Fuel Efficiency Drives America Toward a Sustainable Environment Economy

by Silvio Maracacci, via Clean Technica

As the federal government starts implementing an aggressive 54.5 mile-per-gallon (mpg) auto fuel efficiency standard, the importance of reducing gasoline consumption for a sustainable American economy and environment becomes clearer every day.

Combining Efficiency Standards and Fuel Fees

A new set of recommended vehicle efficiency standards and fuel fees from the ClimateWorks Foundation (CWF) and International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) reveals the route toward saving money and emissions. By continuously tightening vehicle performance standards and gradually increasing reasonable fuel fees, the report finds the United States could cut vehicle emissions 48 percent by 2030, while creating 190,000 jobs to build more efficient cars by 2020.

“As effective as performance standards and fees are when implemented as stand-alone policies, their complementary nature makes a combination of the two an almost textbook-perfect climate policy. Performance standards increase the fuel efficiency of the fleet, while high fuel and vehicle levies offset the resulting lower cost of driving and encourage consumers and
manufacturers to pursue ever more efficient technology options.”

Recent results have shown increasing fuel efficiency works. The CWF-ICCT report found the current 35.5 mpg by 2016 standard, set in April 2010, is expected to reduce vehicle emissions by 18 percent while saving every car owner $3,000 over the life of their vehicle.

Higher Efficiency Targets, Stronger Economy

And even with automakers’ increasing efficiency, the American auto industry just set a new fuel efficiency record of 23.8 mpg, and has grown 24 percent while adding 150,000 jobs since June 2009, a trend described as “onshoring” by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “What critics miss about the wisdom of setting strong fuel efficiency standards is that manufacturers throughout the auto supply chain gain certainty for what innovative and efficiency-boosting products they should invest in,” said NRDC’s Ronald Hwang. Considering a recent Consumer Reports study showed fuel efficiency is the top concern for prospective auto buyers, the correlation between more efficient cars and increased sales isn’t a surprise.

According to the NRDC, if U.S. fuel economy standards are raised to 54.5 mpg by 2025, the economy will truly shift into gear. NRDC estimates that, by 2030, increased efficiency measures will create 484,000 new jobs, save drivers $125 billion dollars, cut oil imports by a third, and reduce emissions equal to removing 90 million cars from the road.

Internal Combustion in the Eternal Driver’s Seat

Finding ways to reduce gasoline use and emissions remains an incredibly important goal for policymakers, because for all the hope about hybrids and electric vehicles, the internal-combustion engine isn’t going anywhere.

A new study from the National Petroleum Council, a non-partisan committee established in 1946, concluded internal combustion would remain the dominant power source for vehicles until at least 2050. Fortunately, the council also found vehicles could become up to 40 percent more efficient using existing technologies.

These finding are important to keep in mind as the nascent electric vehicle industry develops. While President Obama estimated a million electric vehicles would be on our roads by 2015, plug-in sales are falling short of his target. Only 17,500 plug-in vehicles were sold across the U.S. in 2011, and Pike Research estimates 410,000 plug-ins will be sold by 2015. If this trend holds true, cumulative U.S. sales won’t reach one million until 2018. But even these modest goals pale in significance to the estimated 254.4 million registered passenger vehicles in the U.S. now, with roughly 13 million autos sold in 2011 alone.

So, considering all these factors, it’s clear that vehicles becoming more efficient holds incredible environmental and economic potential. What’s unclear is if the country’s political gridlock and well-funded oil interests could slam on the brakes. Here’s hoping progressive policy keeps us moving on the road toward a sustainable transportation future.

Silvio Maracci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy public relations company based in Washington, D.C. This piece was originally published at Clean Technica and was reprinted with permission.

5 Responses to Fuel Efficiency Drives America Toward a Sustainable Environment Economy

  1. Turboblocke says:

    Funny how the “Old World” has set and achieved standards that surpass those of the supposed “world’s most technologically advanced nation.” Is it a case of can’t do or won’t do? Frankly neither option reflects well on the USA, does it?

  2. Leif says:

    “Driving” is good! What we need is a head long, no holds barred, serious race to the Green Awakening Economy.

  3. Although it is not a road vehicle, we are now showing a high efficiency tractor intended to aid farm workers while enabling significant farm profitability.

    6.Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    August 5, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    We think that a machine like that shown on the youtube link below can give a significant boost to the US economy, and both parties might be able to understand it.

  4. I think it is a form of short-term thinking to cite a self-interested oil industry report as authoritative, just because it happens to support the narrative of the essay.

    We need to think long term in terms of the quality of our information, as well as the quality of the actions it leads us toward.

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I agree with the drive to greater efficiency. However I think you will be surprised just how fast electric cars will come to dominate the market.

    Peak oil is not about suddenly running out of oil, it is about how fast we can dig it out of the ground. Just consider how depressed the words economy is and yet the oil price is still high.

    If the world economy recovers then the price of oil will explode. At ten dollars a gallon plugging in an electric car every night will not seem such a chore.

    If we do not reduce our need for oil, then every nacent economic recovery will be killed by higher oil prices. We simply must get far more out of each barrel.