A Pathway to Clean, Fair Transportation for Everyone

Study Shows How to Reduce Pollution and Cut Consumer Costs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

Published Oct 10, 2018

WASHINGTON (October 10, 2018)—Transportation is now the biggest source of global warming pollution in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic—and across the region, the transportation system, including roads, highways and public transit routes, is outdated and inefficient. But there’s a clear path to a clean and modern system, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

A new push for cleaner vehicles and fuels can reduce pollution from transportation by 35 percent by 2030 and deliver a broad range of benefits to communities across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. That’s the finding of a new analysis from UCS and the consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates. States have an opportunity to make a difference by improving efficiency, increasing access to electric vehicles and bringing more low-carbon fuels to the market.

“Whether it’s getting to work, taking our kids to school or delivering goods, we all have to get from point A to point B,” said Daniel Gatti, a policy analyst for the Clean Vehicles Program at UCS. “It’s in all of our interests to make sure the way we get around is clean, modern and accessible to everyone. Fortunately, there are proven technologies that can help us get there.”

The new analysis shows that with smart policies, states can accelerate the deployment of advanced technologies to build the cleaner transportation system we need for the future. That includes making cars, trucks and buses more fuel-efficient; speeding up the deployment of electric vehicles of all sizes, and the infrastructure to support them; and making more low-carbon fuels available to power vehicles. These policies need to be developed through an open public process so that a broad range of communities can work together to build a modern transportation system.

“Burning oil is by far the biggest source of transportation-related emissions, and that impacts both our health and the climate,” said Cecilia Moura, a senior engineer for the UCS Clean Vehicles Program and a co-author of the new analysis. “These steps will help us cut our oil use dramatically. They’ll also boost the economy by saving drivers money at the pump. When you compare the investments we need to make to the enormous benefits we’ll get from these policies, it’s an easy choice.”

These steps won’t just help Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states cut pollution—they’ll come with real benefits to consumers and communities. According to the new research, these policies can:

  • Reduce consumer spending on gasoline and diesel fuel by more than $125 billion by 2030 and more than $1 trillion by 2050.
  • Cut global warming emissions, relative to 1990 levels, by 37 percent in 2030 and 78 percent in 2050.
  • Reduce air pollution and its damaging health impacts, saving more than $3 billion in cumulative health costs by 2030 and $30 billion by 2050.

Along with investments in cleaner vehicles and fuels, states must ensure that the transportation system of the future provides access and opportunity to everyone—including low-income communities, people of color, older people and those with disabilities, and rural dwellers. A modern transportation system won’t be sustainable unless it’s designed with input from communities and with an intentional focus on equity. These investments should go hand-in-hand with public transit, walking and biking infrastructure, and affordable housing to make sure everyone can get where they need to go.

“This is a real chance for states in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic to show the way forward,” said Ken Kimmell, the president of UCS and the former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “Just as these states, on a regional and bipartisan basis, have reduced pollution from generating electricity, they should now turn their focus to transportation—and the pathway is there to build a cleaner future.”

The fact sheet is part of a larger study, including in-depth state-by-state analysis of the positive impacts of clean transportation policies.