Chart of the Day: Minnesota Transportation Emissions 2005-2016

In the midst of the polar vortex / rapid warming / re-cooling / wild temperature fluctuations that are linked to climate change, it’s worth re-reading this recent Minnpost piece about where Minnesota’s CO2 emissions are coming from. Transportation has become the largest culprit:

Mn Emissions Trends Chart

In Greta Kaul’s article, she talks about the reasons behind these trends, which are largely the result of SUVs and the like:

Transportation, which has seen a smaller reduction in emissions: 8 percent since 2005. Transportation, including passenger cars, light and heavy-duty trucks, aviation, trains and other modes of transportation, is now the biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.

That’s despite cars getting more fuel-efficient. In 2005, the baseline year for Minnesota’s energy goals, the average car or truck went about 20 miles per gallon of fuel, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Today, that average is more than 25 miles per gallon.

But even as cars get more fuel-efficient, they’re getting bigger. As the economy has gotten better and gas has gotten cheaper, Minnesotans are choosing bigger vehicles again, contributing to growing emissions from light-duty trucks (that includes pickup trucks, SUVs, vans and crossovers), which make up 38 percent of transportation emissions, up from 34 percent in 2005. In 2011, light-duty trucks overtook passenger cars as the main vehicles on the road. Today, they make up about 57 percent of passenger vehicles on the road, compared to 43 percent that are smaller cars.

With the state’s energy utilities moving away from coal and embracing wind and solar,  it’s even more important to focus on changing our transportation priorities. There are lots of policies — “no new roads” / “fix it first”  approach at MnDOT, tighter fuel milage standards, dedicated funding for transit — that would begin to move the state in the right direction if we want to be serious about reducing CO2 emissions.

Extra bonus chart from the article: Here’ s the state’s VMT…

Mn Vmt Chart

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2 Responses to Chart of the Day: Minnesota Transportation Emissions 2005-2016

  1. Lou Miranda February 6, 2019 at 10:05 pm #

    So, regardless of population, VMT stays the same?

    Does this suggest roads are at max capacity, and any increase in population yields an increase in only non-vehicle miles traveled?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller February 7, 2019 at 11:55 am #

      Hard to believe that roads statewide are at capacity. I’d wager something else is keeping VMT mostly flat.

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