Transportation, Oil Imports, and Greenhouse Gas Reductions in Costa Rica – A Sustainability Conundrum

Transportation, Oil Imports, Greenhouse Gas Reductions, and Fuel Taxes in Costa Rica – A Sustainability Conundrum

2015 Oil Products Imports and Consumption Chart 

The sustainability of Costa Rica’s energy-transportation nexus is an essential element of its low carbon vision and commitments. Costa Rica, like many other countries face a GHG emissions reduction challenges in the transport sector. In 2015 road transportation consumed 1,767 kilotons of oil equivalents (ktoe) of oil-derived energy (mostly gasoline and diesel) or 47.6% of the total 3,713 ktoe of energy consumed by this country. In 2012, ~ 44% of country’s GHG emissions came from road transportation sources.  And virtually all fuels used in transportation in 2016 came from imported oil products at about US$1 billion. In Costa Rica, the transportation sector and energy security are highly interlinked. 

Costa Rica made headlines in 2016 for generating more than 98 % of its electricity from renewable sources. – However, the number of electrical vehicles in 2016 was very small. In 2017 a bill passed to promote electrical vehicle use. The government also issued a tender for a new public transportation system for the capital city area and modified schedules in the public sector to alleviate frequent congestion/travel delays on the roads in and around San Jose. All of which send strong policy signals.

Part of the challenge for Costa Rica is not so much how to replace hundreds of thousands of gasoline/diesel automobiles and other vehicles with the same number of electrical vehicles costing almost twice as much, but also to continue decreasing the dependency on the automobile and imported fossil fuels.

The country also needs to examine low carbon options for freight transport and integrate low carbon transportation within the context of an economy wide low carbon development plan (LCDP). The LCDP would also need to incorporate/be balanced with new fiscal policies that carefully reshape and strengthen the national tax revenue system as fuel taxes are a source of revenues for the Costa Rican government.


Notes: One ktoe is approx. 11.63 GW-h of energy. Costa Rica had ~ 900,000 automobiles and it imported ~ 58,500 autos in 2016. Chart based on IEA data.

GHG Engineering, LLC: GHG Engineering is a water + carbon sustainability engineering consultancy based in Rockville, Maryland, USA. The views expressed in this article are those of the GHG Engineering alone.  John Mosheim, can be reached at with any comments.




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