Advancements in fuel technology, sometimes referred to a “clean fuels,” have the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, as nearly all emissions come from fuel combustion. Clean fuels are more efficient and pollute less than their gasoline or diesel counterparts.
Each base transportation fuel has a cleaner biofuel blend that can be added or substituted. Examples of cleans fuels are gasoline blends that include ethanol, diesel use of biodiesel and renewable diesel, and compressed and liquefied natural gas can use renewable natural gas, liquefied natural gas, biofuels, and. Increasingly we are also using electricity and hydrogen; the Statewide Transportation Strategy calls for a transition to vehicles powered by all of these options.
A fuel’s carbon intensity is, put simply, how much greenhouse gas a fuel emits per unit of energy it provides. In Oregon, carbon intensity is measured for “lifecycle emissions,” meaning emissions released when a fuel is generated, refined, shipped, and finally converted to energy to power our vehicles.
In general, fuel and electricity carbon intensity is one of our biggest GHG success stories, invisible to most Oregonians. It has been on a downward trend, and is slightly behind the STS vision. Long term, we’ll close but still fall short of our goals.
The chart below is a quick look at our progress in Fuel Technology.
The STS calls for a 20% reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels by 2050. The Clean Fuels Program, overseen by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, is the main driver of the shift to clean fuels, requiring a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels sold in the state between 2015 and 2025. Oregon has set minimum biofuel blends for fuels sold in Oregon, 11% Ethanol (E11) in gasoline and 5% biodiesel (B5). Rulemaking is underway to continue this program for another 10 years. However, to achieve the goals from the Statewide Transportation Strategy, the program will need to be more aggressive the closer we get to the 2050 deadline.
In general, fuel carbon intensity scores have been on a downward trend, and are slightly behind the STS vision. Long term, we’ll fall short of our goals.
How we can improve: Invest in fuel technology with a lower carbon intensity score, like example and example.
Electric Carbon Intensity
Carbon intensity is measured for electric vehicles, too, and in the same way as other fuels: lifecycle emissions. For electricity, this factors in emissions from smokestacks at power plants, and the source of the electricity to the power plant. The STS calls for a 75% reduction in the electricity sector.
Electric carbon intensity is on an even sharper downward trend than fuel carbon intensity. Due to example and example, cleaner electricity is on track with the STS vision in the near term, but we need to keep improving to meet long-term goals.
Oregon’s public transportation bus fleets have been sluggish to transition to low/no-carbon vehicles and fuels due to the investment in both new buses and fueling system infrastructure needed to do so. Rogue Valley & Salem Transit have used CNG for years, while Corvallis did early experimentation with biofuel blends. In the last few years, new low/no-carbon vehicle commitments have been made by transit providers TriMet and example.
Implementation of these commitments and more, fleets have made the switch, but not at the scale and paceare needed to reach the levels envisioned in the STS.
How we can improve: ODOT and other state agencies can provide resources for transit agencies who are considering or planning their switch to alternative fuels, like the Electric and Alternative Fuel Transit Bus Lifecycle Cost Analysis Tool.