Researchers at Rice University develop vanadium oxide-graphene materials for high power-density Li-ion batteries with ultrafast charging and discharging
President Obama calls on Congress to establish $2B Energy Security Trust for advanced transportation research, funded by oil and gas royalty revenues

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:

  • Tef3
    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.




We "can" do a lot of things and make them work. It would be nice if our so called leaders didn't have to ask permission from their industry puppet masters before we did. I mean it would be nice if our congress would make decision that were best for the country rather than following the guidance from their campaign fund donators.


Other problem is most politicians are not technically savy, they are lawyers not engineers or scientists. Being lawyers they write laws even if they are bad.



As long as politicians get elected with unlimited private $$$$$ donations for lobbies, pressure groups, unions, industries, millionaires and billionaires etc, this situation will never stop and get worse.

The only way to go from the current USA style Moneycracy to an acceptable Democracy would be to ban all direct and indirect donations (of all kind) to politicians and/or their party.

Treasury should pay 100% of election cost with a ceiling of $2 to $5 per voter.

This would be revenue-expenditure neutral because the $6+B current donations would no longer be tax deductible.


$5 per voter is the $5 box on the tax form now, make it mandatory. Public Money for Public office will be the best use of $5 every year for everyone.

Corporations and PACs can continue to advertise as "free speech" they just can not contribute to campaigns. We might actually get Congress representing the voters and tax payers for once.


"Using vehicles less" (LDV):

Never work.

Financially sustaining transit density is: 30 persons / ha (cheapest: commute frequency bus minimum - semi-hourly, 6 hours per day, M-F) (Holtzclaw, 1994).
The area percentage within all 'city boundaries' in the US that meet this minimum is 4% in 2000 (Angel, 2011).
The population percentage throughout the US that lives in areas with this minimum density is 27%. "" The actual amount of people within these areas that use transit or at minimum are walking distance to a transit stop, is a low double-digit percent of this 27% (estimated). ""
Of all 453 designated urban areas in the US (2000), 46% had zero population living with this minimum density. ""
Even New York City has only 64.7% population living in areas within this minimum density - three urban areas have greater percentages - one of them is a special boundary college town.

Good Luck. Perhaps, better to improve the fuel system of the cars than improve the behavior of the drivers/residents.

Roger Pham

Good point, everyone.
Since the oil and gas industry has such a powerful influence in the governmennt, why not try to persuade the oil and gas industry to make the gradual switch from energy hunting and gathering (exploration and drilling) to energy farming? The analogy is as in hunting for foods in the primitive tribal days vs farming for foods that can support advance civilizations.

The process of energy farming includes the use of waste biomass and turn this into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels. The fuel yield of waste biomass to liquid fuels can be rougly doubled if H2 is added during the process, or even tripled when methane is synthesized. H2 can be made from solar, wind and nuclear energy. With the declining cost of renewable energy and high cost of petroleum fuel, synthetic renewable hydrocarbon fuels can be cost-competitive with fossil fuels when produced in large scale.

The next question is how to get the oil and gas industry to make a gradual switch to this? The motive is still similar to when human switched from food hunting and gathering to large-scale farming: shortage of foods in nature and the unpredictability of natural food sources. Peak oil, for one thing, and the recent massive oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico to remind of environmental hazards and unpredictable cost of clean up, and the geopolitical difficult of guaranteeing a steady crude oil supply, and the escalation of global warming and climate change will threaten future legislations toward curbing of fossil fuels.

So, the smart leaders in the oil and gas industry will see that by urging the governments to guarantee a gradually-increasing retail prices of fossil fuels, to no more than 5-7% yearly, their investments in renewable-energy synthetic fuels will be safe and profitable, and this will give them enough time to recoup their current investments in drilling and exploration even during the gradual transition toward synthetic renewable hydrocarbon fuels. The public will hardly notice any change in the retail cost of hydrocarbon fuels due to this smooth transition and the cost-competitiveness of synthetic fuels.

With the modern transportation fleet getting more and more fuel efficient, there will be enough synthetic hydrocarbon fuel potential to satisfy all future demands without requiring fossil fuels.

Perhaps the Saudi are getting a glimpse of this as they are investing heavily into solar energy. In this way, the world's future oil and gas reserves will be unlimited!


I think that it is difficult to find an industry worse than the politicians that prey on them.

The role of industry is to produce.

This is driven, in a free country, by profit.

If you don't want to buy a C-Max, you do not have to.

If Ford or GM or Fiat or Toyota want you to buy their cars they must come to you with what you want (except for those who have been brainwashed, with too much bleach)

If I don't want to buy a Volt or Prius, GM and TMC cannot make me, but my government can make me pay for part of it.

If you thought you would get 47/47/47 in a C-Max I shudder to think what you believe from the government.

And force the oil and gas industry to do what you want them to do, and expect it to turn out well?
Really? you must be kidding.

Just ask yourself WHY we are NOT experiencing peak oil, and NOT already being crushed by fuel bills and cost increases across the board, driven by expensive fuel.

Ask youself what is fueling this wasteful government.

The answer is NOT solar rooftops.
The answer is NOT wind turbines.
The answer is NOT hydropower.
The answer is NOT biofuels.
The answer is NOT wind turbines.
The answer is NOT small vehicles.

The answer is shale oil, tar sands and fracking.

Fortunately for us, this administration is too inept to stop it without losing their donations.

Roger Pham

>>>"The answer is shale oil, tar sands and fracking."

This may be the answer for the present, because we have not produced enough of renewable-energy fuels to replace fossil fuels, even after 2 decades of warning from Al Gore. This may not be the answer for our energy situation in the next few decades, as global warming is raging on, with more heat, drought, storms, and crop failures. Low-cost petroleum sources will run dry in the next decade or two, making investments in renewable synthetic fuels a good business decision. NG is plentiful in the US at the moment, but it is not so in Europe, China, Japan, and India, where NG is quite expensive and in short supply. In fact, many power plants in India that use NG have shut down due to NG depletion.

This administration is sensible enough to allow all-time-high oil drilling, yet still plan ahead for the future when the oil wells will run dry. In fact, $2B USD was announced by the president for development of petroleum alternatives in the next 10 years.


@ ToppaTom

By your comments one suspects you to be a true believer in free market capitalism. Only one problem, the free market and capitalism cannot exist at the same time. Eventually capitalism becomes a monopoly. We have been there in the US during the days of the Robber Barons. Government eventually passed legislation to break up the monopolies. Today the markets are once more being manipulated. The financial market for instance is manipulated by Ben Bernanke of the FED with his everlasting QE (Quantatative Easing). About 30% of the cost of fuel at the pump is due to futures speculation just to name two examples.

While it is in vogue to claim that Government can't do anything right so it must be downsized, be careful what you wish for. Some powerful people in the US want to return to the Gilded Age and the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Unfortunately, we are well on our way to return to that era.

Will S

Indeed, the politicians are dependent upon their energy company masters, so leadership on this issue will have to come from other areas.

I live in a semi rural area, though bike to a commuter bus stop where I board a bus that takes me to within 5 miles from my office, biking the rest of the way in.

There are any number of ways that we can significantly reduce our consumption of petroleum (carpooling, vanpooling, mass transit, cycling, telecommuting, and myriad combinations of these).

Will S

Wind and solar can indeed replace our unsustainable fossil-fuel addiction, as detailed in this model from the University of Delaware;

"At 2030 technology costs and with excess electricity displacing natural gas, we find that the electric system can be powered 90%-99.9% of hours entirely on renewable electricity, at costs comparable to today"

but only if we optimize the mix of generation and storage technologies.

Kit P

@Roger et al

Did you read the article?

The only thing that actually works is driving less. Roger and his family needs cars that get mileage because they drive a lot. It is always the same. A long list of totally ineffective solutions so he does not have to make any changes in his lifestyle.

“I live in a semi rural area ”

There is no place to live walking distance to work? Will S works for the government in DC. This is also the reason those of us who do not work for the government some place in a big city do not listen to the likes of Al Gore.

It is just amazing that all of those people who express concern CAGW never to the person walk the talk.

“plan ahead for the future ”

What plan? Obama does not have a plan. I know what a plant looks like. It takes more than just giving speeches on college campuses to the brainwashed.

“Wind and solar can indeed replace ”

You can model anything you want, that does not make it the least bit practical. Replacing fossil generation of power with nuclear is a practical and effective way to some reduce fossil use.

Roger Pham

Thanks, Will S, for the link to Science Direct. However, an even more comprehensive energy plan that combines power generation with synthetic fuel production and nuclear and hydroelectric power will not need any expensive storage of electricity.

This is how it can work:
1. Have enough base-load nuclear energy and/or hydroelectricity to cover the time when there will be no solar nor wind electricity.
2. Have enough wind and solar electricity with a wide network to compensate for regions with temporarily low output to be able to rely for the majority of the time on the combination of both.
3. Have Hydrogen electrolyzers on standby to capture the excess grid electricity to produce H2 and store for later use or for production of synthetic fuels. With excess grid electricity, hydroelectric plants will be stopped while nuclear will still run at full blast to produce H2, in order to recoup the high cost of nuclear plant construction.
4. Gather up significant amount of waste biomass to produce synthetic hydrocarbon fuels with the addition of renewable-energy H2 in order to double or triple the yield of the waste biomass.

Short-term electricity storage like pumped hydro or compressed air can still be used, but will not be much needed if the above is optimized. Solar thermal electricity already comes with its low-cost molten salt thermal energy storage for producing solar electricity after sunset.

Roger Pham

@Kit P,
Sounds like you are waking up from a nap. When you're fully awake, I hope that you will realize that most members of society will need to maintain a high standard of living so that others will have decent-paying jobs. When you're advocating driving less, you should realize that the jobs of all those involved with petroleum exploration, drilling, refining, arm forces to maintain the oil flow, road construction, traffic regulation, auto manufacturing and auto repairs, etc... will be affected. The chain of effect will trickle down to everyone else in the economy and high unemployment will ensue with social unrest leading to martial laws and gun confistication and eventually to a dictatorship socialistic regime...who knows...!!!

To maintain social stability, democracy, etc... people must have jobs...the youth must have jobs, or else they will join the crime gangs to deal drugs, extortion, kidnapping, smuggling, or joining hate groups, etc.

However, we must maintain our high living standard in a sustainable way. That means renewable energy, recycling of all wastes, and curbtail all industrial pollutions...and all these will create more jobs that will help maintain social stability. All imports from countries having lower pollution standards must be assessed appropriate tarifs in order to level the playing field for countries with higher pollution standards. This the same as in competitive sports with rules and referees, so that no one will have unfair advantages.

Do you want to be a part of the solution? or a part of the problem?


I wonder why I didn't see any mention of "driving less" in this article;

Will S

Kit P. seems to think that biking is not as good as walking, though fails to say why he holds that belief, and seems to think biking is the equivalent to driving a car. Yes, he must have just started waking up from a nap...

Kit P

"Kit P. seems to think"

I think Will S is a clueless BS artist. Who uses 'semi rural', 'commuter bus', and 'bike' in the same sentence?

Work in the big city, live in the big city.

Will S

Kit P. still struggles for relevance...

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