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Energy Consumption and Emissions Due to Public Transportation

A comparison between Colombia and the United States

Completed 2016

Transportation accounts for about 63.3% of the global petroleum consumption (CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND ENERGY SOLUTIONS, 2012) and 18% of the total anthropogenic greenhouse emissions. Road transport accounts for 62.3% of the total energy use within the world’s transportation sector and for more than 80% of the total CO2 emissions. (International Energy Agency, 2015). In the United States, in specific, the transport sector accounts for 27% of total energy consumption, with almost three-quarters of that to road transportation. In Colombia, the transportation sector account for 44% of total energy consumption, where 88% of its consumption is due to road transportation.

In Colombia, the consumption of energy due road transportation has been growing more than 13% in the last decade. The main source of energy used are liquid fuels such as diesel, gasoline (extra and ordinary), biofuels and in a less proportion natural gas and electricity. The diesel and gasoline, as a liquid fuels, represent more than the 90% of the energy consumed in the country. The high consumption of diesel is due the growth of the freight transportation and the implementation of transportation systems in Colombian cities. (Unidad de Planeacion Minero Energetica, 2014). The road transport is the sector with the highest consumption in the country, representing 34% of the total consumption

In Colombia, 26.1 million tons of CO2 are produced by the transport sector in a year, where 41% of the total is produced by the public transportation system in the main cities of the country (Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín). (Universidad de los Andes and University College London , 2013). In a year, around 1701 million tons of CO2 are produced in the United States  (International Energy Agency, 2015).

This study is motivated by the above need particularly for Colombia, and will attempt to answer the following research questions:

What are the appropriate indicators for measuring the impact of public transportation on energy consumption and emissions in Colombia and United States? and Which strategies for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that have been implemented successfully in the United States can be replicated in Colombia and vice versa?

The results of the energy intensity, fuel intensity and carbon dioxide intensity revealed that the principal difference between Colombia and the United States is the level of occupancy of buses and BRT and the high difference between the average trip time in both countries. This difference between the fuel consumption, emissions and greenhouse gases between Colombia and United States shows how using public transportation can relieve some of the environmental externalities produced by transportation.

To encourage the adoption and diffusion of new technologies, like the use of alternative fuels, it is required to incorporate health and environmental standards into the system-design specifications to propose strategies based in financial costs and technological risks of the implementation of those new strategies. It was found that converting 10% of the articulated fleet from Euro 5 to Natural Gas will decrease the emissions by 10%. However, note that this study did not conduct a comprehensive assessment of the benefits and costs of each strategy but rather focused on the expected reduction in energy use and emissions. Future research can estimate the evaluation of the cost of this change on the fleet, this evaluation demand to take into account all costs, including environmental and technical that are involved in this type of project, also is important to determinate the user and non uses benefits for the users and non-users of this new type of fuel buses. Those studies are necessary to select the most beneficial strategy that could be implemented successfully in Colombia.

This work was conducted by Laura Camila Niño Corredor as a visiting scholar from the National University of Colombia, via the UREP-C program.