U.S. Can Cut Vehicle Carbon Emissions in Half by 2050

by | Jul 30, 2009

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Focusing solely on energy-efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels will not address the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent report released by Urban Land Institute (ULI). A key finding indicates that the U.S. could cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 24 percent by 2050, without road pricing strategies, through changes to current transportation systems and operations, travel behavior, land use patterns and regulatory strategies.

With pricing measures such as pay-as-you-go drive insurance, direct fees for vehicle miles traveled, carbon pricing or increased gasoline tax, GHG emissions reductions could be as high as 41 to 52 percent.

The report, Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, evaluates incremental reductions in U.S. carbon emissions that could occur within the transportation sector as a result of a variety of transportation- and land use-related actions and strategies to minimize auto use. The report finds that land use strategies will produce the most emission reductions of all 50 strategies analyzed by the report.

The research, prepared by Cambridge Systematics, Inc., focuses on strategies to reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve the efficiency of the transportation network. Land use is one of nine categories of strategies, along with transportation pricing and taxes, public transportation improvements, non-motorized transport, regulations to moderate vehicle use and speed, intelligent systems, expanded highway capacity and more efficient freight movement.

The report also indicates that overall carbon emission levels from the transportation sector remain unchanged because the lower carbon emissions resulting from those improvements will be offset by increased motorized travel. Only when additional strategies are factored in to curb vehicle use does the baseline emission level start to decline, according to the study.

The study finds that making the transportation sector more efficient is critical to meeting the energy and climate legislation passed by the House that would require carbon dioxide emissions to drop 17 percent below 2005 levels and a total of 83 percent by 2050, reports the New York Times.

John Porcari, deputy secretary at the Department of Transportation, said in the article that the report shows that lawmakers looking to change the nation’s transportation system to curb emissions and fuel consumption will need to look at a number of options and policy changes.

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