Fuel efficiency should be on carmakers to help economy, environment: Study

US saved $5 trillion in fuel costs, prevented 14 billion tonnes of carbon from releasing into the atmosphere, as onus was on manufacturers to improve fuel economy, the study points out

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 04 September 2020
Transportation is the greatest source for greenhouse gas emissions in the US, with consumers keeping their cars for approximately 10 years. Photo: Pixabay__

Regulators should ensure that the onus to improve fuel economy should be on automobile manufacturers — rather than on car buyers —  as this had helped gain mammoth savings for the economy and the environment, showed a recent study.

Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency / Economy (CAFE) norms enacted in 1975 in the United States were assessed by the study, published in journal Energy Policy August 23, 2020. Regulatory standards cut greenhouse gas emissions, saved consumers money and reduced reliance on foreign oil producers, according to the study.

CAFE norms saved $5 trillion in fuel costs and prevented 14 billion tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. This was equal to the US eliminating emissions from all sectors for nearly three years.

They also helped, in part, to curb yearly growth of gasoline consumption in the country to 0.2 per cent since 1975, the study pointed out. The norms reduced oil imports and saved two trillion gallons of gasoline — enough to fuel all light-duty vehicles in the US for 15 years — as well.

Such regulations were, thus, more effective at improving fuel economy because they did not rely on consumers to make long-term fuel-efficient choices and, instead, aimed at cost benefits at the pump, according to the study.

The onus, therefore, was on manufacturers to improve fuel economy across product lines using technology that cost a little more, but saved consumers a more significant amount in the long run.

An earlier study conducted by David Greene — assistant professor in mechanical engineering and environmental and ecological engineering at Purdue University and a co-author of this study — found manufacturers spent $4,800 on such upgrades. This, however, resulted in consumers saving $16,000 at the pump.

CAFE standards were enacted to reduce dependency on foreign oil after the oil crisis and set well-defined societal objectives that were cost-effective, fair, durable and adaptive.

They evolved over time, endured political tides and several administrations, said Judi Greenwald, former top US Department of Energy official, non-resident fellow at the Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and also a co-author.

In 2010, two sets of vehicle standards affecting automakers — one for greenhouse gas emissions and one for fuel efficiency — were harmonised for manufacturers to meet one set of standards when designing new vehicles.

Recent rules enacted by President Donald Trump’s administration, however, aimed to loosen fuel efficiency requirements. They dropped annual efficiency increase to one-and-a-half per cent from five per cent through 2026.

This significantly hindered environmental progress because transportation was the greatest source for greenhouse gas emissions in the US and consumers keep their cars for approximately 10 years, the researchers pointed out.

“It is likely that the US is in the middle — not the end — of the story of the adaptive response of the vehicle CAFE and GHG standards,” the researchers were quoted as saying by the study.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.