Cost Benefit Analyses of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Efforts in the Transportation Sector

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

TERI Database Administrator Notes:  Not recommended at present time by 2009 Air Quality Subcommittee. 

The current focus of GHG reductions from the transportation has relied on increased fuel efficiency of vehicles and reduced carbon content of fuels. Reductions in vehicle miles traveled and shifts to low carbon transportation modes have received comparatively little attention.  The scope of this research proposal is to systematically analyze the costs of CO2 reduction strategies ($/ton), including those that are often ignored in the current debate, namely attempts to reduce vehicle miles traveled, mode shifts towards transit, mode shifts towards non-motorized transportation, etc. Individual travel and goods movement maybe treated as separate research questions. Cost benefit calculations should include externalities to the extent possible.

Urgency and Payoff

The current GHG reduction debate is driven by sector specific interests, in particular large players of the energy sector. Transportation is responsible for one third of US CO2 emissions, however, there is no strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from the transportation sector (fuel efficiency gains will barely keep up with emission growth; ethanol and other alternative fuel have come under huge criticism for not actually reducing CO2 emissions at all). In the light of this transportation is likely to pick up an inflated amount of the costs of future carbon regulation mechanisms (cap and trade). Systematic cost benefit analysis of GHG reduction options in the transportation sector will allow the reduction of GHG emissions most effectively and help avoid mobility costs to sky rocket in the future.

Suggested By

Thomas Gotschi, PhD, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Telephone: 202-974-5110

[email protected]