Biden Administration Decarbonization Blueprint targets transportation

On January 10th, the Biden administration released the “U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization” in which: “To address the climate crisis, we must eliminate nearly all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the sector by 2050.”

The document is a collaboration of the U.S. Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report explains that the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) “together represent historic investments in the future of our nation that will transform how we move and live while we build the backbone of a safer and more sustainable transportation system.”

The Blueprint notes that “many transportation decarbonization solutions rely on electricity directly or indirectly (such as the production of hydrogen or certain sustainable fuels). Achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035, largely through new solar and wind energy development, will be a critical co-strategy to support transportation decarbonization.”

The Blueprint’s goals focus on the following transportation sectors with the goal of “80–100% Emissions Reductions by 2050” through the following proposals:

Light-Duty Vehicles
49% share of current transportation emissions

  • Deploy 500,000 EV chargers by 2030
  • Ensure 100% federal fleet procurement be zero-emission by 2027

Medium and Heavy-Duty Trucks and Buses
21% of transportation emissions

  • Aim to have 30% of new vehicle sales be zero-emission by 2030 and 100% by 2040
  • Ensure 100% federal fleet procurement is zero-emission by 2035
  • Focus resources to develop technology pathways and set efficiency and zero-emissions vehicle and equipment targets

11% of transportation emissions

  • Work to establish specific targets
  • Reduce aviation emissions by 20% by 2030 when compared to a business-as-usual scenario
  • Achieve net-zero GHG emissions from the U.S. aviation sector by 2050

Off-Road Vehicles
10% of transportation emissions

  • Work to establish specific targets.
  • Focus resources to develop technology pathways and set efficiency and zero-emissions vehicle and equipment targets.

4% of emissions

  • Work to establish specific targets
  • By 2036, repair or replace 1,000 miles of high-risk, leak prone, community-owned legacy gas distribution pipeline infrastructure, as well as an estimated reduction of 1,000 metric tons of methane emissions
  • Eliminate leakages and enable use of pipelines for clean sustainable fuels

3% of transportation emissions

  • Continue to support the Zero-Emission Shipping Mission (ZESM) goals to ensure that 5% of the global deep-sea fleet are capable of using zero-emission fuels by 2030, at least 200 of these ships primarily use these fuels across the main deep sea shipping route, and 10 large trade ports covering at least three continents can supply zero-emission fuels by 2030
  • Support the U.S. domestic maritime sector by performing more research into sustainable fuels and technologies and incentivize U.S. commercial vessel operators to move towards lower GHG emissions
  • Work with countries in the International Maritime Organization to adopt a goal of achieving zero emissions from international shipping by 2050

Rail Transport
2% of U.S. transportation emissions

  • Work to establish specific targets.
  • Focus resources to develop technology pathways and set efficiency and zero-emissions vehicle targets.
  • Encourage greater use for passenger and freight travel to reduce emissions from road vehicles.

Maximizing Infrastructure Investments

The Blueprint advocates “Before 2030 – Turning the Tide on Transportation GHGs: Research and Investments to Support Deployment”

  • Partner with local communities “to develop and demonstrate effective, equitable, and scalable local or regional land-use and planning solutions to increase convenience and reduce emissions by making it possible for people to take fewer or shorter trips.”
  • Provide best practices, data, tools, and technical assistance on system-level design solutions to increase convenience and reduce emissions
  • Work with public and private sector partners to identify and advance solutions for a more equitable and healthier transportation system including support for transit-oriented development
  • Support land-use, street design, and development policies that make walking and biking easier, safer, and more convenient
  • Reduce “national transportation cost burden by at least 5% by 2030.”
  • Invest in “rail, public transportation, and active transportation infrastructure to provide the option to use more affordable and energy-efficient forms of transportation.”
  • Provide incentives to support greater use of efficient travel modes and vehicles and reduce the transportation cost burden on disadvantaged communities
  • Continue to strengthen standards to improve vehicle efficiency
  • Set clear, ambitious but achievable targets across all travel modes (e.g., sales shares of zero-emission vehicles, volumes of sustainable fuels, emissions reduction targets)
  • Work with international partners “to define targets, infrastructure standards, and implementation plans to encourage international shipping and aviation to rapidly decarbonize.”
  • Invest in “research and innovation to further develop and demonstrate clean technologies (e.g., achieve battery, hydrogen electrolysis, and sustainable fuel cost targets) and enable seamless integration with energy systems."
  • Continue and “expand funding and market incentives to accelerate the uptake of low- or zero-emission vehicles and invest in supporting infrastructure (e.g., vehicle rebates and EV charging infrastructure), especially in low-income and overburdened communities.”
  • Develop “a robust workforce including by engaging residents and businesses in disadvantaged communities and secure domestic and international supply chain solutions to ensure the U.S. can manufacture enough clean vehicles and fuels to meet rapidly growing demand.”

Reduce Emissions Caused by Road, Bridge & Rail Construction

The Blueprint proposes reducing GHG emissions from fuel production and processing; vehicle manufacturing and disposal; and construction, maintenance, and disposal of transportation infrastructure.

The report notes that transportation systems “contribute to climate pollution at a variety of points and full life-cycle transportation GHG emissions need to be considered and addressed.”

For example, “according to America’s Cement Manufacturers, over the next five years, spending from the BIL alone will result in the use of 18.63 million metric tons (MMT) of cement for roads and bridges, 5.78 MMT for airports, 2.99 MMT for ports and waterways, and 0.31 MMT for rail and transit. About 0.5-0.6 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted per ton of cement produced, so cement used in projects funded by the BIL will result in about 15.2 MMT of CO2 emissions.”

This is equivalent to the “emissions from about 3.3 million gasoline-powered vehicles driving for a year.”

Reaching the goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 “requires addressing the GHG emissions associated with the production and end-of-life phases of fuels, vehicles, and transportation infrastructure and systems, both directly through procuring lower carbon materials and indirectly by employing more sustainable construction practices, including leveraging digitalization and e-construction.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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