The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) will bring notable economic and policy experts to Capitol Hill on Thursday to address the challenge of reducing oil consumption through a combination of technology and policy measures. The Congressional briefing , scheduled for 3:00 p.m. in 253 Russell Senate Office Building, coincides with the release of a new report by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that examines the essential role of transportation in cutting U.S. dependence on oil and meeting climate protection goals.

“Transportation is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases, and the transportation sector must be a big part of the solution,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions reviews the potential effectiveness of different transportation measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Transportation contributes about 29 percent of U.S. GHG emissions and accounted for roughly half the growth in GHG emissions since 1990.

A combination of strategies—including low carbon fuels, higher vehicle fuel economy, improved efficiency of the transportation system, shifts to low carbon travel modes, and reduced travel demand — are likely to be necessary to achieve substantial GHG reductions, according to the report. Some specific findings include:

  • More fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles could reduce per-vehicle emissions by 8 to 30 percent, hybrid vehicles 26-54 percent, and plug-in hybrid vehicles 46-75 percent.
  • More efficient routing of airline flights using NextGen technology and more efficient takeoffs and landings could reduce aviation greenhouse emissions by up to 10 percent by 2025.
  • Reducing the number of vehicle-miles traveled through integrated strategies, that include improved public transportation, coordinated transportation and land use planning, and increased options to walk and bike – practices emphasized in the DOT’s livability initiative – could reduce transportation greenhouse emissions 5 to 17 percent by 2030.

Policy options to implement these strategies examined in the report include efficiency standards, transportation planning and investment, market-based incentives, research and development, and economy-wide carbon policies.
The transportation sector, which is powered almost entirely by petroleum fuels, also accounts for roughly two-thirds of all U.S. oil consumption (industry uses most of the rest) — making it a central focus for U.S. energy security. Economy-wide policies to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions, however, may not be sufficient in reducing oil consumption and U.S. oil dependence, pointing to the need for supplemental policies to achieve these important policy goals.

Reducing dependence on oil has been a bipartisan policy priority which has broad support from business, national security, and environmental interests. Recently, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) unveiled a “Practical Energy and Climate Plan” which stresses the security implications of oil dependence and climate change.