A Smaller Carbon Footprint: Research Suggests Combining Strategies to Meet Legislative Goals in the Transportation Sector


Adam Boies, David Kittelson, Winthrop Watts, Jan Lucke, Laurie McGinnis, Julian Marshall, Peter Nussbaum, Elizabeth Wilson

June 2008

Report no. CTS 08-10S



The 2007 Minnesota Next Generation Energy Act established goals for reducing statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15% by 2015, 30% by 2025, and 80% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels. This document summarizes a longer report which investigates strategies for meeting those reductions in Minnesota's transportation sector, which produces approximately 24% of total state GHG emissions.

The study focuses on three types of emission-reduction strategies: those that improve vehicle fuel economy, those that reduce the number of vehicle-miles traveled, and others that decrease the carbon content of fuel. The researchers used a quantitative model to test the effectiveness of specific strategies for GHG emission reduction from transportation in Minnesota.

Modeled scenario outcomes depend strongly on input assumptions, and lead us to the following three main conclusions. 1. Meeting state goals will require all three types of policies. For example, Minnesota could adopt a GHG emissions standard, a low-carbon fuel standard, and comprehensive transit and Smart Growth policies. 2. Technologies are available today to substantially improve fuel economy and vehicle GHG emissions. Requiring these technologies could save Minnesota consumers money and better insulate them from oil price volatility. 3. Changes in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) have a strong impact on whether the goals can be met, and increases in VMT can offset GHG reductions.

Overall, the research indicates that the goals can be met, but achieving them requires consistent and concerted action beginning immediately.

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