Policy options for reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. transportation: No silver bullet

Transportation accounts for 2/3 of the nation’s oil consumption and produces between ¼ and 1/3 of all the CO2 emitted from the nation’s energy consumption. TRB established a special committee of experts to explore policy options for reducing emissions from the transportation sector. The committee’s Special Report 307 looked at the pros and cons of these options:

• Transportation fuel taxes,

• Vehicle efficiency standards and feebates (and other financial incentives to motivate interest in vehicle efficiency),

• Low-carbon standards for transportation fuels,

• Land use controls and travel demand management measures aimed at curbing private household vehicle use, and

• Public investments in transportation infrastructure to increase vehicle operating efficiencies.

Not surprisingly, the report concludes that there is no silver bullet: “To achieve reductions in GHG emissions, a policy pathway that is both tactical and strategic is indicated. Having demonstrated their potential for implementation, vehicle efficiency standards, for example, may be desirable in slowing the rate of growth in energy use and emissions. However, such mode- and vehicle-specific policies will need to be succeeded by policies that can generate much larger systemic responses, such as those produced by energy pricing. The strategic challenge ahead will lie in structuring and gaining public acceptance of these more far-reaching policies. A convincing case for their importance will be required, as will the timely introduction of many complementary policies, such as infrastructure investments and land use planning, that will foster acceptance and facilitate the desired long-term energy- and emissions-saving response.” A policy that provides benefits in addition to GHG reductions, such as reducing oil dependency, will be better positioned to gain public acceptance.

TRB will conduct a webinar on July 13, 2011, from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM EDT that will highlight the findings of the report. Participants must register in advance of the webinar. Employees of TRB Sponsor Organizations may register for free; however, there is a fee for other sites to attend the session.