US transport emissions could drop 80% by 2050 according to a study commissioned by the Department of Energy (DoE).
The cuts would be achieved by a combination of vehicle efficiency measures, increasing electric and hydrogen car numbers together with the continued development of the biofuels sector.
The report, compiled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), calls for the government to push through “strong policies and incentives” to encourage individuals to choose more efficient vehicles and consider using trains or buses.
Investment in suburban public transport and moving freight from the road onto the railways are also recommended by the authors, who warn there is no “silver bullet” to reducing emissions.
Transport in the USA accounts for 71% of the nation’s total petroleum use and 33% of total carbon emissions.
RTCC VIDEO: US climate negotiator Todd Stern outlines Barack Obama’s low-carbon strategy
Austin Brown, a senior analyst at NREL, says this study demonstrates those figures can be reduced over the long term.
“It presents significant opportunities to cut oil dependence while taking a bite out of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
“The finding that there are many options increases our confidence that a clean transportation solution is possible in the long term.”
But researchers warn that a full transition from conventional vehicles cannot happen in a decade – particularly in the USA where public transport infrastructure is often lacking.
“Strong policies and incentives may be needed to overcome consumer cost and range concerns, address automaker production and deployment issues, and encourage energy suppliers to rapidly build infrastructure,” they say.
“Recognizing that uncertain consumer acceptance and fueling infrastructure development may create significant investor risks, the full transition from conventional vehicles could easily take 35-50 years.”
One highlight from Barack Obama’s first term in office were the vehicle efficiency standards introduced in 2012, which supporters say will reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels and cut greenhouse gas emissions in half.
The standards require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025.