Energy Department Study Examines Potential to Reduce Transportation Petroleum Use and Carbon Emissions

March 14, 2013

The U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory today released a new study that finds the United States has the potential to reduce petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector by more than 80% by 2050. The Transportation Energy Futures (TEF) study identifies possible paths to a low-carbon, low-petroleum future in the U.S. transportation sector.

The transportation sector accounts for 71% of total U.S. petroleum consumption and 33% of our nation's total carbon emissions. The TEF study assesses the avenues and identifies possible strategies to achieve deep cuts in petroleum use and GHG emissions in this sector. According to the study, achieving deep reductions will require an inclusive approach, combining strategies to increase fuel economy for all types of vehicles, reduce use of transportation while providing comparable service, and expand use of low-carbon fuels, including biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen.

The nine reports that are part of the TEF study include:

Light Duty Vehicles (Personal Cars and Light Trucks)

  • Deployment pathways issues including the development of, transition to, and challenges of advanced technology
  • Non-cost barriers to advanced vehicles such as range anxiety, refueling availability, technology reliability, and consumer familiarity.

Non-Light-Duty Vehicles (Trucks, Rail, Aircraft, and Other Modes)

  • Opportunities to improve non-light-duty vehicle efficiency for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, off-road vehicles and equipment, aircraft, marine vessels, and railways
  • Opportunities for switching modes of transporting freight, such as moving freight from trucks to rail and ships.


  • Infrastructure expansion required for deployment of low-GHG fuels, including electricity, biofuels, hydrogen, and natural gas
  • Balance of biomass resource demand and supply, including allocations for various transportation fuels, electric generation, and other applications.

Transportation Demand

  • Opportunities to save energy and abate GHG emissions through community development and built environment strategies
  • Trip reduction through mass transit, tele-working, tele-shopping, carpooling, and improvement of vehicle performance through efficient driving
  • Freight demand patterns, including trends in operational needs and projections of future use levels.

Find more information and access all of the reports.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.