ConservAmerica Report Highlights Importance of Policy Neutrality in Decarbonizing Transportation Sector

WASHINGTON, DC – A new ConservAmerica review of existing scientific research of the various options available for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector urges policymakers to take into account the full emissions lifecycle of those technologies before setting policy in a rapidly developing market.

The report, Slow Down: The Case for Technology Neutral Transportation Policy, looks at a cross-section of credible studies, including ones from MIT and the International Energy Agency, on the environmental impacts of different low-carbon vehicle technologies over their entire lifecycle  a perspective often overlooked by policymakers. While each study is unique, they collectively demonstrate the importance of taking a technology-neutral approach in setting transportation policies to obtain the most efficient reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“If our goal is to reduce total emissions from the transportation sector, then one cannot simply focus on one part of the equation, such as miles per gallon or tailpipe emissions,” ConservAmerica’s Todd Johnston said. “Because different energy sources and drivetrains are used in different vehicles, the most crucial metric is overall lifecycle emissions, meaning all emissions generated from mining to salvage.”

Key takeaways:

  • When the full lifecycle of a vehicle and its energy source is taken into account — including GHG emissions during fuel production, manufacturing, operation, and disposal stages — advanced internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are capable of achieving comparable reductions in GHG emissions as similarly equipped, full battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
  • The term “Zero Emission Vehicle” is misleading since all vehicle types are responsible for producing emissions throughout their lifecycles.

  • Policies that only examine a vehicle’s tailpipe emissions significantly distort the fact that BEVs emit GHGs during their manufacturing and based on the mix of energy sources used for electricity generation.

  • Focusing on a single technology like BEVs discourages competition and the development of other technologies that could have a more significant impact on GHG emissions in the nearer term, and at a lower cost to consumers.

  • If the ultimate goal is to decrease carbon emissions, mandating vehicle electrification and subsidizing electric vehicles may end up being among the most expensive and inefficient policies to adopt.

“This report should caution policymakers as they weigh policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Johnston said. “Limiting technology options from the market may set back efforts to reduce total carbon emissions or result in higher costs for consumers. It does not make sense to mandate the adoption of less efficient transportation technologies when the market is more likely to produce more accessible and efficient – and less costly – alternatives.”

For further information, contact [email protected] ConservAmerica is a nonprofit organization that advocates for market-based solutions to conservation, environmental, and energy challenges. Visit us at ConservAmerica and follow us on Twitter @ConservAmerica and on Facebook.