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 greenhouse gas emissions contributor 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 36.1 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 MPCA. This data is in the process of being recalculated using a new system and current data is not yet available. MnDOT is aiming to return to using MPCA data for CO2e emissions from the transportation section rather than internally calculated tailpipe emissions data.

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. The goals were updated in 2022 by the Minnesota Climate Action Framework to reduce emissions 50% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In 2023, legislation also established a new standard for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. Utilities are directed to supply Minnesota customers with electricity generated or procured from carbon-free resources, beginning at an amount equal to 80% of retail sales for public utility customers in Minnesota in 2030 and increasing every 5 years to reach 100% for all electric utilities by 2040. The bill also requires that, by 2035, an amount equal to at least 55% of an electric utility’s total retail electric sales to customers in Minnesota must be generated or procured from eligible energy technologies. MnDOT is looking at various strategies on how to achieve these goals. Strategies include increasing the number of electric vehicles and zero emission vehicles on the road, implementing a clean fuels standard, and decreasing per 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 provides grant funds to cities and counties to incorporate GHG reduction strategies and techniques into local projects. Projects solicitations will start in fall 2023. At the direction of the 2023 Minnesota Legislature, MnDOT also established a 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).