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New study finds switch to clean transportation in North Carolina will create ‘overwhelmingly positive’ impacts to environment, health and economy

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, has released a new report analyzing the impacts of clean transportation policies taking effect in North Carolina in 2026. The work was supported by a grant from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Researchers found that transitioning the transportation sector to electrification and lower NOX emissions standards for the remaining gas- and diesel-powered medium- and heavy-duty trucks could offer North Carolinians significant health benefits, help the state achieve greenhouse gas reduction commitments and provide billions of dollars in total net-benefits to the economy by 2050.  

“As scientific evidence of how climate change is impacting our world becomes more apparent each year, the focus on advancing mitigation and adaptation measures have risen as a top priority in North Carolina. While the state is making real efforts to decarbonize the electricity sector, it will also be important to take similar steps to rapidly decarbonize the transportation sector,” said Jeffrey Petrusa, project director and economist in RTI’s Center for Climate Solutions. “Our findings show positive impacts in North Carolina specifically on public health, the environment and overall economy of the state.” 

While there remains uncertainty surrounding how North Carolina policies and commitments to clean energy will evolve over the next 25 years, researchers reiterate in the study the "overwhelmingly positive" impacts that could be achieved with the switch to clean transportation by 2030 and beyond. 

In the study, researchers concluded that the implementation of Advanced Clean Trucks (ACTs) and Heavy-Duty Omnibus (HDO) rules in North Carolina could provide total net economic benefits between $53 billion and $25 billion from the years 2026 to 2050. Additionally, they found that cumulative net benefits due to improved air quality over the 25-year period could equal approximately $118 billion. 

“This analysis underscores that transportation is a significant part of North Carolina’s climate pollution problem, and electrifying the sector is a critical piece of the solution," said David Kelly, North Carolina State Director for EDF. “The report confirms that there are tools at North Carolina’s fingertips to reduce transportation pollution, delivering cleaner, healthier air for North Carolinians while making concrete progress toward key climate goals." 

The new study assumes that the ACT and HDO would take effect in North Carolina in 2026. The research team assumed the same standards implemented by California as part of the Clean Air Act to define sales targets and emission standards.  

Read the full report 

Learn more about RTI’s Center for Climate Solutions

About Environmental Defense Fund 
One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 2.5 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund. 

About RTI International 
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.