Environment

Obama Global Warming Plan Means Better, More Efficient Cars

| by NRDC

Today, U.S. EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed national limits on global warming pollution from cars and trucks, along with stronger fuel economy standards. According to the agencies, the proposed standards will reduce CO2 emissions by 950 million metric tons and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the vehicles sold during 2012-16- all while adopting a "size-based" standard favored by domestic automakers. The average vehicle sold in 2016 would achieve about 35.5 mpg, from today's average of about 27.9 mpg. Over the life of the vehicle, drivers will reduce their fuel bills by more than $3,000 for a net savings of $1900 after the cost of the fuel saving technologies is included.

This historic proposal moves America further down the road to cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles. This unprecedented national program would reduce global warming pollution, break our dependence on oil, and save drivers money at the pump. Today's proposed limits on the heat-trapping pollution from our cars, vans, and SUVs are doubly important as the first-ever national action to curb global warming under the Clean Air Act.

Working together, the Obama administration, states, the auto industry, and environmental leaders have come to an agreement that will enable car makers to meet the challenges of the 21st century, while protecting our planet and our health. As I wrote about earlier, it was quite a sight to be at the Rose Garden in May when the President announced the program flanked by auto executives and the UAW. Automakers, labor unions, and environmentalist all agree that the future of the auto industry lies in making cleaner, higher mileage vehicles that cut carbon emissions and reduce our oil dependence while saving drivers money every at the pump.

The clean car agreement and new national standards announced today could not have happened without the leadership of California and 13 other states that took the lead to tackle global warming. The new EPA limits on global warming pollution will extend the benefits of California's landmark clean car standards to all 50 states while adopting a "size-based" structure favored by domestic automakers and their dealers to address their so-called "patchwork" problem.

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By using good science and smart policy, the design of the National Program standards will ensure low emissions, higher fuel economy and safety all go hand-in-hand. This is for two reasons. First, the new standards are "size-based" and eliminate incentive to make vehicles smaller as a strategy to comply. Under a "size-based" system, any incentive to make vehicles smaller to meet the standard is neutralized by the fact the standards are more stringent for smaller vehicles, thereby steering clear of any concerns that stronger standards will drive automakers to make smaller cars. Second, the latest best research on safety clearly shows safety is about size and design, not weight. In fact, as shown in analysis by Professor Marc Ross of the University of Michigan and Tom Wenzel of DOE, reducing weight without changing size can save lives.

There a variety of technologies to raise fuel economy without affecting weight (e.g., turbocharged gasoline direct engines) or reduce weight without affecting size (lighter body constructions, including using lighter weight, high strength steel). One of the best examples is the next generation iconic SUV, the Ford Explorer. Keeping size the same, Ford has taken out 150 pounds of weight from its next, by moving to a car-like chassis and lighter weight materials. And with a "ecoboost" engine, the vehicle is 20-30 percent more fuel-efficient, with no compromises in safety. Drivers can expect more of this type of innovation from other automakers as a result of the National Program.