US Releases Transportation Decarbonization Plan


The Biden-Harris Administration recently released the first-ever U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, with strategies to cut all greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector by 2050.

Jointly issued by the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the plan reportedly offers a whole-of-government approach to address the climate crisis and meet goals of a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“Transportation policy is inseparable from housing and energy policy, and transportation accounts for a major share of US greenhouse gas emissions, so we must work together in an integrated way to confront the climate crisis,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

“Every decision about transportation is also an opportunity to build a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future. When our air is cleaner; when more people can get good-paying jobs; when everyone stays connected to the resources they need and the people they love, we are all better off.”

About the Blueprint

According to the release from the DOT, the transportation sector accounts for a third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation costs are also reportedly the second largest annual household expense in the country.

Building on the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, the Blueprint is the first milestone deliverable of the historic memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the agencies in September. It is expected to be followed by more detailed decarbonization action plans, as well as be developed and implemented by these agencies in cooperation with governments at the State, local, and Tribal level, philanthropic organizations, the private sector and global partners.

“Under the leadership of President Biden, EPA is working with our federal partners to aggressively reduce pollution that is harming people and our planet – while saving families money at the same time,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan.

“At EPA, our priority is to protect public health, especially in overburdened communities, while advancing the President’s ambitious climate agenda. This Blueprint is a step forward in delivering on those goals and accelerating the transition to a clean transportation future.” 

The Departments report that a well-planned transition to a decarbonized transportation system can help address inequities and provide affordable options for moving people and goods. By building out the supporting infrastructure for clean transportation, the agencies anticipate creating jobs in all segments of the transportation sector while strengthening America’s energy independence.  

The Blueprint will act as a guide for future policymaking and research, development, demonstration and deployment in the public and private sectors to transform how people and goods move throughout the United States. This is reportedly built upon five guiding principles:

  • Implement bold actions to achieve measurable results;
  • Embrace creative solutions across the transportation system;
  • Ensure safety, equity and access;
  • Increase collaboration; and
  • Establish U.S. leadership.

The Blueprint reportedly focuses on each major transportation mode and identifies specific decarbonization opportunities and challenges, highlighting the role of various clean technologies for various applications.

The full Blueprint can be found here.

DOT Infrastructure Emissions Program

In April, the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration announced a $6.4 billion Carbon Reduction Program, created under the bipartisan infrastructure law. The formula funding will help states develop carbon reduction strategies and address the climate crisis, as well as expand transportation options to save money on gas.

The CRP will reportedly apply to a wide range of projects designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from on-road highway sources, including installing infrastructure to support the electrification of freight vehicles or personal cars, to construction bus corridors or facilitating micro-mobility and biking.

According to the FHWA’s press release, under the CRP, states must also develop carbon reduction strategies in consultation with Metropolitan Planning Organizations to identify projects and strategies tailored to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in their states. However, localities can begin using these funds even before plans are developed and reviewed.

According to the fact sheet, eligible projects include, but are not limited to:

  • A project described in 23 U.S.C. 149(b)(4) to establish or operate a traffic monitoring, management, and control facility or program, including advanced truck stop electrification systems;
  • A public transportation project eligible under 23 U.S.C. 142;
  • A transportation alternative (as defined under the Moving Ahead for Progress under the 21st Century Act [23 U.S.C. 101(a)(29), as in effect on July 5, 2012]), including, but not limited to, the construction, planning, and design of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other nonmotorized forms of transportation;
  • A project described in 23 U.S.C. 503(c)(4)(E) for advanced transportation and congestion management technologies;
  • Deployment of infrastructure-based intelligent transportation systems capital improvements and the installation of vehicle-to-infrastructure communications equipment;
  • A project to replace street lighting and traffic control devices with energy-efficient alternatives;
  • Development of a carbon reduction strategy developed by a State per requirements in 23 U.S.C. 175(d);
  • A project or strategy designed to support congestion pricing, shifting transportation demand to nonpeak hours or other transportation modes, increasing vehicle occupancy rates, or otherwise reducing demand for roads, including electronic toll collection, and travel demand management strategies and programs;
  • Efforts to reduce the environmental and community impacts of freight movement;
  • A project that supports deployment of alternative fuel vehicles, including acquisition, installation or operation of publicly accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure or hydrogen, natural gas or propane vehicle fueling infrastructure; and purchase or lease of zero-emission construction equipment and vehicles, including the acquisition, construction or leasing of required supporting facilities;
  • A project described in 23 U.S.C. 149(b)(8) for a diesel engine retrofit;
  • Certain types of projects to improve traffic flow that are eligible under the CMAQ program, and that do not involve construction of new capacity; [§ 11403; 23 U.S.C. 149(b)(5); and 175(c)(1)(L)]
  • A project that reduces transportation emissions at port facilities, including through the advancement of port electrification; and
  • Any other STBG-eligible project, if the Secretary certifies that the State has demonstrated a reduction in transportation emissions, as estimated on a per capita and per unit of economic output basis.

Funding was announced by state in the Fiscal Year 2022 Federal-aid Highway Program apportionments, determined by a formula set by Congress. $52.5 billion will go to states for this fiscal year, with $6.4 billion in total being distributed over five years.

Biden’s Climate Crisis Plan

Prior to the passing of the infrastructure law, in 2020 following the announcement of Joe Biden as the President-elect, the Biden-Harris Administration released its plan regarding climate change, highlighting the administration’s early priorities.

At the time, the Biden-Harris transition team looked at one form of technology it believes will be welcomed by a normally divided Congress: carbon capture and storage (CCS). While the technology isn’t specifically outlined in the transition document, CCS and other forms of negative emission technology has been long promoted by Biden throughout his time as presidential candidate and was noted in his campaign climate plan.

Earlier forms of the plan also mentioned various reforestation, agricultural practices, and also plans to look at battery storage, renewable hydrogen, advanced nuclear and building materials.

Overall, Biden intended to dedicate $1.7 trillion to overhaul energy, transportation, agriculture and other sectors. According to the transition document, the team planned to go beyond just recommitting the nation to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and aims to build a more resilient, sustainable economy through the creation of union jobs within these new investments.

Biden’s planned investments included infrastructure, the auto industry, transit, the power sector, buildings, housing, innovation, agriculture and conservation and environmental justice.


Tagged categories: Carbon footprint; Department of Transportation (DOT); Emissions; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Green Infrastructure; Health & Safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Mass transit; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Public Transit; Rail; Roads/Highways; Transportation

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