Alternative fuels initiatives

Alternative fuels initiatives support transition from traditional motor fuel sources (i.e., gasoline and diesel) to alternative sources such as biodiesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas, partial electric, hydrogen fuel cells, or liquid petroleum gas. Such initiatives support the supply, distribution, and production of alternative fuels and vehicles through various combinations of financial incentives (e.g., tax benefits, loans, grants, or rebates), mandates or rules (e.g., consumption targets or renewable fuel standards), direct purchases of alternative fuel vehicles for use in state or municipal fleets, and investments in research and development to improve technology and to evaluate and improve the infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles. Initiatives are underway in many areas around the country to reduce potential barriers to the adoption of alternative fuels, such as high costs and a lack of supporting infrastructure (NGA-Escobar 2010).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced emissions

Evidence of Effectiveness

Alternative fuels initiatives are a suggested strategy to reduce emissions (US DOE-AFAVDC, US EPA-Alternative fuels, NGA-Green vehicle guide 2008, Rahm 2006, ). Available evidence suggests that using alternative fuels decreases emissions of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (Hill 2006, CTR-Wang 1998, US DOT-Alternative fuels strategies, US DOE-AFAVDC), and that alternative fuel sources such as compressed natural gas, methanol, ethanol, or electricity produce significantly less air toxics emissions than conventional gasoline (CTR-Winebrake 2000).

Pollutant levels and emissions reductions vary for each type of alternative fuel (US DOE-AFV Emissions) and geographic regions have varying exposure levels to emissions and particulate matter (US EPA-Air toxics). Understanding local context can support decisions about the most appropriate alternative fuels initiatives; there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for these initiatives or incentives (NGA-Escobar 2010). Additional evidence is needed to determine the costs and effects of various initiatives promoting each alternative fuel.

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated conversion to alternative fuels or specified alternatives for some federal, state, and fuel provider fleets in both 1992 and 2005 (US DOE-AFAVDC); alternative fuel use has increased from 0.8% of fuel used in 1997 to 4.1% in 2008 (CDC-Healthy People 2010). The EPA provides information and resources about converting vehicles to alternative fuels (US EPA-Fuel conversion) and the US Department of Energy provides a searchable database of federal and state laws and incentives for alternative fuels, as well as an alternative fuel station locator (US DOE-AFAVDC).

As of 2012, 8 states have passed legislation providing a tax exemption or deduction for alternative fuels, and 27 states have other types of legislation related to the taxation of alternative fuels (NCSL-Taxing alternative fuels). As of 2010, 26 states have adopted some type of initiative to support alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles (NGA-Escobar 2010).

Implementation Resources

NREL-Fleet - National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Fleet management.

CEC-RFVTP - California Energy Commission (CEC). Alternative and renewable fuel & vehicle technology program (RFVTP).

US DOE-AFAVDC - US Department of Energy (US DOE). Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFAVDC).

DSIRE - North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, US Department of Energy (US DOE). Database of state incentives for renewables & efficiency (DSIRE).

Citations - Evidence

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Hill 2006 - Hill J, Nelson E, Tilman D, Polasky S, Tiffany D. Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 2006;103(30):11206-10.

CTR-Wang 1998 - Wang MQ. Fuel-cycle greenhouse gas emissions impacts of alternative transportation fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. Argonne: Center for Transportation Research (CTR); 1998.

Lutsey 2008* - Lutsey N, Sperling D. America’s bottom-up climate change mitigation policy. Energy Policy. 2008;36(2):673-85.

US DOE-AFAVDC - US Department of Energy (US DOE). Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFAVDC).

CTR-Winebrake 2000 - Winebrake J, He D, Wang M. Fuel-cycle emissions for conventional and alternative fuel vehicles: An assessment of air toxics. Argonne: Center for Transportation Research (CTR); 2000.

US EPA-Alternative fuels - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Fuels and fuel additives: Renewable and alternative fuels.

US DOE-AFV Emissions - US Department of Energy (US DOE), Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE). Alternative fuels data center: Alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) emissions.

Rahm 2006 - Rahm D, Coggburn JD. Environmentally preferable procurement: Greening U.S. state government fleets. International Public Procurement Conference Proceedings; 2006.

US DOT-Alternative fuels strategies - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse. Fuels and vehicle technology: Alternative fuels strategies.

NGA-Escobar 2010 - Escobar R, Gander S. Clean and secure: State energy actions 2010 update. National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices; 2010.

NGA-Green vehicle guide 2008 - National Governors Association (NGA). Securing a clean energy future: Greener fuels, greener vehicles: A state resource guide. 2008.

US EPA-Air toxics - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Technology transfer network air toxics web site: National air toxics assessments.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

US DOE-AFAVDC - US Department of Energy (US DOE). Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFAVDC).

CDC-Healthy People 2010 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Healthy People 2010 final review.

NGA-Escobar 2010 - Escobar R, Gander S. Clean and secure: State energy actions 2010 update. National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices; 2010.

US EPA-Fuel conversion - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Information for consumers about alternative fuel conversions.

NCSL-Taxing alternative fuels - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Taxation of alternative fuels.

Date Last Updated

Sep 24, 2014