Thursday, March 8, 2012

Good News in New EPA Report on Personal Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Economy

When I presented one of my works in progress on climate change and suburbs recently, a good friend and colleague asked me how I could keep working on climate change given how depressing the topic generally is.  Her comment likely related to the fact that I've taken to starting presentations on climate change with the statement that I wish I were a climate skeptic because I'm very concerned about our failures to regulate at the rates scientists say are needed.  But it's important to recognize that amid the generally troubling big picture, there are delightful nuggets of good news (if you're not a climate skeptic and think progress on reducing emissions is important).  One such nugget came from the EPA in a new report, Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2011.

Here are two highlights from the executive summary that are particularly relevant to emissions and fuel economy:

"Highlight #1: MY 2010 had the lowest CO2 emission rate and highest fuel economy since the database
began in 1975."

"Highlight #4: Most manufacturers increased fuel economy in MY 2010, resulting in lower CO2
emission rates."

In addition, the EPA projects that fuel economy will double and carbon dioxide emissions will halve from 2009 to 2025 as a result of the harmonized standards created in response to Massachusetts v. EPA, and that consumers' gas savings will outweigh the higher initial costs of the new technology, making the program an economic win-win:

These projected levels for MY 2025 represent an approximate halving of CO2 emissions and doubling of fuel economy levels since the National Program was announced in May 2009. Taken together, the MY 2011 CAFE standards, the MY 2012-2016 greenhouse gas emissions and CAFE standards, and the proposed MY 2017-2025 greenhouse gas emissions and CAFE standards are projected to save approximately 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 12 billion barrels of oil over the lifetimes of the vehicles produced in MY 2011-2025. Based on the agencies' most recent estimates of the cost and effectiveness of future technologies, Department of Energy forecasts of future fuel prices, and other assumptions, the fuel savings to consumers are projected to far outweigh the higher initial cost of the vehicle technology that will be necessary to meet the new standards.

And I write all this while sitting in a hotel room touting its various green efforts after increasing my carbon footprint flying to LA.....

Hari Osofsky

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