Continued investment in multiple combinations of advanced fuels and vehicles could yield solutions that benefit U.S. consumers and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the National Petroleum Council (NPC) said in a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu.
At the same time, however, the Council stated, “There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding which individual fuel-vehicle systems will overcome technology hurdles to become economically and environmentally attractive by 2050. Therefore, government policies should be technology neutral while market dynamics drive commercialization.”
The Council’s letter, dated Aug. 1, accompanied a report that the Secretary had asked the Council to prepare. Here is the complete text of the letter, which is posted on the web site of the Council:
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In letters dated September 16, 2009, and April 30, 2010, you asked the National
Petroleum Council (NPC) for advice about fuels, technologies, industry practices, and government policies through 2030 for auto, truck, air, rail, and waterborne transport. You also requested advice on potential industry and government actions that could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from American transportation by 50 percent by 2050.
The enclosed report, Advancing Technology for America’s Transportation Future, is the NPC’s response to your requests, based on two years of review and analysis by more than 300 participants from diverse perspectives. The study found that transportation in America is undergoing changes that could evolve and accelerate depending upon how soon fuel and vehicle technologies advance along with their economic viability.
If the technology and infrastructure barriers identified by the study can be overcome, the scale and effects of this transition will yield incremental and cumulative gains for America. This comprehensive study concludes that:
As cost competitiveness improves, existing technologies can be applied to substantially increase vehicle fuel economy.
Overcoming twelve identified Priority Technology hurdles is essential to the
commercialization of advanced fuels and vehicles.
Implementing mitigation strategies can help overcome the substantial fuel related
Continued investment in multiple combinations of advanced fuels and vehicles could yield solutions that benefit American consumers and significantly reduce GHG emissions.
Achieving 50% GHG emission reductions in the transportation sector by 2050, relative to 2005, will require additional strategies beyond technology and infrastructure advances.
Increasing the diversity of economically competitive fuels and vehicles will
bolster the nation’s energy security.
Vehicles powered by petroleum and internal combustion engines – the foundation of travel for over a century – continue to become more efficient and cleaner. They now run on petroleum blended with biofuels, some of their engines are assisted by electric motors, and they are being joined on the nation’s roadways by vehicles running on natural gas, electricity, and hydrogen. Natural gas is widely used in urban buses and refuse vehicles and is now being introduced in trucks; biofuels comprise 10 percent of U.S. gasoline; a growing number of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles are becoming available to consumers; and, shortly, hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles will enter the market.
Profound changes are possible with disruptive, yet highly uncertain, innovations such as ultra-light-weight vehicle materials; new electric vehicle battery technologies; low-cost, low-pressure storage for natural gas or hydrogen; or breakthroughs yielding lower cost, low carbon transportation fuel.
Yet despite sustained investment in technology and infrastructure, these fuel and vehicle advances are not assured. There are competing priorities in the pursuit of new fuel and vehicle technologies that are at once reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible. Striking a balance that meets individual and societal goals is the challenge at hand for both industry and government. While attempting to address these priorities, this study offers the following recommendations:
Government should promote sustained funding and other resources—either by itself or in combination with industry—in pre-competitive aspects of the twelve Priority Technology areas identified, as well as in areas that could lead to Disruptive Innovations.
There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding which individual fuel-vehicle systems will overcome technology hurdles to become economically and environmentally attractive by 2050. Therefore, government policies should be technology neutral while market dynamics drive commercialization.
The federal government should take a leadership role in convening state, local, private sector, and public interest groups to design and advocate measures to streamline the permitting and regulatory process in order to accelerate deployment of infrastructure.
When evaluating GHG emission reduction options, the government should consider full life-cycle environmental impact and cost effectiveness across all sectors. It should also continue to advance the science behind the assessment methodologies and integrate life-cycle uncertainty into policy frameworks.
Fuel, vehicle, and technology providers should consider existing or new voluntary forums that include federal and state governments and other stakeholders, to address concurrent development of vehicles and infrastructure.
The Council looks forward to sharing this study and its results with you, your
colleagues, and broader government and public audiences.
See the report