December 14, 2007

Vehicle use will outweigh proposed fuel efficiencies on greenhouse gas reduction, report says

Bali, Indonesia – A new report released by the World Resources Institute says that proposed fuel efficiency standards in the U.S. and the European Union will not reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks over the long term.

“Total emissions from this part of the transport sector are dependent on how many people drive, what they drive, and how they drive,” said Lee Schipper, director of research at the World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport and author of the report. “Fuel efficiency standards only address what they drive, and they don’t even do that very well.”

The report finds that industry has held fuel efficiency almost constant, while increasing weight and power. Standards currently proposed would lead to a 33 per cent increase in fuel efficiency in the U.S. and about 25 per cent in Europe, once all the cars on the road meet the new standards. However, since the new standards only apply on cars yet to be sold, it will likely take 15 to 20 years for all vehicles on the road to meet any new standard.

“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,” Schipper said. “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.”

Schipper said that in 20 to 25 years, the on-the-road average efficiency of cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. might reach 28 mpg (8.3 L/100 km) even with a standard of 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km). “The atmosphere sees the real emissions, not those of artificial test conditions,” he said. “Many policymakers are only considering the happier numbers accurate for new cars under ideal conditions, not air conditioning, not sitting in traffic, not how they work when they’re not well-maintained.

“U.S. 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.”

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