Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Transportation Sector and Fuel Use

About the measure

The transportation sector is the largest contributor greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Minnesota. Emissions from the transportation sector include tail pipe emissions from motor vehicles (cars and trucks) on the road as well as emissions from aviation, rail and marine vehicles. Fuel use is measured by the gallons of fuel sold for transportation purposes, including gasoline and special fuel sold for both highway and aviation. It is reported by the Minnesota Department of Revenue monthly and listed in their Petroleum Tax Report.

Recent trends

In 2020, there were approximately 36.07 million metric tons of CO2e emitted by the transportation sector. Tailpipe emissions comprised 26.6 million metric tons of that total. In 2022, tailpipe emissions totaled 28.2 million metric tons of CO2e. CO2e emissions from the transportation sector are calculated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). This data is in the process of being recalculated using a new system and current data is not yet available.

Fuel use gradually increased between 2015 and 2019. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted travel in the state, which reduced total fuel usage to the lowest point in the 20-year period. Since 2020, fuel usage has been gradually increasing again, and in 2022, was at the highest point over the prior seven years.

Where we want to go

To support the state GHG emission reduction goals in the transportation sector, targets to reduce emissions were set through the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act. In 2022 the Minnesota Climate Action Framework and the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan revised the GHG targets by adding interim targets and increasing emissions reductions to 50% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In 2023, Minnesota legislation also established a new standard for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. MnDOT recently adopted in November 2023, the Minnesota Carbon Reduction Strategy, which identifies three high-level approaches to reducing carbon from surface transportation: electrification, which includes zero emission vehicles; transportation options; and low carbon infrastructure and system management. Some strategies include, but are not limited to, increasing the number of electric vehicles and zero emission vehicles on the road, implementing a clean fuels standard, and decreasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita by increasing the use of public transportation and non-motorized transportation.

Through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), MnDOT has established the Carbon Reduction Program, which funds projects that reduce CO2 emissions from on-road highway sources. At the direction of the 2023 Minnesota Legislature two work groups related to carbon in transportation were convened. One work group, is the Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impact Mitigation Working Group to prepare recommendations for implementing Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impact Assessments for capacity expansion projects on state highways prior to inclusion in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) or a metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The second work group is the Clean Transportation Standard Work Group, which studied and addressed information gaps and opportunities related to implemented a Clean Fuel Standard in Minnesota. This work group was jointly convened by Commissioners of Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and the Pollution Control Agency.