WRI Report: Current Fuel Economy Proposals Will Not Reduce Overall GHG Emissions from Cars and Light Trucks Over the Long Term
|Light-duty vehicle fleet fuel consumption in US, Japan and European countries, in liters gasoline equivalent/100km. Click to enlarge.|
Proposed fuel efficiency standards in both the US and EU will not reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks over the long term, according to a report released today by the World Resources Institute.
The report finds that industry has held fuel efficiency almost constant while increasing weight and power. Standards currently proposed in the US and Europe would lead to a 33% increase in fuel efficiency—defined as distance traveled per volume of fuel—in the US and about 25% in Europe once all cars on the road meet new standards. It will likely take 15 to 20 years for all vehicles on the road to meet any new standard, because it would only apply to cars yet to be sold. There will be additional delay between the time any new standard is set, and its going into force.
Total emissions from this part of the transport sector are dependent on how many people drive, what they drive, and how they drive. Fuel efficiency standards only address what they drive, and they don’t even do that very well.—Lee Schipper, director of research at EMBARQ: The WRI Center for Sustainable Transport
Schipper presented his analysis of actual on-the-road fuel efficiencies in several countries over the last decades at an event in Bali as part of the United Nations’ climate summit.
It will actually take longer than 20 years for the effects of any standard to be fully realized—and the effect will be significantly less than is generally realized. The current proposals are not enough. Meanwhile, the number of people driving, and the congestion they drive in, will increase so much that the atmosphere will see greater overall emissions from this sector compared to today, not less.—Lee Schipper
In 20 or 25 years, then, the on-the-road average efficiency of cars and light trucks sold in the US might reach 28 mpg as a result of the 35 mpg standard under consideration in the US.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector is critical to mitigate climate change, according to Schipper. Automobiles account for 9% of total energy use and 20% of oil use in major industrialized countries, although in the US this share is much higher.
US car buyers and drivers may be slowly waking up. We need to do everything we can to improve fuel efficiency—but we also need to drive smaller, lighter vehicles. And we need to drive them less.—Lee Schipper