Profile of Energy and Transportation Use
The following charts, graphs, and discussion provide basic background on
many important aspects of the production and use of energy and transportation
services in the U.S. economy.
Source: Monthly Energy Review February 1996, U..S.
Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency (Washington, D.C., 1996),
p. 25, table 2.2.
In the United States, energy is used about equally for commercial and
personal transportation, residential and commercial buildings, and industrial
production. Energy use in each of these areas was an important concern to
the Task Force.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information
Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 1995 (Washington, D.C., 1995),
p. 100, table B2.
Both the efficiency and nature of the technology used to convert energy
sources to electricity for consumption affects economic prosperity, environmental
protection, and social equity. Electric utilities and independent power
producers convert 32 percent of all energy to electricity for sale to end
users. Energy from oil, coal, natural gas, and renewable energy sources is
also consumed directly in transportation (24 percent), industries (26 percent),
and buildings (18 percent).
Source: Annual Energy Outlook 1995, p. 109, table B8.
In addition to consuming primary energy, end users also purchase electricity
from utilities and independent power producers. Buildings consume 65 percent,
industries 34.3 percent, and transportation 0.6 percent of electricity sold
in the United States.
Source: Annual Energy Outlook 1995, p. 100, table B2.
Electricity is produced from a diverse range of fuels, with coal
supplying the largest share--55 percent. Each energy source, and the
technologies used with it, affects economic performance, environmental
emissions, and costs for consumers.
Renewable energy sources include wind, solar electric (photovoltaic), solar
thermal, geothermal, and biomass (wood, wood waste, refuse, agricultural products).
Although the environmental impacts are not always fully reflected in the costs
of competing technologies--a practice that may place cleaner technologies at
a competitive disadvantage--renewable energy systems are still becoming
competitive in many parts of the nation. For example, wind turbines are
producing commercial power for one million Americans in California and the
Midwest, and solar electric cells are competing in niche domestic
markets.4 Renewable energy
systems often are very competitive today in international markets, particularly
in the developing world where millions of communities have no electric power.
Although environmental objectives are only one of the three components of
sustainable development, pollution can be an important indicator of how
efficiently economic and natural resources are used. Various emissions from
energy and transportation use are related to different environmental concerns--
such as local air quality and acid rain. Carbon dioxide emissions are
of concern because of their important role in changes that are occurring in
the chemical composition of the atmosphere that influence global climate.
These changes are occurring at an accelerating rate with consequences that
are difficult to predict with certainty or precision. Moreover, they cannot
be quickly reversed after their consequences have been fully understood.
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
Climate Change 1994--Radiative Forcing of Climate Change, J. T. Houghton
et al., eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 43.
The Council heard a set of presentations concerning the science of climate
change, the risks, and the uncertainties. The Earth is kept at a life-supporting
temperature by a blanket of gases that trap some of the energy the earth
radiates. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are the
principal gases that create this natural greenhouse effect. With the
industrialization of the past 150 years, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse
gases have increased and new greenhouse gases have been added to the atmosphere.
The most important greenhouse gas that is influenced by human activity is
carbon dioxide, the buildup of which results primarily from buming fossil
fuels and deforestation. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
have increased by about 30 percent over preindustrial levels.5 (See figure 6.)
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
Summary for Policy Makers - Working Group I, draft (Washington, D.C., 1995).
The buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is expected to lead to an enhanced
greenhouse effect, popularly referred to as global warming. Because of the enormous complexity of the Earth's climate system, it is not possible to predict with certainty
the temperature rise or other effects of global warming. The Earth has warmed
by about Io F since preindustrial carbon dioxide levels. Subsequently to the Task
Force's deliberations, the international scientific community, as represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated that the balance of evidence suggests emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols have caused a discernible human influen
on global climate. The models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change* predict a warming of 0.8o>C to 3.5o C by the
year 2100, although the resulting effects are much less clear.6 (See figure 7.) Generally though, models predict that
it will lead to a rise in sea levels, and suggest the possibility of drought
and/or floods in some places and the possibility of more extreme precipitation
* The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was convened by the
World Meteorological Association and the United Nations Environment Program.
Its second assessment, completed in late 1995, involved 2000 scientists and
technical experts from 130 countries as authors and reviewers.
Source: International Energy Agency, World Energy
Outlook 1995, OECD/IEA (Paris, 1995), p. 50, table 2-2.
U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide account for approximately 25 percent of global
emissions. In the future, however, carbon dioxide emissions from developing
countries will increase rapidly as their economies develop. (See figure 8.)
If current trends continue, without changes in technologies and consumption,
emissions from developing nations will surpass those from the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), former Soviet Union, and
Eastern Europe in several decades.' Nonetheless, for decades to come the
industrial nations will be responsible for most of the carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere resulting from human activities.
It is clear that the United States cannot solve the potential problem of
climate change alone. Further, it is also clear that unless the industrialized
nations demonstrate that a different development path is possible and beneficial,
the rest of the world will be reluctant to join in efforts to resolve the
problem. Solutions and innovations developed for the United States can be
adapted to conditions and cultures in developing countries to help them achieve
their aspirations for an improved quality of life.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, The Effect of
Imports of Crude Oil and Refined Petroleum Products on the National Security
(Washington, D.C., 1994), pp. ES-4 and 11-10.
Although the United States is an oil producers, increasing U.S. consumption
of petroleum products from politically unstable regions of the world is an
important economic and national security concern. U.S. imports of petroleum
products are projected to continue to rise, as are oil exports from the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the Middle East.
(See figure 9.)
Source: Annual Energy Outlook 1995, p. 113, table B11.
The US. transportation system relies almost entirely on oil, accounting for
64 percent of the oil consumed in the United States. (See figure IO) Improved
technology continues to offer the potential for more sustainable fuels and
vehicles. However, an array of alternative domestic fuels is beginning to
appear in the marketplace along with vehicles capable of using them. Natural
gas, other alternative fuels, and electricity power three percent of the
nation's vehicles. (See figure 11.)
Source: Annual Energy Outlook 1995, p. 100, table B2.
Major gains have been made in automobile fuel efficiency in the last 15 years,
but those gains have been overwhelmed by other market forces and demographic
changes to maintain and increase oil consumption. The real cost of driving
per mile has dropped over the same period.9
Americans are again turning to bigger cars and light trucks, and are driving more miles. Further, even today's more efficient vehicles only turn an average of 20
percent of the energy they consume into actual motion.10 All of these factors lead to increased oil imports
and continued air pollution problems in metropolitan areas.
Innovative community design that conveniently locates homes, employment,
markets, and recreation can reduce the need for motorized travel. Further,
innovations in the telecommunications industry are increasingly enabling people
to share ideas and produce goods and services with less travel.
There are important differences in the transportation challenges facing
rural areas and those found in large U.S. cities and their surrounding
suburbs, although these challenges stem from a related set of factors.
The latter part of the 20th century has been characterized by increased
concentration of the U.S. population in metropolitan areas. The number
of Americans living in metropolitan areas increased 65 percent from 1970 to
1992, a result of net migration of people to metropolitan areas as well as
overall population growth. II Despite the improvements in vehicle efficiency
of the past 20 years, transportation in many metropolitan areas is characterized
by increasing commutes for work and other activities, rising traffic congestion,
continued air quality challenges, aging inner city infrastructure, and
increased pressure on public spaces and services. All of these factors lower
the quality of life and have contributed to a nationwide flight from high-density
central cities to suburban areas. As populations and economic development
relocate to lower-density areas where homes, schools, stores, and jobs are more
spread out, more people need to travel farther to reach employment and other
important destinations. Traffic congestion, and the waste of fuel and time
increase as do their associated economic, environmental, and equity impacts.
In some rural areas, the population movement to the cities has contributed to
economic decline, and has increased the distances between people and economic
opportunities, and essential goods and services. The effects on economic
prosperity, environmental performance and social equity are
significant--particularly given lower-income individuals'ability to reach
these important places. As communities develop opportunities to revitalize
their local economies, the increased distances between people and places
becomes a critical hurdle. Productive and expanding rural industries often
find large segments of the potential unemployed workers reside more than 20
miles away. Further, segments of rural populations not only find themselves
without a means to reach prospective employers, but also necessary goods and
services such as health care.
The Sustainable Energy and Transportation
Given this background information, the Energy and Transportation Task
Force members asked how the energy and transportation sectors might change
in the future. The Task Force's challenge was to look systemically at
the current energy and transportation picture to understand its many
interrelationships and how they relate to economic, environmental, and
social equity objectives.
The Task Force saw a need to understand how various changes in society could
affect the way today's decisions might play out in the future. To this end,
the Task Force conducted the Sustainable Energy and Transportation Scenarios
As collaborative tools, scenarios allow multiple stakeholders to address
issues such as sustainability that do not conform to typical "expert report"
solutions. Sometimes, issues and solutions are clear; the problem of a broken
leg and what to do about it is a good example. Altematively, the issue may be
clear, but the solution is not; with arthritis, the patient and doctor
know the problem but are not sure of the treatment. In other situations like
sustainability, both the issue and the response are unclear. Here, the definition
of sustainability--and the solution--lies with stakeholders; experts only advise
because the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainability
transcend any single discipline.
The Sustainable Energy and Transportation Scenarios Project yielded
important lessons that were critical to the development of the Energy and
Transportation Task Force goals and policy recommendations for the Council's
consideration. The Global Business Network,* a consultant with considerable
experience developing scenarios for strategic and policy planning, was
retained to facilitate the project and help provide management and logistics
* For more information on scenarios planning, see
The Art of the Long View, by Peter Schwartz, Doubleday 1991.
The project began by drawing together the wealth of existing research to
understand the dynamics shaping the energy and transportation sectors.
Members identified the factors and elements that significantly influence
energy and transportation, including economic structure and performance,
environmental issues, degree of social equity, technology developments,
population changes, land use and community design, societal values, and
These so-called driving forces were combined in different ways to lay out
15 preliminary paths---scenarios--these sectors may take by the year 2025.
After further research and information gathering, members more fully developed
and refined alternative scenarios (As part of the Council's regional visit
to the Great Lakes area in July of 1994, Council members and the public were
given the opportunity to comment on the scenarios project and the progress to
date.) Later, characteristics of energy and transportation use in each scenario
were assigned numerical values according to the "plot" of each scenario
narrative. These characteristics were modeled to compare the energy and
transportation use patterns of each possible future;
As part of the scenarios project process, Task Force members identified a
vision of a more desirable and sustainable world. Its characteristics include:
- An overall improved standard of living (in the United States
- Greater individual empowen-nent and personal freedom, including "time
- A healthy environment, locally and globally.
- Science and technology directed to better meet human needs.
- Increased efficiency and more options for high-quality energy and
- More inclusive and rational policymaking.
- World peace and elimination of global conflicts.
Members drew lessons from each of the scenarios by identifying ways each
did not conform to their vision of a desirable future. These conclusions
played an important role in helping the Task Force members to craft strategic
Task Force goals and indicators and shape the policy recommendations to
help achieve them.
Scenario Summaries and Lessons Learned
Following are summaries of the four scenario narratives along with the
lessons learned from each. As a reminder, scenarios are not
predictions--they describe how the future "might," not "should" unfold.
In addition to the scenario narratives summarized below, the complete
scenario narratives can be found in the appendices.
The scenarios are depicted graphically over time in figure 12. The
vertical axis represents a broad measure of societal welfare; although
no index exists today to describe this measure, it is intended to be a
synthesis of the many parameters of sustainable development, including
standard of living, environmental conditions, and social equity.
Source: This graph was created by The Global Business
Network. as part of The Sustainable Energy and Transportation Scenarios
The Way We Are
This is a world where gradual change continues, but the future is not
necessarily a mirror of the past. The restructuring of the global economy
is the major force shaping this scenario. Fragmentation, not cooperation,
keeps people's lives a bit unsettled. Even with mixed signals, however,
incremental improvements abound giving most people, but not all, a sense
of progress. A shifting J'ob market in the United States and the resulting
underemployment keep real incomes stagnant in many sectors well into the
new century. In this world, people desire more mobility, but also face increasing
congestion. Although energy stays relatively abundant and cheap, other issues,
such as environmental concems and economic security, encourage protracted
policy debates. Looking back from 2025, observers would note that most
Americans are better off, in part due to technology instead of rapidly
increasing incomes, but remain concemed by chronic social problems and a
latent perception that the United States is no longer the world's leading
If we continue The Way We Are, technology will advance and efficiencies
improve, but growth in global and U.S. population, energy use, and
transportation demand may overwhelm the gains from improved technology. This
will result in overall declining environmental conditions, while chronic income
disparities persist. Additional policies would be required to improve
enviromental outcomes and to narrow the widening income gaps while meeting
energy and transportation service demands.
This is a world where social and economic priorities overwhelm environmental
ones, at least temporarily. Over the course of the 1990s, a new social
consensus emerges in the United States, acknowledging that the widening gap
in incomes and advancement opportunities is not sustainable. In part,
this consensus is driven by a growing lower-middle class, which increasingly
crosses racial and gender distinctions, as well as by a restructuring economy
which disenfranchises traditional workers - the heart of middle America--who
face fewer and lower paying jobs. The groundwork for this scenario was laid
in the 1970s, when the average American made limited economic progress,
real income growth slowed, and many began sliding backwards. As the trend
continued into the 1990s, concerns about social justice came into the
forefront--a concern that already motivated many environmentally concerned
citizens. The Inclusive Development scenario presents the story of a
new political bargain that delays the timing of environmental progress.
If social equity concerns dominate the political agenda in the next decade, a
new paradigm of Inclusive Development could emerge. A focus on social
equity, public investment, and enhancing communities could change the
manner in which near-term environmental issues are considered and alter the
path of technological advances. International environmental progress and
social equity would be secondary to domestic issues. However, the new
political alignment could serve as a foundation for aggressive long-term
domestic and international enviromylental policies.
In this future, the onset of global climate change is characterized by
increasing weather variability and turbulence, which quickly reaches crisis
intensity by the year 2001. This phenomenon is not limited to the United
States, as Asia (particularly Japan), Europe, and other parts of the globe
are hard hit. Following close behind are two nuclear accidents in Europe,
which surprise and shock the world. The response in the international
community is a realization that closer cooperation, not competition and
other fragmentation, are the key to future survival and prosperity. A
of steps, which move beyond strictly environmental concerns to include trade
and security, are taken to restructure and ensure a more harmonious
relationship between the enviroment and economic development.
Although scientific uncertainties remain, a plausible scenario of
ecological crisis could arise, for example from the perception of imminent
climate change. A crisis scenario challenges policymakers to recognize
possible signs of an impending crisis, to understand the extent of the crisis
and what present actions might reduce its likelihood and impact, and to
develop appropriate policies in the interim that could help respond to the
crisis if it occurs. A near-term strategy of prudent avoidance that
concentrates on high-payoff and low-cost measures, as well as policies
that align 'incentives with long-term environmental objectives, could
provide a rational foundation for more aggressive actions. Constructive
international engagement would also enhance the ability to respond to
global environmental concerns on an international basis.
This is a world of increasing environmental awareness linked with a
strong U.S. (and global) economy, technological developments, and
governmental initiatives to create cooperative "win-win" solutions.
Many of the pieces were already in place by the 1990s, but much like
the advent of personal computers and their promise of increased productivity,
the network linkages and timing are key. Other developed countries follow
the US. lead but equity disparities slow economic growth in the rest of
the world and these nafions are slower to catch up. Unlike the previous
scenarios, this world is driven by the values of the baby boomers, who
occupy top management and policy positions and favor market and
incentive-based approaches. But as this scenario plays out, not everyone
in society benefits from these technological changes, with technological
elites receiving most of the gains from economic and enviromental improvements.
A scenario dominated by widespread use of advanced Economic, Ecological
Technologies could portend a future where economic growth and healthier
ecosystems are mutually reinforcing. Govemment can act as a catalyst and
consensus builder by supporting policies that increase technological innovafion,
deployment, and rapid turnover of capital stock. These policies could also have
global impact if developing countries such as China and India adopt ttie advanced
technologies. Although this scenario may represent a move toward sustainability,
sustainability is not assured within a 30-year time horizon. ln particular,
accelerating technological and structural change could create a more polarized
income distribution if technology "elites" appropriate the resulting economic
gains. Ensun'ng social equity may constitute the greatest challenge for
sustainability under a technology-dominated scenario.
|OVERALL LESSONS FROM THE SCENTARIOS|
|Despite measurable progress in enhancing environmental quality, some
current trends are unsustainable. Changes would be necessary to shift toward
a more sustainable future.
A desire to achieve greater social equity could change the nature of
environmental protection and possibly constrain some options.
There is value to preparing policies to avert or adapt to the threat of a
potential ecological crisis.
Rapid technological advances may help achieve economic aspirations
and ecological goals but may not by themselves adequately improve social
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