Tackling the climate crisis requires us to reinvent… well almost everything from our energy production methods, to our food sources, to our transportation systems. And transportation is a really important sector to highlight, as it’s the leading source of emissions in the U.S., contributing to one-third of all emissions.

It’s so important that four federal agencies—the DOE, DOT, EPA, and HUD—agreed to work together last fall on a unified strategy to cut all greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 2050. To kick off 2023, those agencies released their Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization detailing how this will happen. 

No need to read through the 88-page report. We’ve picked out a few key takeaways that may impact us on an individual level.

The fuels of the future

The Blueprint covers the many kinds of transportation from private cars, to trucks, planes, trains, and boats and what it thinks will be the most appropriate fuel moving forward. While hydrogen is predicted to be used for long-haul vehicles like trucks, the Feds have a strong preference (and likely, sway) for batteries to be used by lighter vehicles like our cars. 

This isn’t to say there’s no hope for hydrogen fuel. If a breakthrough technology were to emerge and prove scalable, the plan could change. But it seems likely investments by the government will be focused on battery tech in cars for the near future.

Changing how communities are built

While the biggest carbon reductions will come from cleaning up our modes of transportation, the report also dives into how future development or redevelopment of cities needs to improve convenience and access to cleaner transportation systems. Reliance on driving, increased traffic, and congestion not only increase emissions, but also contribute to inequalities for low-income, minority, and underserved communities. 

By working with regional, state, local, and Tribal communities to produce future plans, we’ll not only reduce emissions, but also tackle some of the inequalities that are built into our current cities. 

Freeing up transportation costs

Transportation makes the second biggest dent in American’s household expenses. The transition to a sustainable transportation future also means a more affordable transportation system. The Blueprint lays out plans to decrease the national transportation cost burden by at least 5% by 2030, invest in energy efficient rail and public transportation infrastructure, and provide incentives to increase the use of green travel options. 

So what’s the timeline for decarbonizing transportation? Now through 2030, the focus is on research and investments to support deployment. The 2030s will be the decade of scaling clean transportation solutions. And the 2040s will all be about “completing the transition” to green energy. That’s the plan at least. This is Washington we’re talking about, but the Blueprint sets up concrete pathways to unlock billions of dollars in federal tax credits and incentives for transportation decarbonization. And, fortunately, this isn’t the only way the Feds are helping push us to a greener future. If you’re looking to update your home and invest in sustainable tech, check out how much you can save with the Inflation Reduction Act.

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