Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story misstated the names of Roland Hwang and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
WASHINGTON -- Sharp reductions in vehicle use, a tripling of automobile fuel economy, widespread use of electric vehicles and greater substitution of alternative fuels can help the U.S. hit aggressive international targets for reducing carbon emissions by the middle of the century, according to a clean-energy blueprint issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The environmental group says the climate-change goals can be met through energy efficiency and renewable fuels at much lower cost than predicted by those who focused on greater use of nuclear power, biomass and carbon capture sequestration.
The group projects that the transportation sector will spend about $115 billion more on electric and hybrid vehicles and trucks annually during the next 35 years if its clean-energy plan is followed, annually saving almost $200 billion in net energy costs at the start and reaching nearly $500 billion by 2050.
Scientists agree the U.S. and other developed countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 80 percent below 1990 levels to stave off the worst impacts of global warming. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. set an intermediate emissions reduction target of 26 to 28 percent by 2025, relative to 2005 levels.
The NRDC report, "America's Clean Energy Frontier: A Pathway to a Safer Climate Future," was released three months after President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, under which nearly 200 nations voluntarily committed to help limit global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees. The administration is also considering whether to loosen fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for automobiles and light trucks.
The report recommends that the federal government maintain the existing fuel-economy standards and strengthen them in future years by at least 5 percent per year, following the trajectory of the current standards for the 2012-25 model years.
Among the report's other auto-related recommendations:
- California and other states following its low-emission vehicle standards should strengthen the program for getting zero-emission vehicles into the market.
- Congress should extend tax credits for electric vehicles before manufacturers reach their caps in total sales of plug-in electric vehicle sales.
- Utilities should partner with cities and states to expand charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and treat EV loads fairly in their pricing.
- Cities should create walkable neighborhoods, improve transit options and work with on-demand transportation network companies such as Lyft to reduce the need for personal vehicles.