Roughly half of all the energy used in California is used by the transportation sector. We use more than 16.5 billion gallons of gasoline a year. That’s enough to drive a car, getting 30 mpg, to make more than 2,600 round trips to the sun and back.

We all know to turn off lights when we leave a room, and we all know about recycling beverage containers. But few of us think twice about hoping in the car for a quick trip to the market and then another trip to the bank and then another trip to the clothing store. And we rarely think about the cost of a gallon of gasoline or diesel unless the prices get too high.

With record high gasoline and diesel prices in 2005, many people were thinking twice about the choices they have when it comes to transportation. This section will help you understand the choices you can make in the vehicle you buy, the fuel it uses, how you drive, and the way you travel to school or work.


The demand for transportation fuels in California is increasing. The number of light-duty vehicles is projected to grow from 25.6 million on-road vehicles in 2003 to 35.6 million by 2025.

Unless we change our habits, petroleum will be the primary source of California’s transportation fuels for the foreseeable future, and as demand continues to rise and in-state and Alaskan petroleum supplies diminish, California will rely more and more on foreign imports of crude oil.

Nearly 100 percent of the state’s transportation system is currently fueled by fossil fuels. Moving toward a more diversified range of fuels and supporting the advancement of higher efficiency vehicles are two of the goals of the state’s programs.

As the fifth-largest economy in the world, California is a “nation-state” that runs on energy. Every day, we spend $22 million for natural gas, $82 million on electricity, and $82 million for gasoline and diesel.

The State of California has supported the development of alternative transportation fuels (fuels other than gasoline or diesel) since the creation of the California Energy Commission in 1975. Earlier programs included demonstration programs with vehicles using ethanol and methanol; infrastructure development for methanol/gasoline blends; support for flexible fuel, natural gas, and electric vehicles.

Improving vehicle efficiency is the single most effective means to reduce petroleum dependence. The Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board have concluded that improving vehicle efficiency alone will not be enough. For that reason, California must also focus on increasing our use of alternative fuels, including:

* Biodiesel
* Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
* Electric Vehicles (EVs)
* Ethanol (E85) – Flexible Fuel Vehicles
* Gas-to-Liquid Fuels (natural gas to diesel fuel)
* Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Vehicles
* Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG / Propane)
* Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
* LPG and CNG Conversions
* Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs)

The Energy Commission’s 2003 Integrated Energy Policy Report recommended several actions to promote affordable energy supplies; improve energy reliability; and enhance public health, economic well-being, and environmental quality. One of the transportation energy recommendations established a goal for the use of alternative fuels:

“Increase the use of non-petroleum fuels to 20 percent of on-road fuel consumption by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030 based on identified strategies that are achievable and cost-beneficial.”

California is already home to a growing number of alternative fuel vehicles through the joint efforts of the Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, local air districts, federal government, transit agencies, utilities, and other public and private entities. More than 61,000 cars, transit buses, and trucks currently operate on natural gas and LPG, along with more than 10,000 electric vehicles. California also has more than 900 fueling stations dispensing a variety of non-petroleum fuels.

Increasing the use of these fuels, however, faces significant uncertainties such as the availability of new vehicle technologies, the cost and availability of new fueling infrastructures, and acceptance of these fuels by consumers.

Currently, the Energy Commission is working with stakeholders of various alternative fuels. These stakeholder working groups have participated in informal surveys to identify the principal barriers that exist to developing a more robust alternative fuels market in California and to develop recommendations for overcoming or mitigating those barriers.

In December 2005, the Energy Commission adopted the 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report. This major energy policy document for the state included the results of stakeholder working groups and recommend actions that the state can take to help meet the 2020 goal of 20 percent alternative fuel use in California.

More than 100 participants have provided ideas, comments and concerns during this process. By working together in this way, private industry, public agencies and public interest groups can help to ensure that the future of California’s transportation energy use is protected from supply disruptions and high prices.

Did you know?

Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs) are available for many types of uses and fuels. Our Web section on “Alternative Fuel Vehicle Choices” will introduce you to those fuels and vehicles.

California’s GOAL is to “Increase the use of non-petroleum fuels to 20 percent of on-road fuel consumption by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030.”

Copyright 2006 California Energy Commission

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