Potential Reductions in Emissions and Petroleum Use in Transportation: Perspectives from the Transportation Energy Futures Project

Laura Vimmerstedt, Austin Brown, Garvin Heath, Trieu Mai, Marc Melaina, Emily Newes, Mark Ruth, Travis Simpkins, Ethan Warner, Kenneth Bertram, Steven Plotkin, Deena Patel, Thomas Stephens, Anant Vyas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


The use of energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy sources in transportation could reduce petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions, but these approaches may face challenges in consumer adoption, infrastructure requirements, and resource constraints. The Transportation Energy Futures project of the U.S. Department of Energy reviewed opportunities for significant reductions in petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions. On the basis of that review, a diverse set of strategies is explored: reduced energy intensity of transportation modes, lower use intensity of motorized transport, and reduced carbon or petroleum intensity through the use of electricity and hydrogen from renewable energy as well as the use of biofuels. Energy efficiency and demand-side approaches could stop the growth in total transportation energy. In the light-duty vehicle sector, growth in energy use already is projected to flatten; the deployment of technologies for energy efficiency could limit growth in the non-light-duty sector. Travel reduction and built environment changes could moderate personal transportation demand. Freight mass reductions and mode switching could slow or stabilize freight demand. Vehicles using electricity or hydrogen could enable access to renewable energy resources other than biomass. Challenges in fueling infrastructure expansion and market uptake of advanced vehicles are considered. Competition for biomass also is explored, considering markets for electricity, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and bunker fuel. The potential for the implementation of these strategies to displace U.S. petroleum use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector is discussed along with the barriers to realizing this potential in the market.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number2375
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2013

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-61242


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