The Biden-Harris administration published The Long-Term Strategy (LTS) of the US in November 2021. It is a visionary climate strategy that outlines a plan to tackle the growing climate crisis by decarbonizing the national economy. In January 2023, “The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization: A joint strategy to transform transportation” was released. REGlobal provides a brief extract of the report…

Transportation system design and land use

When people have limited transportation choices, or less accessible and efficient options, it can take them even more time to address their daily needs. The spatial mismatch between jobs, housing, and services is especially pronounced in disadvantaged communities. Petroleum provides nearly all energy used in transportation today. This reliance on petroleum is a major energy security concern and driver of transportation emissions.

Decarbonizing the transportation sector will require strategies and actions that approach the problem from all angles. Working with local partners to enhance land-use planning and coordinate public and private sector investments will tackle the problem at the root and make it possible for people to take fewer or shorter trips, or make it easier to walk or use cycles on those trips. This will both improve equity and provide better access to goods and services with less travel required for rural, suburban, and urban communities. Investments in passenger rail, public transportation, and active transportation infrastructure will give people the option to use more energy-efficient forms of transportation.

Additionally, communities of colour have often been passed over for infrastructure wealth-creation opportunities such as jobs, careers, and the use of minority-owned contractors. The federal government is committed to the Justice 40 initiative, which establishes the goal that at least 40% of the benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities. As investments in cleaner transportation solutions increase, it will be important to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefit of those investments, including jobs and business opportunities. It will be necessary to balance community priorities as potential federal investments are considered.

By expanding affordable, accessible, efficient, and reliable options like public transportation and rail, and improving the efficiency of all vehicles as everyone deserves efficient transportation options that will allow them to move around affordably and safely, and because consuming less energy as we move saves money, strengthens national security, and reduces GHG emissions.

Transition to clean options by deploying zero-emission vehicles and fuels for cars, commercial trucks, transit, boats, airplanes is key as no one should be exposed to air pollution in their community or on their ride to school or work and eliminating GHG emissions from transportation is imperative to tackle the climate crisis.

Transportation emissions

Transportation emissions increased 22% between 1990 and 2019, largely due to increased vehicle miles travelled. Emissions from the electric power sector continue to fall as power generation has rapidly moved toward wind, solar, and natural gas sources, and away from coal.

The percentage of all new vehicles classified as trucks under DOT and EPA regulations used to be less than 40%, but has steadily grown, reaching 63% in model year 2021 driven mostly by the adoption of SUVs. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are the second-largest contributor to transportation GHG emissions, at 21% of all emissions. This diverse category of vehicles includes larger pickup trucks, delivery and work vans, refuse collection vehicles, buses, and heavy trucks.

Aviation is the third largest contributor to transportation GHG emissions, at 11%. Aviation emissions include fuel used for all domestic flights and for aircraft taking off from the US. In addition to GHG emissions, the transportation sector is responsible for other emissions that impact our environment and public health and that disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. Transportation is responsible for about half of all US emissions of NOx, as well as emissions of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and various air toxics.

Children, older adults, people with pre-existing cardiopulmonary disease, people of low socioeconomic status, and racial and ethnic minorities are among those at higher risk for health impacts from air pollution due to disproportionate exposure. Growth in heavy-duty vehicle travel demand is projected to be more significant, increasing by about 50% by 2050, mostly driven by projected economic growth and assumed relationships between GDP and freight demand. These projections are based on assumed population growth of 0.4% per year and GDP growth of 2.2% per year from 2021 to 2050.

These disruptions could cause, among other things, long-term shifts in mobility needs, commerce, and travel choices that will profoundly impact transportation systems and associated emissions. However, several other transportation energy sector issues have emerged since the economic recovery post-COVID-19, including a decline in the use of public transportation, congested freight transportation due to near record-high demands, and energy supply constraints due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These challenges in transitioning away from fossil fuels illustrate that aggressively decarbonizing transportation will serve the dual purpose of insulating the nation from the global energy and climate crises that the US faces today. While there is uncertainty in demand growth for future passenger and freight mobility, there is also an opportunity to help shape that future to provide more options to reduce vehicle miles travelled while increasing mobility options and accessibility, improving quality of life, and reducing emissions.

Emissions reductions

Emissions reductions throughout the entire transportation sector will be necessary to achieve full decarbonization. All sources of transportation emissions will need to be addressed considering the projected growth and changes in mobility needs.

The strategies will empower people and businesses to:

Increase convenience by implementing system level design solutions that prioritize access and proximity to work opportunities, community services, and entertainment options to reduce unnecessary or excess movement of people and goods while still meeting all mobility needs.

Moreover, policies and technology solutions can be used to adapt to changes in future mobility. For example, the wide-scale use of connectivity and automation technologies can improve safety, convenience, and affordability, and enable more efficient travel. This strategy involves adopting highly efficient zero-emission battery vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and sustainable fuels for vehicles and applications that are more challenging to electrify.

System level and design solutions

Increasing convenience by implementing system-level and design solutions will be critical to achieving sustainable mobility, especially in light of expected population and economic growth that could otherwise significantly increase demand for passenger and freight travel.

A recent analysis by the Georgetown Climate Centre found that whether the investments lead to an increase or a decrease in emissions depends on how effectively the federal government and regional, state, local, and Tribal entities can use the available funds to support climate friendly infrastructure projects and prioritize system maintenance and multimodal options over expanding roadway capacity.

Transportation demand management (TDM) is the use of strategies and policies to reduce travel demand, which in turn reduces traffic, energy use, and GHG emissions.

The federal government can support TDM efforts at the regional, state, local, and Tribal levels by sharing best practices, data, and tools to support decision-maker efforts to effectively manage transportation demand. Advanced computing and data analytics (e.g., sensors, big data analytics, blockchain) have the potential to improve supply chains by optimizing truck routing and freight logistics. These system-level and design solutions to increase convenience have the potential to deliver total reductions in GHG emissions of an estimated 5-15% by 2050, and also offer significant additional co benefits.

Improving efficiency through mode shift and more efficient vehicles

The second key strategy to reduce transportation emissions is to improve efficiency by increasing the availability of highly efficient travel options, while also improving the energy efficiency (or fuel economy) of all vehicles, especially passenger vehicles, which often have low occupancy.

Multiple solutions and actions can improve mobility options and offer all Americans more affordable, energy-efficient, and cleaner alternatives, including more investments in efficient passenger and freight transportation.

It is critical to continue to improve system- and vehicle-level efficiency through improved engines and vehicles; light-weighting and use of better materials; reduction of non-combustion emissions (e.g., pipeline leakage); and optimizing vehicle use to minimize emissions (e.g., better freight logistics to improve fuel economy).

Lower and more diversified energy demand—when accompanied by enhanced domestic supply chains or clean technologies—will improve the nation’s security, decrease vulnerability to supply interruptions or price changes, and increase the reliability and affordability of mobility for all Americans.


Sustainable fuels offer an opportunity to replace petroleum and reduce GHG emissions. They provide the same advantages and flexibility of petroleum fuels, making them well-positioned to decarbonize applications like long-haul aviation and international maritime shipping that require energy-dense liquid fuels. Sustainable fuels can also be used with existing infrastructure and vehicles, helping to reduce emissions of legacy vehicles. Multiple production pathways exist to create sustainable fuels using renewable resources including corn, vegetable oils and animal fats, forestry and agriculture residues, wastes, and purpose-grown energy crops and algae, as well as from renewable electricity.

Future transportation systems must leverage affordable and abundant clean electricity to power battery EVs and produce clean hydrogen and sustainable fuels. Widespread transition away from fossil fuels for transportation will have far-reaching consequences for energy and electricity systems, including new opportunities for significant electricity load growth, while also requiring greater coordination for planning and operation between the transportation and electricity sectors.

Recognizing the urgency of the moment and the critical role that decarbonizing the transportation sector must play in tackling the climate crisis, stakeholders across the transportation sector should continue to pursue ambitious targets, seize the opportunity to implement change, and lead the decarbonization of transportation system from every angle. It is an exciting first step toward realizing the vision of an improved and sustainable transportation future.

The full report can be read here