Energy Transition and the Use of Natural Gas in Freight Transportation: Pros and Cons

Energy Transition and the Use of Natural Gas in Freight Transportation: Pros and Cons

Guest Speaker :Rosa Dominguez-Faus, Program Manager, Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California Davis
Date : Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Time : 4-5pm (Eastern Time)

Free event. Registration required, click here.
Summary: Natural Gas is abundant in North America and has some clean burning fuel properties. This talk will discuss the potential for natural gas to penetrate the transportation market in US, its environmental benefits, and barriers to adoption. This talk will also discuss whether natural gas could serve as a bridge to lower carbon fuels such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen.

The Feasibility of Renewable Natural Gas as a Large-Scale, Low Carbon Substitute

The Feasibility of Renewable Natural Gas as a Large-Scale, Low Carbon Substitute

California will need high volumes of alternative low carbon fuels to be able to meet its climate change goals. In order to support these goals, this study investigated the technological and commercial feasibility of producing large quantities of renewable natural gas fuels for use in California. The study’s results indicate that there are substantial sources of RNG in California that are commercially competitive with existing fossil fuel-based transportation fuels because carbon externalities are taken into consideration in the California market through existing programs such as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). At current credit prices including California’s LCFS and the U.S. federal Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits, up to 82 billion cubic feet per year (bcf/y) of RNG supply could be attractive for private investment at competitive rate of return in developing RNG sources from landfill, dairy, municipal solid waste and waste-water sites combined. We find that the LCFS credit of $120 per metric tonne of CO2, if taken alone, enables economically viable production of up to 14 bcf RNG transportation fuel over the study period, which begins in 2013 and extends into the 2020s, 6.3 bcf from landfill, 1.5 bcf from waste-water treatment, 1.75 bcf from municipal solid waste, and 4.3 bcf from dairy. If current carbon credit prices persist into the future for programs like the LCFS, a substantial portion of natural gas consumption in the transportation sector can be satisfied by RNG. The analysis also shows that increasing tipping fees for municipal solid waste can influence private investment in RNG. Finally, the study investigates the impact of California’s quality standards for RNG and distance to central distribution systems on the level of investment in certain kinds of RNG. These results support the implementation of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Short-lived Climate Pollutant Strategy, and incentive programs by providing insight into feasible methods to maximize the production of RNG via the most cost-effective pathways, thereby providing practical means to meet the State’s long term climate goals.

Click here for the report

Click here to view the video presentation

Equity Impacts of Fee Systems to Support Zero-Emission Vehicle Sales in California

Equity Impacts of Fee Systems to Support Zero-Emission Vehicle Sales in California


Lew Fulton – STEPS Program Co-director, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis
Gil Tal – Researcher, Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis
Julie Schiffman – Graduate Student, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis

Event Overview

California has set ambitious goals for increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on its roadways. Currently, California requires 3% of all vehicles sold in the state to be ZEVs and transitional ZEVs; and has set aside $75 million to provide rebates to consumers, which range from $900 to $5,000 per vehicle. Subsidies and incentives may be needed for zero-emission vehicles for a decade or more. What are options for a revenue neutral, self-sustaining vehicle tax incentives system? How would a system be structured so that it is acceptable to key stakeholders, fair across demographic/income groups and economically efficient? This webinar will highlight new analysis from the Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis, that examines six hypothetical fee structure scenarios that could provide a sustainable source of funding for California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. The scenarios explore different options for setting vehicle fees based on CO2 emissions of individual non-ZEV vehicle models, adjustments to the amount paid by lower income groups, and adjustment of fees by Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price.


Environmental Assessment of Natural Gas in Transportation

Environmental Assessment of Natural Gas in Transportation

Title: Environmental Assessment of Natural Gas in Transportation

Date: April 3, 2015, 9:30 a.m. (PST)

Presenter: Rosa Dominguez-Faus

This webinar focused on research discussed in a new white paper, “The Carbon Intensity of NGV Long-Haul Trucks.” Discussion compared the carbon intensity of natural gas and diesel long haul trucks as calculated with the latest version of GREET1. It also explored the contribution of different assumptions-  such as methane leakage, engine efficiency and natural gas storage-  to the well-to-wheels carbon intensity of natural gas trucks. Additionally, the webinar examined how to calculate the break-even methane leakage for natural gas trucks and the extent to which renewable natural gas can improve the climate performance of NGV trucks.

To view the slides for this webinar, click here.

Future Transportation Energy Water Use Under California's Climate Goals

Future Transportation Energy Water Use Under California’s Climate Goals

California has built a water management infrastructure that is among the most sophisticated, extensive, and energy-intensive in the world. Approximately 19% of the State’s electricity and 30 percent of its non-power plant natural gas is used to store, convey, conserve, and treat water and wastewater. Across all sectors, many energy technologies require substantial quantities of water, and have impacts on water quality.

Transportation accounts for the largest share of California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and still relies overwhelmingly (~96%) on petroleum products. As California progresses toward meeting its 2020 GHG reduction commitment and develops its 2030 target towards the 2050 goal, transportation energy sources will realize a radical shift to alternative fuel sources that might include biofuels, natural gas, electricity, and hydrogen.

This webinar, “Future Transportation Energy Water Use Under California’s Climate Goals,”  held on Wednesday, October 15, discusses how climate policies can manage and reduce water use for oil production, oil refining, as well as electricity generation.


  • Sonia Yeh, Research Scientist, ITS
  • Jacob Teter, PhD Student, ITS
  • Kate Tiedeman, Graduate Student Researcher, ITS
  • Gouri Shankar Mishra, PhD Candidate, ITS

To read a policy brief on transportation energy water use, click here.

To read a technical brief on oil production water use, click here.

To view the presentation slides, click here.


The Hydrogen Transition

The Hydrogen Transition

The early 2000s witnessed a surge in public interest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), but the enthusiasm waned quickly. The public perception was that hydrogen was too difficult, and would not appear for several decades.  However, in the past few years, important factors have emerged that are re-accelerating the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

This webinar is the first public presentation of the recently published white paper:  “The Hydrogen Transition.”  The lead researchers, Joan Ogden, Christopher Yang, Michael Nicholas and Lew Fulton will present an analysis of the issues surrounding a transition to large-scale use of hydrogen, examining the current status of hydrogen vehicle and infrastructure technologies, and ongoing early commercialization efforts.

To download the PowerPoint presentation, please click here.

Three Routes Forward for Biofuels

Three Routes Forward for Biofuels

To view the slides for the May 16th webinar, click here.

Biofuels present great promise but also great challenges. For the past 10 years the enthusiasm around cellulosic biofuels has waxed and waned. At the same time, a great deal of innovation has occurred at existing ethanol and biodiesel plants. This webinar is the first public presentation of the recently published white paper: “Three Routes Forward for Biofuels: Incremental, Transitional, and Leapfrog”. The lead researchers, Lew Fulton, Geoff Morrison, Nathan Parker, and Julie Witcover, will discuss potential routes for biofuel industry development while considering investments made to date, related policies, technology GHG profiles, and barriers to commercialization.

There is also a post on the GreenLight Blog discussing the white paper.

Global Fuel Economy

Global Fuel Economy

Large reductions in vehicle fuel use and CO2 emissions are needed globally in order to address pressing issues of climate change, energy security and sustainable mobility.  Plug-in electric vehicles are a promising solution and sales have started, but it will take time to reach volumes that can contribute significantly to policy goals.  In the meantime, fuel economy improvements from conventional internal combustion engine cars can save $2 trillion over the next ten years and can cut vehicle CO2 emissions in half by 2050, and help fund a transition to plug-in vehicles, according to a new report by ITS-Davis and the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), a partnership of international agencies and top energy policy experts.

This webinar took place on November 7, 2013.

Speaker: Professor Lew Fulton, Co-Director of the UC Davis Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways

Click here for the slides  from Professor Fulton’s presentation

Technologies and Key Challenges for Bioenergy Production in California

Technologies and key challenges for bioenergy production in California

Bioenergy has the potential to significantly contribute to California’s climate-change, energy, and economic goals by producing low-carbon electricity and transportation fuels. Furthermore our state has the high-tech business capacity to be a leader in this field, as well as abundant resources from our agricultural and forest lands and municipal solid waste. The UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy in partnership with the California Biomass Collaborative presents a series of webinars to explore how California businesses, scientists, and policy-makers can sustainably unlock the State’s bioenergy potential.

 Click here to view the presentation.

The second webinar took place on June 7th, 2013 .  This webinar covered basic questions about the technologies available to produce energy from biomass and key challenges for expanding bioenergy production in California:

  • How is biomass transformed into energy, fuel, and products?
  • What state policies affect bioenergy in California?
  • What does the future hold for bioenergy?



  • Rob Williams,  Development Engineer – California Biomass Collaborative,  Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis
  • Colin Murphy, PhD Candidate, Institute of Transportation Studies