Chapter 1: Findings


The Energy and Transportation Task Force was to develop both short- and long-term policy Trecommendations for the Council that could help guide the nation toward a more sustainable energy and transportation future. Indispensable to the Task Force's deliberations was information drawn from a wide variety of sources, and the Sustainable Energy and Transportation Scenarios Project designed to illustrate policy implications of alternative futures.

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.

Figure 2

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.

Figure 3

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).

Figure 4

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.

Figure 5

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.

Figure 6

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.)

Figure 7

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 ce 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 events.7

* 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.

Figure 8

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.

Figure 9

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.)

Figure 10

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.)

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 Scenarios Project

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 Project.

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 support.

* 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 political developments.

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 and internationally).

  • Greater individual empowen-nent and personal freedom, including "time for ourselves."

  • 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 transportation services.

  • 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.

Figure 12

Source: This graph was created by The Global Business Network. as part of The Sustainable Energy and Transportation Scenarios Project.


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 economic power.


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.

Inclusive Development

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 series 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.

Eco-Eco-Tech (Economic-Ecological-Technologies)

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.

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 equity.

Chapter 2
Table of Contents

Energy and Transportation Task Force Report


Chapter 1: Findings

Chapter 2: Task Force Goals & Indicators

Chapter 3: Policy Recommendations

Appendix A Scenario Narrratives

Appendix B Other Policy Options Considered

Appendix C Endnotes

Appendix D List of Figures

Appendix E List of Tables


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