Reconsidering California Transport Policies

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in an Uncertain Future

by Ryan Keefe

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The state of California has set aggressive greenhouse gas emissions targets across all sectors of the economy over the next 40 years. The first of these targets occurs in 2020, when California plans to have reduced statewide greenhouse gas emission from their current levels to 1990 levels. As the largest single contributor to emissions, and the sector with the fastest growing emissions, transportation has been targeted for steep reductions. In particular, the state's policies concentrate on passenger travel, the sector's largest source of emissions. This dissertation applies robust decision methods to evaluate California's policies within a framework that considers multiple views of the future, and identifies strategies that consistently reduce emissions at acceptable costs regardless of future conditions. Rather than preferring policies that are "optimal" under a narrow set of assumptions, the methodology identifies strategies which instead perform reasonably well over a wide range of potential future conditions. The study finds that California's current set of policies is vulnerable to high emissions and cost overruns in a large set of plausible scenarios, and suggests adaptive strategies that can be used to improve policy performance when challenging conditions arise. In particular, efforts to control the growth of vehicle miles traveled are a key component of all adaptive strategies, but have been largely absent from the state's plan so far.

Table of Contents

  • Section One


  • Section Two

    Policy options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from automotive transportation

  • Section Three

    Modeling the greenhouse gas impact of light-duty vehicle policies

  • Section Four

    New methods for evaluating California’s light-duty transportation policies

  • Section Five

    California greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 and the evolving reference case

  • Section Six

    Identifying robust greenhouse gas reduction strategies for light-duty transportation in California

  • Section Seven

    Policy Implications

  • Appendix A

    Additional strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger travel

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in December 2011 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

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