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The Dept. of Energy's "Transportation Energy Futures" study provides a template for Pres. Obama's vision of reducing US transportation sector petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Realizing gains in vehicle energy efficiency and fostering shifts in demand for different modes of transport, growing use of biomass biofuels, and transitioning to hydrogen and electric vehicles are the three main facets of the TEF strategy.

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80% Cuts In Transportation Sector Petroleum And Emissions: How Do We Get There?

The Dept. of Energy’s “Transportation Energy Futures” study provides a template for Pres. Obama’s vision of reducing US transportation sector petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Realizing gains in vehicle energy efficiency and fostering shifts in demand for different modes of transport, growing use of biomass biofuels, and transitioning to hydrogen and electric vehicles are the three main facets of the TEF strategy.

President Obama showed the strong national leadership on energy policy many have been looking for yesterday, calling for the establishment of a $2 billion Energy Security Trust fund and ordering all federal agencies to factor climate change into all project reviews.

Supported by Transportation Energy Futures (TEF) project and nine-part study undertaken by the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Argonne National Laboratory, the Obama Administration envisions reducing petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US transportation sector a whopping 80% by 2050.
LA traffic-jam

Greening Transport: Modes, Fuels & Service Demand

DOE, "Transportation Energy Futures"

“Transportation Energy Futures”
Image Credit: Department of Energy

“Transportation is an engine of our economic strength, but it also represents a key challenge for the future of US energy use,” NREL Senior Analyst Austin Brown was quoted in a press release.

“Transportation accounts for 71 percent of total US petroleum consumption and 33 percent of our nation’s total carbon emissions. It presents significant opportunities to cut oil dependence while taking a bite out of greenhouse gas emissions. The finding that there are many options increases our confidence that a clean transportation solution is possible in the long term.”

According to TEF project researchers,

“It was found that energy efficiency improvements and measures to reduce transportation demand, without compromising service, have the potential to stop – or reverse – the growth in national transportation energy use, making it possible for competitive renewable energy supplies to provide an increasing share of energy.

An Inclusive Approach to Reducing Transport Energy Use, GHG Emissions

DOE, "Transportation Energy Futures"

“Transportation Energy Futures”
Image Credit: Department of Energy

Achieving a reduction in US petroleum use and GHG emissions of such magnitude requires taking an inclusive approach focused on realizing three principal aims, according to TEF project researchers:

  • Increase fuel economy for all types of vehicles
  • Reduce use of transportation while providing comparable service
  • Expand use of low-carbon fuels, including biofuels, as well as electricity and hydrogen

Making the transition to clean fuel and zero-emissions vehicles and modifying the demand for transportation are two of the nine focal points of the TEF study.

Fuels

  • Infrastructure expansion required for deployment of low-GHG fuels, including electricity, biofuels, hydrogen, and natural gas.
  • Balance of biomass resource demand and supply, including allocations for various transportation fuels, electric generation, and other applications.

Transportation Demand

  • Opportunities to save energy and abate GHG emissions through community development and urban planning
  • Trip reduction through mass transit, tele-working, tele-shopping, carpooling, and efficient driving
  • Freight demand patterns, including trends in operational needs and projections of future use levels.

Three primary, partially overlapping strategies were investigated in light of consumer behavior, industry capabilities, and infrastructure:

  • Stopping and reversing growth in transportation sector energy use through efficiency improvements and demand management
  • Expand use of biofuels
  • Increase use of hydrogen and electricity from renewable energy

Reversing the Trend

DOE, "Transportation Energy Futures"

“Transportation Energy Futures”
Image Credit: Department of Energy

When it comes to stopping and reversing the trend of rising energy use in the transportation sector, TEF project researchers see changes to the built environment, strategies to decrease personal travel, improvements in energy efficiency, and replacing truck freight with more energy-efficient rail and marine modes as holding the greatest potential.

Pushing the limits of energy-efficient vehicles and switching to cleaner fuels, particularly in the non-LDV (Light Duty Vehicle) segment – truck, marine, pipeline, rail, and off-road equipment – are seen as key to averting projected increases in energy consumption and GHG emissions.

Secondly, using more in the way of biofuels from sustainably-harvested biomass “could supply significant shares of the markets for jet fuel, gasoline, and diesel if DOE (Department of Energy) biofuels technology goals are met,” according to the TEF report authors.

With regard to increasing use of hydrogen and electricity from renewable energy in the transportation sector, TEF authors concluded that

“Strong policies and incentives may be needed to overcome consumer cost and range concerns, address automaker production and deployment issues, and encourage energy suppliers to rapidly build infrastructure. Recognizing that uncertain consumer acceptance and fueling infrastructure development may create significant investor risks, the full transition from conventional vehicles could easily take 35-50 years.”

 
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I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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