Cutting Emissions from Transportation

The transportation sector is the second largest source of U.S. GHG emissions, responsible for 28% of emissions nationally, and nearly 40% in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Transportation fuels, notably gasoline and diesel, must be priced in a way that reflects the cost of these emissions, either through a carbon tax or the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which currently regulates power plant emissions.

Acadia Center is working to change policies so they account for the full lifecycle of the greenhouse gas emissions fuels produce. Gasoline refined from tar sands, for example, has very high extraction emissions. Several different policies could address these upstream emissions, such as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program in California. The LCFS sets targets for lowering the lifecycle carbon intensity of fuels and allows the market to determine the most cost-effective fuels and strategies for achieving those targets. A good initial step would be to require tracking and reporting by oil importers and wholesalers to allow states to determine how their fuel supplies are changing and what the best policy answer is.


Acadia Center is also advancing solutions to help reduce the upfront cost of electric vehicles (EVs), build out charging infrastructure and educate consumers on the benefits of EVs. It is possible to dramatically increase the adoption of EVs over the next few years.

Electrification of the vehicle fleet is one of the key pathways to cleaning up the transportation sector. Switching from a traditional car burning gasoline to a fully electric vehicle can reduce GHG emissions by 60% in the Northeast. As cleaner sources power the electric grid, these benefits will increase. In addition, vehicles running on electricity don’t emit any of the local pollutants that come from gas engines.

EVs save money, too. Switching from gasoline to electricity can cut per-mile costs significantly and allow consumers to spend more of their hard-earned dollars in local economies. Time-of-use rates will allow EV owners to save even more money by charging at night when the cost of generating electricity is low.

To seize the opportunity of EVs, the top priorities are to explore and address potential impacts on the power grid and maximize the ability of EVs to serve as a grid resource.


  • Residential Fixed Charges in New York

    Fixed charges are the flat monthly fees that every customer pays, regardless of the amount of electricity they consume. Over the past several years, utilities have pushed for higher fixed charges because they guarantee a revenue stream. However, high fixed charges violate well-established regulatory principles, reduce incentives for energy efficiency and clean local generation, and result in higher bills for low-usage customers, who are disproportionately low income. New York has relatively high residential fixed charges compared to the rest of the U.S., and its charges are higher than those in neighboring states. High fixed charges are ultimately incompatible with the energy future envisioned by New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (“REV”) initiative and should be reduced significantly.

  • RGGI on the World Stage

    Following the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, cities, states and regions will increasingly need to lead on climate. The nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have demonstrated a will to forge ahead in the absence of federal action in the past, and their leadership will make a substantial impact on the global fight against climate change; together, these states have a GDP of $2.8 trillion, representing the world’s 6th largest economy. Fortunately, the list of states taking action on climate is growing.

  • Distributed System Implementation Plans in New York: Summary and Analysis

    States throughout the Northeast are considering how to transition from an energy grid that delivers power one-way, from fossil fuel power generators to customers, to a modern, dynamic, and flexible energy system that is centered around our homes and businesses. Massachusetts utilities have presented plans for updating the electric grid in their Grid Modernization Plans, which are currently under consideration at the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Utilities. Rhode Island’s Power Sector Transformation Initiative is currently seeking feedback on Distribution System Planning for a modern grid. In response to New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision, the state’s electric utilities have developed Distribution System Implementation Plans. Acadia Center has analyzed and summarized the New York experience here.

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