HOUSTON (Reuters) - Widespread adoption of electric cars could reduce U.S. oil demand and the need for imported oil more than creation of a national mandate for renewable power such as wind and solar, according to research from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy released on Monday.
The Baker Institute analysis found that a mandate calling for 30 percent of all U.S. vehicles to run on electric power by 2050 would be "the single most effective way" to reduce oil demand and reliance on foreign imports.
A 30-percent electric fleet would reduce U.S. oil use by 2.5 million barrels a day above the projected reduction from increased fuel efficiency standards.
Imports could fall to 40 percent of U.S. oil use, down from 60 percent currently, according to a study released Monday at a Baker Institute conference exploring market consequences of an emerging U.S. carbon management policy.
Expanding electric car use would cut emissions by 7 percent while a proposed national renewable standard would cut emissions by just 4 percent, the study said.
The United States, which consumes about 20 percent of the world's primary energy, is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas after China.
Currently, 29 states have targets, known as a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, to increase use of carbon-free resources to generate electricity in the coming years. Wind, solar and geothermal power now account for less than 2 percent of total U.S. electric generation.
Implementing a national RPS "would make virtually no contribution to lowering" U.S. oil demand or imports, the study said.
A national RPS could hurt demand for natural gas in the short-run, but over the longer term would discourage construction of coal-fired plants contributing to a small reduction in projected emissions of carbon dioxide, the report said.
(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)