In a first, the U.S. unveils plans to decarbonize its entire transportation sector

"The domestic transportation sector presents an enormous opportunity to drastically reduce emissions that accelerate climate change and reduce harmful pollution."
Deena Theresa
An elevated subway station in Queens, New York.
An elevated subway station in Queens, New York.

Bim/iStock 

In what can be hailed a significant and impactful move, the U.S. Department of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency released a Blueprint on how to decarbonize the entire U.S. transport system. The strategy is hoped to cut all greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector by 2050.

"The domestic transportation sector presents an enormous opportunity to drastically reduce emissions that accelerate climate change and reduce harmful pollution," U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement.

Transportation accounts for a major share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions

The Blueprint only amplifies the Biden-Harris administration's take on climate change. It is hoped to address the crisis and meet the President's goals of securing a "100 percent clean electrical grid by 2035 and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050". 

"DOE [Department of Energy] is prepared to implement this Blueprint alongside our partners within the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure all Americans feel the benefits of the clean transportation transition: good-paying manufacturing jobs, better air quality, and lower transportation costs," Granholm said.

The transportation network that includes all modes of travel (land, air, sea) accounts for a third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S., transportation costs are the second largest annual household expense in our country. And for those living in low-income households, the financial costs of transportation are "disproportionately and unsustainably high".

A well-planned strategy is imperative to decarbonize all transport

This Blueprint has a three-pronged approach. Firstly, increase convenience by ensuring that essential services are located near where people live to reduce commute burdens and improve walkability and quality of life. For this, community design and land-use planning at the local and regional levels must be ensured.

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Secondly, improve efficiency by expanding affordable, accessible, efficient, and reliable options like public transportation and improving the efficiency of all vehicles. Thirdly, transition to green options by deploying zero-emission vehicles and fuels for all modes of transportation.

A smooth but well-planned transition also includes developing clean-energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and hydrogen and sustainable fuels, while building out the supporting infrastructure for clean transportation.

A giant step towards reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

"The people HUD serves deserve clean, affordable transportation options," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge. "HUD is proud to join our federal partners at Energy, DOT, and EPA to ensure that clean transportation investments are made equitably and include communities and households that have been most harmed by environmental injustice. We look forward to working together to better align transportation, housing, and community development investments in these and other communities across the country," Fudge added.

The Blueprint is the first-of-its-kind strategy for federal leadership and partnerships to decarbonize the entire U.S. transportation sector. The move was a long time coming.