January 28, 2016

West Coast States Could Cut Petroleum Consumption in Half by 2030

Analysis Finds Extending and Expanding Current Clean Transportation Policies Would Significantly Reduce Oil Use

OAKLAND, Calif. (January 28, 2016)—California, Oregon and Washington could cut their petroleum use by half in the next 15 years through policies that encourage greater transportation options and the more robust use of existing and emerging low-carbon technologies, according to a report prepared by ICF International and released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The report finds that the three West Coast states are already on track to reduce petroleum consumption and outlines strategies for further cutting oil use from car and freight transportation that is fouling air quality and contributing to climate change.

With a combined population of almost 50 million people and gross domestic product (GDP) totaling nearly $2.5 trillion — surpassing the economies of most countries — California, Oregon and Washington could serve as powerful models for reducing petroleum consumption as the world confronts the reality that fossil fuel consumption is leading to dangerous climate change.

A 50-percent cut in petroleum use by 2030 is a major priority of California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next 15 years. Last week, federal scientists said 2015 was the hottest year worldwide on record.

The report considers a variety of technological and policy options and illustrates a pathway for the three West Coast states to cut their oil use in half by 2030. The strategies include improved vehicle efficiency, increased deployment of low-carbon fuels and electric vehicles, and reduced vehicle travel through better transportation options and land-use planning.

“This report provides a roadmap for transitioning away from fossil fuels on the West Coast with strategies that rely on many of the transportation technologies that exist today,” said Don Anair, research and deputy director of the UCS Clean Vehicles Program who served as an advisor for the report. “With faster deployment of low-carbon technologies, we can show that it’s possible to put the brakes on carbon pollution that is causing dangerous warming and fueling many extreme weather events.”

The analysis, Half the Oil: Pathways to Reduce Petroleum Use on the West Coast, was performed by ICF, an international consulting firm with expertise in transportation and energy systems.

“Our report reviews the landscape of technological and policy options by which the West Coast states could reduce petroleum consumption,” said Philip Sheehy, the lead author and Senior Technical Specialist at ICF International.  “We analyzed several combinations of strategies that could be employed to achieve a 50 percent reduction in transportation-related petroleum use in California, Oregon and Washington by 2030.”  

The three states consumed an estimated 22 billion gasoline gallon equivalents of petroleum-based fuels in 2015. Policies and transportation measures already in place are expected to lower this combined total to 18 billion gallons by 2030, with California on track for achieving an estimated 24 percent reduction, and Oregon and Washington each cutting back by 8 percent. 

According to the Half the Oil report, extending and in some cases enhancing these policies could cut oil consumption in half by 2030. While Oregon and Washington have farther to go towards cutting oil use than California, taking steps to accelerate deployment of electric vehicles and cleaner fuels, along with continued efficiency improvements for cars and trucks, could put all three states on the road to achieving a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use.

“The West Coast states don’t need to start from scratch, but can cut gasoline and diesel use in half by building on the progress already underway,” Anair said. “Reducing petroleum use is a realistic goal and a preferable alternative to the continued burning of erratically priced fossil fuels that are posing long-term threats to our economy by driving climate change and air pollution.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.