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Federal Regulators Release Blueprint to Decarbonize the Transportation Sector

More than one-quarter of all of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the transportation sector. As part of the Biden administration’s goal for the U.S. to be net-zero by 2050, four federal agencies have collaborated to develop a roadmap to achieving that goal, including the recently released U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization. The 88-page document is a comprehensive and holistic plan for future development of the transportation sector, which is a hard-to-decarbonize and highly emissive part of society. Transportation leads all other sectors in emissions, representing 27 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions in 2020. The transportation blueprint is a follow-up document to a collaboration among the departments of Energy (DOE), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Transportation (DOT) along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that yielded a framework to meet emissions goals by 2050. Released in November 2021, the Long-Term Strategy of the United States addresses emissions from every sector, but culminates to one central goal of reaching net-zero emissions by the year 2050. Net-zero, in this context, means cutting as many emissions as possible, while developing processes and systems to neutralize remaining emissions. Achieving these goals will not be easy, especially in hard-to-decarbonize sectors, but increased focus on these issues is catalyzing unprecedented collaborations. The blueprint builds upon the LTS and is guided by five principles: implement bold actions to achieve measurable results; embrace creative solutions across the entire transportation system; ensure safety, equity, and access; increase collaboration; and, establish U.S. leadership in the effort. In order to achieve these goals, the blueprint calls for the use of the “full extent” of the tools available, which include: implementing policy and regulatory tools; promoting research and innovation; collecting all relevant data and using that data to inform decisions; increasing and improving education and workforce training; and, engaging with stakeholders and the developing of public-private partnerships. In addition, the blueprint also provides its own timeline, by decade, until 2050. The years leading up to 2030 should be dedicated to researching and investing in deployment strategies, what the document calls “turning the tide on transportation GHGs”. By 2030, the blueprint hopes to increase sales of new, zero-emission, light-duty vehicles to 50 percent and heavy-duty vehicles to 30 percent of total sales respectively, while also deploying an additional 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) chargers nationwide. Development of new, clean energy technologies will be part of the effort to meet these goals, and financial incentives provided in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act will help to spur this effort. Incentives for development of clean hydrogen, which is seen as a way to decarbonize long-range air, truck, and ship transportation, as well as tax credits and other incentives for development of carbon capture technology will be important in moving decarbonization of the transportation sector forward.

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