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Vehicles (Still) Bigger Emissions Source Than Power Plants in United States

carbon emissions transportation US power plants

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector continues to exceed the amount from electricity production in the United States, according to the latest data from the US Energy Information Administration. The shift that started last year reveals the challenges to cutting transportation emissions as well as new opportunities, especially for corporate fleets.

Last year, the country’s transportation sector, including cars, trucks, planes, trains, and boats, emitted 1.879 billion metric tons of CO2 compared to 1.821 billion metric tons total from the electric power sector, the EIA’s report shows. The totals from the first eight months of this year are 1.260 billion from transportation and 1.179 billion from electric power production.

Bloomberg’s Tom Randall wrote that the sector is entering a critical period of reformation: “Cars are becoming more efficient under aggressive pollution rules passed under President Barack Obama, but that’s so far been offset by an ever-rising American appetite for SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks.”

When transportation initially passed power production for emissions last year, it was the first time that power wasn’t the top polluter in nearly 40 years, an EIA report showed. Ceres’ Carol Lee Rawn, director of the organization’s transportation program told Environmental Leader last year that corporations can reduce their transportation carbon footprints by supporting strong vehicle and fuel standards to ensure cleaner fuels and vehicles will be available. Rawn also recommended corporations purchase fuel-efficient vehicles for their fleets, improve loading, routing and driving approaches for fleet management, and explore electrification options.

Since then, we’ve seen companies take advantage of new technology options for their trucking fleets, including solutions for idle reduction and automated maintenance. They are also looking for alternative fuels. UPS recently signed a deal to buy 10 million gallon equivalents of renewable natural gas annually from Big Ox Energy through 2024. The package delivery company is also deploying electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, announcing plans last month to convert as many as 1,500 trucks in New York to battery-electric propulsion.

In addition, the transportation sector is primed for a growth in electric vehicles, as Environmental Leader reported earlier this year. As Bloomberg’s Randall notes, “Investments in electric cars may soon begin to do to the transportation sector what wind and solar have done to the power sector: turn the pollution curve upside down.”

We are accepting submissions for the 2018 Environmental Leader Awards. The final deadline is December 15, 2017. Learn more here.

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