 percent by 2030, compared to ‘business as usual.’ Some of the reports recommendations are:
Fuel economy for new cars and light trucks can be increased by 25-33% over the next 10-15 years using market-ready technologies. Emerging technologies, including advanced diesel engines and hybrid-electric vehicles are likely to reap fuel savings of 50-100% by 2030. These technologies could be adopted without reducing the size or performance of the vehicles.

R & D and voluntary efforts are necessary but not sufficient, mandatory policies are essential to pull technological improvements into the marketplace. Fuel economy has gotten worse, not because of lack of technology, but lack of policy.

Fuel cells and hydrogen hold out the tantalizing promise of eliminating GHG emissions from this sector, but government must provide clear policy direction in order to drive massive private investment by the fuel and vehicle industries.

The report concludes that a cost-effective portfolio of policy options to address transportation’s GHG emissions exists, but the long lead time required to turn over an entire fleet of vehicles and the supporting infrastructure mean that policies must be implemented now to create the impetus for change. "The transportation sector in the U.S. offers a myriad of choices for near-term gains in efficiency," says Eileen Claussen, "and since many are affordable and available, it is inexcusable that we are not taking advantage of them. Action needs to begin today in order to start us down the path to a low-carbon transportation future."

Solutions Series
This report is part of the Solutions series, which is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, environmental impacts, and the economics of climate change.

A complete copy of this report-and previous Pew Center reports-is available on the Pew Center's web site, An abbreviated version of this report written specifically for policy-makers, Taking Climate Change into Account in U.S. Transportation, is also available.

The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.