4 ways to make transportation fuel systems more sustainable

 In June and July 2013, BSR held a four-part series of web-based Practitioner Discussions on Fuels as part of our Future of Fuels initiative, which helps global companies understand the greatest sustainability impacts of their transportation fuel systems, and what they can do about them.

These 90-minute discussions examined sustainability issues facing each of our four major fuel groups— oil, natural gas, biofuels, and electric vehicles—with the purpose of informing BSR’s roadmap for corporate fuel sustainability, which is planned for publication in late 2013.

The roundtables explored the following questions:

1. Which sustainability risks and opportunities among these fuels need more attention?
2. What kind of contribution should the different fuels make toward creating a desirable and achievable future fuel mix?
3. What is needed to catalyze sufficient positive change?
4. How should business drive this change?

You can read about the discussions with 185 representatives from fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers, energy producers and providers, and civil society here.

Here's the short version:

  • Efficiency should be the first “fuel” of choice. Efficiency works as a source of fuel while conserving physical supplies. Efficiency is unparalleled by any other fuels in its ability to avoid negative social and environmental impacts.
  • Significant technological development is needed across all fuel types. This should cover everything from basic R&D for materials, to the deployment of commercially available technologies for fuels, vehicles, and infrastructure.
  • We must set an effective price on carbon and prioritize other policies to encourage more sustainable fuel use. Policies should encourage not only advanced fuels, but also vehicles and infrastructure, and address sustainability concerns for all fuels.
  • We need to increase collaboration throughout the supply chain. This will connect the choices that fuel users make with the actions and investments of fuel production upstream. However, the market mechanisms that would allow this to work on a large scale are currently lacking.

These discussions do not comprise the final word on fuel sustainability. We intend them to be the beginning of a vital debate on the sustainability opportunities of fuels as we look toward the fuels and systems of the future.

This blog originally appeared on BSR and is reprinted with permission.

Image of railroad tanks with oil provided by s_oleg via Shutterstock.