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.

Policies need to account for the full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of fuels. Gasoline refined from tar sands, for example, has very high extraction emissions. A policy like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard program in California could address these upstream emissions. This type of policy sets targets for lowering the lifecycle carbon intensity of fuels and allow the market to determine the most cost-effective fuels and strategies for achieving those targets.


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 by about one-half 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. Acadia Center is also advancing solutions to help 1) reduce the upfront cost of EVs; 2) build out charging infrastructure; and 3) educate consumers on the benefits of EVs. It is possible to dramatically increase the adoption of EVs over the next few years.