DOE TEF project finds US can eliminate petroleum and reduce GHG by more than 80% in transportation by 2050; less use, more biofuels, expansion of electricity and hydrogen
|TEF project points to deep cuts in petroleum and emissions in the transportation sector by focusing on modes, fuels, and demand. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released findings from a new project—Transportation Energy Futures (TEF)—that concludes the United States has the potential to eliminate petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 80% in the transportation sector by 2050. The project identifies possible paths to a low-carbon, low-petroleum future in the US transportation sector, and also looks beyond technology to examine the marketplace, consumer behavior, industry capabilities, and infrastructure.
TEF is organized into four research areas: light-duty vehicles; non-light-duty vehicles; fuels; and transportation demand. Findings are being detailed in a series of nine reports, six of which are now available.
|Achieving the reduction will require combined reductions across three factors: modes, demand and fuels. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.|
The transportation sector accounts for 71% of total US petroleum consumption and 33% of total carbon emissions. According to the TEF studies, achieving deep reductions are dependent on combined reductions across three factors: vehicle fuel consumption (modes); vehicle use (service demand); and fuel carbon intensity (fuels). All three transportation energy use factors must be reduced in order to decrease overall energy use and emissions.
Some of the high-level findings from the project are:
Advanced vehicle can dominate the market by 2050. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.
Using less fuel in vehicles. Light-duty vehicles are already becoming more efficient due largely to new CAFE standards. Adoption of advanced vehicle technology such as electricity and hydrogen-based drivetrains can further reduce liquid fuel needs despite increasing travel demand.
However, non-light-duty vehicles (NLDVs) such as trucks, planes, and ships, however, consume almost half of the fuel used in the transportation sector. Growth in freight and air travel demand could lead to a 50% increase in NLDV energy use by 2050. There are a variety of possible efficiency improvements for NLDVs, particularly heavy trucks and airplanes, which have the potential to make up for these increases to keep overall energy use flat.
Using vehicles less. Demand for transportation of both goods and people is expected to increase substantially over the coming decades. While individual strategies to curb transportation demand may have limited impacts, TEF shows that implementation of multiple simultaneous approaches—such as built environment characteristics; trip reduction; efficient driving; and non-LDV mode switching—can lead to significant reductions in per-capita vehicle use while maintaining service quality.
In combination with increased efficiency, these reductions can balance out the increases in service demand and keep liquid fuel needs down to allow for low-carbon fuel substitution.
Switching from petroleum to biofuels. TEF does not project that all liquid fuels will be eliminated from the future transportation sector, but rather that demand can be sufficiently reduced so that biomass can meet all liquid fuel needs. TEF developed a new Biomass Allocation and Supply Equilibrium model to project the equilibrium for biomass supplies and consumption in a mature market.
Even at the EIA baseline projected fuel demand in 2050, biofuels could supply as much as 50% of the jet fuel market, and 30% of the gasoline and diesel markets if EERE biofuel technology goals are met.
Getting to the point where biomass could provide 100% of vehicle liquid fuels requires reducing the need for fuel through efficiency and demand management, including deployment of electricity or hydrogen fuel alternatives. While new fuel types require new infrastructure, the share of infrastructure cost within total fuel costs is very small (1.5-3%), and these costs can be made up for in fuel cost savings of more efficient advanced vehicles.
TEF is a collaboration between the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). The project benefitted from the input provided by a steering committee that included experts on transportation energy from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Department of Transportation (DOT), academic researchers, and industry associations.
NRC report: Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels. A soon-to-be-released National Research Council (NRC) report examines whether the US can reduce petroleum usage and greenhouse gas emissions in automobiles by 80% in the year 2050. The report compares current light-duty vehicle technologies with several alternative options and looks at what would be needed to meet the 2050 goals.
Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels considers alternative fuels such as electric power and hydrogen and examines methods for their effective production and delivery to consumers, taking cost, infrastructure needs, and consumer behavior into consideration.