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Study Finds That Implementation of a Portfolio of Transportation Strategies Will Be Required for Significant Reductions in GHG from Transportation Sector; Pricing Strategies Have the Largest Potential

Projected cumulative greenhouse gas reductions from 2010-2050 by strategy category under maximum deployment scenario. Data: Moving Cooler. Click to enlarge.

Although innovations in vehicle and fuel technology will have a substantial effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the US, those gains will largely be offset by increases in travel along with growth in the US population, according to a new report from transportation consultancy Cambridge Systematics. Achieving significant GHG reductions will thus require application of a complete portfolio of strategies targeting travel activity and vehicle and systems operations, the report finds.

In an analysis of a set of such strategies grouped into nine categories and three different levels of implementation (extension of current efforts, aggressive and maximum), the report found that the maximum effort deployment—excluding economy-wide pricing strategies—could achieve annual greenhouse gas reductions of up to 24% by 2050 from the calculated baseline. Strong economy-wide pricing measures (such as a $5.00 per gallon fuel tax by 2050) could result in an additional reduction of 28% in GHG emissions.

For the study (Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions), Cambridge Systematics calculated the baseline based on an annual rate of vehicle and fuel technological changes, consistent with forecasts of the US Department of Energy in its “Annual Energy Outlook” and the US Department of Transportation’s examination of alternative Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). The Moving Cooler baseline extrapolated these projections further to 2050, resulting in a potential doubling or greater of fleet fuel efficiency.

These efficiency gains, however, are largely offset by an equally large increase in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT)—projected to grow by 82 percent during this period of time. The net result in 2050 is a less than 1 percent increase from 2005 in GHG emissions from transportation, as the US population grows and travel increases. Given this, a broad range of other strategies may be considered to reduce the GHG impact of transportation services.

—Moving Cooler

Highlights of the nine categories analyzed in the Moving Cooler report include:

Pricing and taxes. Strategies raise the costs associated with the use of the transportation system, including the cost of vehicle miles of travel and fuel consumption. Both local and regional facility-level pricing strategies (e.g., congestion pricing) and economy-wide pricing strategies (e.g., carbon pricing) are considered.

Pricing strategies, in particular the economy-wide pricing implemented through PAYD (pay as you drive), a VMT fee, and gas or carbon pricing have the largest potential to reduce GHGs. This potential is dependent on the level of prices that are set, which are substantial for this analysis. Among these options, pricing carbon fuel has by far the largest effect because it not only prompts reductions in travel, but also spurs significant improvements to fuel economy as the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Land use and smart growth. Strategies focus on creating more transportation-efficient land use patterns, and by doing so reduce the need to make motor vehicle trips and reduce the length of the motor vehicle trips that are made.

At maximum deployment, the annual GHG reduction from the baseline because of integrated land use strategies is 4.4 percent in the year 2050. Outside of the economy-wide pricing measures, this reduction is the largest one in 2050 of any strategy...Implementation of this strategy has one of the highest ratios of vehicle cost savings to implementation costs.

(Because of the long implementation time for such strategies, the category ranks fifth in terms of cumulative GHG reductions from 2010-2050 under maximum deployment scenarios.)

Nonmotorized transport. Strategies encourage greater levels of walking and bicycling as alternatives to driving. This would result in would result in a cumulative 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent reduction in baseline emissions.

Public transportation improvements. Strategies expand public transportation by subsidizing fares, increasing service on existing routes, or building new infrastructure. Such transit capital investments could produce cumulative GHG reductions ranging up to 1.1 percent of baseline emissions.

Ride-sharing, car-sharing, and other commuting strategies. Strategies expand services and provide incentives to travelers to choose transportation options other than driving alone. These could contribute cumulative reductions up to 1.7 percent of the baseline, depending on the level of implementation.

Regulatory strategies. Strategies implement regulations that moderate vehicle travel or reduce speeds to achieve higher fuel efficiency.

Lower and strictly enforced speed limits have the potential to generate cumulative reductions in GHGs through fuel economy benefits that would range from 2.0 percent to 3.6 percent lower than cumulative baseline emissions. It is also one of the strategies that can be implemented and have positive GHG impacts in the short run.

Operational and intelligent transportation system (ITS) strategies. Strategies improve the operation of the transportation system to make better use of the existing capacity; strategies also encourage more efficient driving.

Together, these system operations improvements can result in cumulative reductions as high as 0.6% from the baseline. These strategies also enable more effective implementation of a variety of pricing strategies.

Capacity expansion and bottleneck relief. Strategies expand highway capacity to reduce congestion and to improve the efficiency of travel. These are the only two strategies examined by Moving Cooler that result in an increase in GHG emissions during the 40-year period to 2050.

This increase does not happen immediately however; in the short term, improved roadway conditions will decrease congestion and delay and, as a consequence, fuel consumption. It is only as induced demand begins to consume the roadway capacity after 2030 that VMT and GHG emissions are projected to increase. At the same time, the impact to growth in GHG emissions is very small—at its highest, less than 0.02 percent increase in the maximum deployment scenario.

Multimodal freight sector strategies. Strategies promote more efficient freight movement within and across modes. The most effective strategies in this category are truck APUs and rail capacity improvements, which together reduce cumulative GHG emissions up to 0.4 percent from the baseline.

An integrated, multistrategy approach—combining travel activity, local and regional pricing, operational, and efficiency strategies—can contribute to significant GHG reductions. Such reductions would, however, involve considerable changes to current transportation systems and operations, travel behavior, land use patterns, and public policy and regulations. How strategy bundles are designed will be key to reducing GHGs.

—Moving Cooler

Moving Cooler was published by the Urban Land Institute. Other sponsors of the report include: American Public Transportation Association; Environmental Defense Fund; Federal Highway Administration; Federal Transit Administration; Intelligent Transportation Society of America; Kresge Foundation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Foundation; Shell; Surdna Foundation; US Environmental Protection Agency.




Implementing only three of the most effective strategies could achieve 90+% of the total expected results.

Massive introduction of 100 mpg extended e-range PHEVs for highway driving and extended e-range BEVs for city driving could be accellerated with a progressive fuel tax of$0.05/gal/month for the next 120 months + a complementary degressive incentive program to offset the cost of batteries for the first 10 years. The incentive program could start at 60% of the battery pack cost (with a ceiling of $10K to $12K) and decrease at the rate of 0.5%/month to drive the incentive to zero after 120 months or 10 years.

Of course, both the progressive tax and regressive incentive could be fine tuned to last longer if required.

Most long haul truck trailers could be moved more efficiently by trains, specially when diesel fuel is more heavily taxed. Electrified tractors could move the trailers at each end. This could reduce liquid fuel consumpton and pollution.

With less trucks on highways, the speed could be reduced to 100 Km/h or 110 Km/h (and enforced with radar cameras) to further reduce fuel consumption, fatal accidents and pollution.

Basically, the incentive program should be 100% financed by the progressive fuel tax over the 10 year period.


$8 per gallon and kill income tax for people making less than 50K per year - significantly reduce taxes for the 50+ rising up to a reasonable taxation ~28% around 150K+ since they don't really care that much about fuel prices anyway.

These numbers would have to adjust to suit a real number that would keep the economy balanced - but you get the point - reward and empower the middle class for reducing energy consumption and increasing the efficiency of their lives in general - since the majority of people empowered are the majority at large. Problems may come up in the lowest of the income bracket that can afford gasoline mobility - some things to fine tune there.

Personally - I can afford $8/gallon gas with by PHEV and I don't care today - so let's go already!


Forgot a couple of things,
- HarveyD - Trains yes - high speed rail and long haul ship by trains - 10% of per ton mile energy consumption - totally necessary and not fundamentally difficult
- Agriculture and certain services (public works etc) will require tax exemption - which is not specifically hard - just a regulatory affair.


Trucking uses half of the fuel for vehicles on the road. Long haul trucks in the U.S. get 4 mpg and use more than 20,000 gallons per year. With more than a million long haul trucks and millions of shorter haul trucks, this is where we can make a large improvement.

These are fleet vehicles that use lots of fuel, the savings can make the case for biofuels and hybrid drives. It is a matter of concentrating where the fewest dollars can do the most good, without harming the economy. A huge tax is not only unwanted but could harm the overall productivity at the margins.

Don MacKenzie

Harvey, I see no reason to "pick a winner" in PHEVs. At the fuel prices you are advocating, they would probably become cost effective in their own right pretty quickly.

As for increasing fuel prices by $6 per gallon over 10 years, this seems faster than necessary, and politically unviable. I think it could be possible (though not likely) to increase more gradually, e.g. by $0.10-$0.20 per year, if those increases were directly tied to reductions in income taxes.

In my view, a big challenge in the current environment is that we're doing everything with borrowed money, so income tax reductions seem like a bit of a shell game.


Requiring sacrifice and new thinking, no solution is viable without a brilliant use of the bully pulpit, and with the Congress and media fully on board. This is the way the USA has always gone to war, and fought the cold war and ran the space race.

Ten years ISN"T FAST ENOUGH to ensure expensive carbon fuel. With the world in recession, this is the perfect time to rationalize fuel prices to force efficiencies. The world's ecosystems cannot bear the stress.

The developed nations borrow money to keep up their roadways. The USA barely taxes road users. The general public pays for roads. Trucking companies do not come close to paying their fair share. Why?

The USA needs to spend its money efficiently by getting electric rail to take the long haul freight instead of trucks. Only with the revitilization of rail freight does electric passenger rail make economic sense.

The suggestion of reducing income taxes does little good for the society. The country already has relatively low taxes, and a ballooning deficit. Income tax should be progressive, automatic and foolproof. Tax loopholes and tax breaks are inefficient, unless they cement a growing, high employment industry within the country. The only tax break should be for companies with long term increasing employment - period. There should not be any breaks for agriculture or any other industry.

If battery factories are so important, they should be built and operated by the government. If photovoltaic farms are so important, they should also be built by the government. That's unlikely to happen. The whole point of raising the cost of carbon fuel is to allow low carbon, high employment industries flourish. This should not be tied to taxation.

More than low carbon goods and services, people need low carbon housing and workplaces.

The empowerment of women is key to population reduction, which is truely vital to the ecosystem, and the ultimate goal of the enterprise.


Of course any malus-bonus (tax/fees - incentives) program can be adjusted to compensate very low wage earners. Increased income tax free deductible + a modified income tax scale can be used as compensation during the transition period (10 to 15 years) ONLY.

By 2025 such program should have accomplished the desired effects and should be progressively phased out.

The idea is to accellerate the transition from ICE to electrified vehicles, not to change the income taxes nor other taxes.


To me the idea is to reduce oil imports and the use of fossil fuel in general. I do not care as much about HOW we do that, just that we get on with doing it NOW.


Unfortunately, the majority is more interested in the HOW than the OBJECTIVE i.e. reducing Oil imports.

Most Americans are not that concerned about Oil Imports as long as taxes are low. The relationship between Oil import and costly Oil wars is not so apparent to the majority. That's why the HOW is a very hard choice to make, if you want to win the next election.

When 70+% don't care that much about GHG, oil import, peak oil and other closely associated realities, it is rather difficult to convince them of the need to transition to more efficient transportation vehicles, specially during the initial period when electrified vehicles will be more costly than ICE equivalent units.

That is why a malus-bonus program may be required to accellerate the process. Without that, various market forces and all powerful lobbies will extend the transition period to 50+ years.


I look at doing what we should do as people thinking...well, maybe later. Or...maybe someone else can do that. If people can drive the car they want and each generation of that car gets better mileage and still has great performance, then they are there.

It is like green tech, I saved money is also good for the environment. Self interest trumps most everything. It may even be like low fat foods. We would like to believe that we can eat what we want and not gain weight.

What people really want is a fast roomy and efficient car that does not cost much, is safe, has great resale, reliable and lasts a long time. You can make a list of the top desirable qualities in a car and they would all be quite similar.

So, when you give them all that, then they will say that they are doing their part to reduce oil imports. Other than that, we are probably wasting our time, they do not make the connections because they do not want to.


SJC....if each car generation gets better mileage....etc.

If this only had been the case in the last 60 years, todays ICE average car may be getting up to 100 mpg. Unfortunately we regressed during decades. A 2008 gas guzzler got worse gas mileage than the 1948 equivalent. The excuse is that the 2008 edition is safer, heavier, faster, better accelleration etc etc. The objective of transporting 4 to 5 people from A to Z at 100 to 110 Km per hour did not change. The 1948 version did that just as well. We may have been had for decades as we went from 1-tonne to 3-tonne gas guzzlers.

Now the time has come for a major technology change. The 120+ year old ICE vehicles have to be replaced with much more efficient electrified vehicles. Will the market place to it without help or push from governments? Will the new common sense electrified vehicles come from Tata, BYD or other similar Asian manufacturers? The answers will come in the next five years.


With India and China wanting more personal transportation, it will be quite a growth in vehicles. We can do it the old way or we can do it the new way. From what I have read, if available at a good price, the new way may gain favor.


The new way will probably be the progressive electrification of most vehicles + a return to common sense, much low cost vehicles, like the Tata Nano etc. Many more two and three e-wheelers may also be around by the millions.

Of course, we will always have $100K+ vehicles for the 5% to 10% who can afford them but the other 90+% will have many lower cost choices, especially from China, India, Brazil, Russia etc.

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