Fossil Fuels

pump-jack group

pump-jack group

This research category includes both the “business as usual” reference case, where petroleum-based fuels continue to dominate transportation energy, and the evolution of fuels produced from other fossil fuel resources, including tar sands, oil shale, and coal with carbon sequestration. Expanded use of diesel fuel is also studied. Policies and business strategies are investigated with respect to fossil fuel research strategy, economic impacts, environmental impacts, and corporate strategic behavior.

Research Leaders: Amy Myers Jaffe, Rosa Dominguez-Faus, Cynthia Lin, Joan Ogden

2015-2018 Research Theme: Future of Fuels and the Oil and Gas Industry

Other top issue of Interest: Renewable Natural Gas

Exploring the Role of Natural Gas in U.S. Trucking


Blooming oilseed rape on yellow and blue background.

Blooming oilseed rape on yellow and blue background.

The biofuels track examines questions surrounding the feasibility, business case for, and sustainability of future biofuels. Much of the focus of this track is on non-corn based biofuels such as renewable diesel, cellulosic ethanol, and drop-in petroleum replacements, among others. Our research answers important policy questions for the state of California, the United States, and the world using a variety of economic, modelling/simulation, and life cycle methods. Broadly, the track examines how and to what extent biofuels can contribute to a sustainable energy future.

Research Leaders: Lew Fulton, Nathan Parker, Stephen R. Kaffka, Julie Witcover

Three Routes Forward for Biofuels: Incremental, Transitional, and Leapfrog


05-08-2013-water_stepsHydrogen has been widely proposed as a long term option to address environmental and energy security problems posed by current transportation fuels. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are several times more efficient than today’s conventional gasoline cars, and they produce zero tailpipe emissions. They offer good performance, a range of 300-400 mile, and can be refueled in a few minutes. Hydrogen can be made with zero or near-zero emissions from widely available resources, including renewables (like biomass, solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal), fossil fuels (such as natural gas or coal with carbon capture and sequestration), and nuclear energy. In principle, it should be possible to produce and use hydrogen transportation fuel with near-zero well-to-wheels emissions of greenhouse gases and greatly reduced emissions of air pollutants while simultaneously diversifying away from our current dependence on petroleum.

Researchers are exploring new areas such as hydrogen/electricity systems, regional transition case studies, understanding the impact of alternative policies, and enhancing key hydrogen pathways models for infrastructure development strategies. Additional work focuses on the interaction between hydrogen and existing infrastructure, such as electricity and natural gas. This work expands upon the research from the earlier Hydrogen Pathways Program (archived webpage).

Research Leaders: Joan Ogden, Michael Nicholas, Chris Yang

The Hydrogen Transition


Male and female electrical plugs, close-up, side view

Male and female electrical plugs, close-up, side view

Production methods, total grid capacity, and time-of-day charging impacts on the utility sector are studied in this research area. Vehicle-to-grid recharging methods and policies are evaluated and optimized, and research is conducted on consumer behavior and preferences for electric drive attributes, including all-electric range and charging time. This research area has a strong collaboration with the UC Davis Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Research Center.

Research Leaders: Tom Turrentine, Ken Kurani, Gil Tal, Chris Yang