A Roadmap to Low-Carbon Transportation

This is part of a series of blogs on NRDC’s new report, “America’s Clean Energy Frontier: The Pathway to a Safer Climate Future”


We can meet carbon goals with cleaner vehicles and more mobility options.

Given that transportation is now America’s leading source of climate-warming pollution, there is no question that we must transition to low-carbon modes of travel to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. That’s also one of the key messages from a new NRDC report, “America’s Clean Energy Frontier: The Pathway to a Safer Climate Future,” which concludes that we can do it with known technologies.

The NRDC analysis includes options ranging from increasing the miles per gallon we get from our vehicles, to shifting to electric cars and trucks, to providing alternatives like high-quality public transit and widespread access to walk- and bike-friendly communities. 

Based on comprehensive modeling by NRDC and Energy + Environmental Economics (E3), the report outlines a cost-effective pathway reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050—which scientists say is necessary to keep the increase in global warming below 2°C—using today’s proven clean energy solutions. The big news is not just that we can do it. It’s how—with a bold and rapid expansion of energy efficiency and renewable energy, all supported by a modernized grid and with rapid progress to get the carbon out of the transportation sector. We don’t need to wait for new breakthroughs, or rely on risky or costly strategies like new nuclear or unsustainable levels of biomass. Instead, we need to keep pushing forward—hard—on existing clean energy solutions.

Cleaning up the transportation sector is crucial to meeting these goals, especially since transportation recently surpassed the power generation sector in annual carbon dioxide emissions. Fortunately, we already have the tools for achieving clean…

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