Moving Beyond Oil icon 120

Transportation in Washington and Oregon, predominantly fueled by gasoline and diesel, is the largest source of carbon pollution in the two states: 46% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions and 36% of Oregon’s.

Oil use is declining, with more efficient vehicles using less gas, people driving less, and vehicles using lower carbon fuels. Since 1978, cars have become increasingly fuel efficient and in 2025, vehicles will use about half as much fuel to go the same distance as they did in 2011.

However, in order to stay within the 1.5-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures required to maintain a viable planet for human beings, we must achieve deep reductions in transportation emissions, which presents significant political, technical, and behavioral difficulties.

Climate Solutions concurs with California’s Governor Jerry Brown, who has advocated for a 50% reduction in petroleum use by 2030, an ambitious, but achievable goal if concerted efforts are marshaled to:

  1. Reduce the number of miles traveled in vehicles;
  2. Increase the number of miles a vehicle can travel on a tank of gas;
  3. Replace gasoline and diesel with cleaner fuels, such as biofuels, electricity, and renewable natural gas; and
  4. Design compact, transit-centered communities that decrease reliance on cars and increase use of public transit, bicycles, carpooling, and walking.

Electric vehicles powered by a grid supplied with renewable energy, are a critically important low-carbon solution for cars and light duty trucks, as may be hydrogen-powered vehicles. Marine vessels, long-haul trucks, and airplanes will need to rely on lower carbon liquid fuels to reduce their carbon emissions. Lower carbon sustainable biofuels will likely also be a necessity for internal combustion engines because it could take decades to build out new, safe, and accessible infrastructure for fueling electric or hydrogen-powered zero-carbon vehicles.

To transport people and goods using fewer miles will also require a variety of approaches including changing how people currently get around and building transit, pedestrian, and cycling infrastructure.

But half the oil by 2030 is achievable with existing technologies, proper polices at the state and local level, and the commitment to achieve the target.