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Transport emissions in the U.S. - statistics & facts

Transportation emissions in the United States are roughly the same as the combined transportation emissions of China, India, Russia, Japan, and Canada. This makes the U.S. by far the biggest producer of transportation emissions worldwide. The transportation sector in the U.S. is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, having recently overtaken the power sector. The shift towards cleaner energy sources has resulted in significant reductions in power generation emissions over the past decade, but transportation emissions have continued to rise.

COVID-19 causes transportation emissions to plummet

Transportation in the U.S. produced 1.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) in 2019, which was an increase of 20 percent compared to 1990 levels. This trend was expected to continue in 2020, were it not for the outbreak of COVID-19. Travel restrictions imposed across the country caused dramatic emission reductions that year, with transport sector CO2 levels plummeting 15 percent from the previous year. The biggest reduction in 2020 occurred in April – around the time of the first nationwide lockdown – when levels of CO2 fell more than 30 percent compared to the same period the previous year. There were also substantial reductions in PM2.5 emissions in some of the largest U.S. cities.

Most polluting modes of transportation

Given the millions of road vehicles operating across the country, it is unsurprising that they are the main source of transportation emissions in the U.S. The most polluting road vehicles are passenger cars, which represented 41 percent of total emissions, having produced the equivalent of 762 MtCO2 in 2019. In the same year, medium and heavy-duty trucks emitted almost half a billion MtCO2e, which was roughly a quarter of U.S. transportation emissions. It is estimated that U.S. road freight accounts for almost 20 percent of global road freight CO2 emissions. These vehicles are also significant contributors to nitrogen oxide emissions, which has led to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcing the Cleaner Trucks Initiative. This initiative aims to update emission standards for NOx emissions and other air pollutants from heavy-duty trucks.

Which states have the highest transportation emissions

The transportation sector in California accounts for 60 percent of the states total emissions, which is a much higher share than many of the country’s most polluting states. In previous decades, California was the biggest producer of transportation-related emissions in the U.S., but has since been overtaken by Texas. This is due to a period of reductions in California between 2007 and 2012, where emissions fell from 235 MtCO2 to 197 MtCO2. Although transportation emissions in California have rebounded in recent years, rising to 217 MtCO2 as of 2018, they have been rising much faster in Texas. In the five-year period between 2013 and 2018 transportation emissions in Texas increased by 17 percent to 244 MtCO2.

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Transportation emissions in the U.S.

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Transport emissions in the U.S. - statistics & facts

Transportation emissions in the United States are roughly the same as the combined transportation emissions of China, India, Russia, Japan, and Canada. This makes the U.S. by far the biggest producer of transportation emissions worldwide. The transportation sector in the U.S. is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, having recently overtaken the power sector. The shift towards cleaner energy sources has resulted in significant reductions in power generation emissions over the past decade, but transportation emissions have continued to rise.

COVID-19 causes transportation emissions to plummet

Transportation in the U.S. produced 1.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) in 2019, which was an increase of 20 percent compared to 1990 levels. This trend was expected to continue in 2020, were it not for the outbreak of COVID-19. Travel restrictions imposed across the country caused dramatic emission reductions that year, with transport sector CO2 levels plummeting 15 percent from the previous year. The biggest reduction in 2020 occurred in April – around the time of the first nationwide lockdown – when levels of CO2 fell more than 30 percent compared to the same period the previous year. There were also substantial reductions in PM2.5 emissions in some of the largest U.S. cities.

Most polluting modes of transportation

Given the millions of road vehicles operating across the country, it is unsurprising that they are the main source of transportation emissions in the U.S. The most polluting road vehicles are passenger cars, which represented 41 percent of total emissions, having produced the equivalent of 762 MtCO2 in 2019. In the same year, medium and heavy-duty trucks emitted almost half a billion MtCO2e, which was roughly a quarter of U.S. transportation emissions. It is estimated that U.S. road freight accounts for almost 20 percent of global road freight CO2 emissions. These vehicles are also significant contributors to nitrogen oxide emissions, which has led to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcing the Cleaner Trucks Initiative. This initiative aims to update emission standards for NOx emissions and other air pollutants from heavy-duty trucks.

Which states have the highest transportation emissions

The transportation sector in California accounts for 60 percent of the states total emissions, which is a much higher share than many of the country’s most polluting states. In previous decades, California was the biggest producer of transportation-related emissions in the U.S., but has since been overtaken by Texas. This is due to a period of reductions in California between 2007 and 2012, where emissions fell from 235 MtCO2 to 197 MtCO2. Although transportation emissions in California have rebounded in recent years, rising to 217 MtCO2 as of 2018, they have been rising much faster in Texas. In the five-year period between 2013 and 2018 transportation emissions in Texas increased by 17 percent to 244 MtCO2.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the {amountStatistics} most important statistics relating to "Transport emissions in the U.S.".

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