Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 02/2009

U.S.-China Cooperation on Clean and Efficient Transportation

May 2008

Atlantic Council


Because of their significant contribution to global demand for improved living standards, meaningful actions by the United States and China on transportation and energy will be important in any effort to reduce global consumption of traditional energy sources. Together the United States and China consume 40% of the world's energy and are responsible for 50% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Given their economic size and impact on global markets, it is imperative that the U.S. and China join in a mutually beneficial process.

The United States has a massive, complex transportation system that is heavily dependent on road vehicles and to a lesser (but still substantial) extend on air, marine, rail, and pipeline transportation. The United States' most immediate and highest priority is on replacing a significant portion of conventional crude oil-based transportation fuels and improving vehicle efficiencies.

In contrast, China is still in the relatively early stages of developing its transportation infrastructure and systems. They are still in a position to choose between transportation modes and the lifestyle implications of different transportation systems and urban designs. Hence, China places its highest priority on creating a sustainable transportation system that will balance the need for transportation services with better urban designs that will lead to an improved quality of life for its citizens, through rational configuration of regional economic development and sustainable urban mobility.