Policies for Promoting Low-Emission Vehicles and Fuels
David L. Greene and Shuguang Ji, May 13, 2016
Since the energy crises of the 1970s the U.S. has struggled to substitute alternative energy sources for petroleum use by motor vehicles. This report reviews recent studies of a wide range of policies to promote alternative fuels and vehicles to extract insights about their impacts and effectiveness. Although the emphasis has varied over the past four decades, the motivations for replacing petroleum fuels have remained the same:
• Prevent or mitigate dangerous changes in the global climate by substituting low-carbon energy for fossil petroleum.
• Improve energy security by reducing national dependence on petroleum.
• Improve local air quality by eliminating or drastically reducing emissions from motor vehicles.
A central premise of this review is that a transition to low-GHG energy for motor vehicles is not only desirable but very likely essential to achieve the kinds of GHG emission reductions necessary to appropriately mitigate global climate change (e.g., an 80% reduction over 2005 levels by 2050).1 Consequently, it is taken for granted that the objective of public policy is the displacement of the majority of fossil petroleum with low-GHG energy. Achieving reductions in light-duty vehicle GHG emissions of 50% to 100% by 2050 would likely require that a majority of new vehicles sold in 2050 are battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (McCollum and Yang, 2009; NRC, 2013). Accomplishing such a large-scale energy transition for the public good poses new challenges for public policy (Greene et al., 2014b).