April 21, 2015
A revolution in automotive technology is paving the way with cleaner cars driving the future to combat climate change. Here Margo T. Oge, author of the book, DRIVING THE FUTURE: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars, and former Director of the US EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality shares her insights with Eco News Network.
For the 2015 Model Year, there are some 76 alternative models available in the US – hybrids, plug in electrics and fuel cell vehicles — just short of one third of all 265 models offered. There are already several cars that average some 100 mpg-equivalent or higher and there are 3 times as many cars on the road that average 30 mpg or more than five years ago. The 2013 Model Year cars and light trucks sold averaged 24.1 mpg, the highest ever. And, this is a contributing factor to one of the more significant events in 2014 where the world managed to keep greenhouse gas emissions flat amidst a global economy that grew 3.3%.
This is not just all happening because of market forces, it is happening because the US took a major step with the 2010 and 2012 Light Vehicle Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Economy Standards. The action, one of President Obama’s first term initiatives, stands to eliminate 6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and to double fuel efficiency for new cars to 54.5 mpg. That is equivalent to removing some 80 million vehicles from the road, or nearly one third of the current fleet.
This action is not only a win for the planet; it is also a win for the consumer. The higher fuel economy standards that put less carbon into the air, put dollars back in the pocket of the consumer, who can save as much as $8000 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle, which adds up to $1.7 trillion at the national level.
And, there are even further dividends. By reducing our oil consumption, we will reduce our oil imports by 2 million barrels daily, equivalent to half of what we buy from OPEC today. The money that would have been spent on oil can be invested in jobs back in the US. The Blue-Green Alliance of unions and environmental organizations estimated that by 2020, the GHG standards will help add 150,000 manufacturing jobs.
The Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA) estimates that emissions control technologies alone for vehicles already account for up to $12 billion in economic activity in the United States and some 12,000 workers. Alcoa’s is investing some $300M in order to meet automakers’ demand for lightweight materials. General Motors and Tesla have announced nearly 8,500 jobs in three states all focused on advanced battery research—technology essential to expanding the electric vehicle market.
But we cannot rest on our laurels. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of their 2005 level. That translates into all cars on the road would need to get close to 180 miles per gallon and emit zero carbon pollution. This is a daunting challenge despite the 35 years we have to work on it. However, knowing that the automotive industry has successfully reduced tailpipe emissions by more than 99% in the last 40 years so Los Angeles does not look like what Beijing does today, I am confident we will get there. They are also now getting help from Silicon Valley with driverless cars and the new “connected generation’s” penchant for sharing rather than owning. We are beginning to drive an exciting future.
-Margo T. Oge
Margo T. Oge is the Author of the book, DRIVING THE FUTURE: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars, and former Director of the US EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality. She is a contributor to Eco News Network. The book is available at Politics and Prose Bookstore or Amazon.com.
While at the EPA, Oge was a chief architect of the most important improvements of air quality from the transportation sector ever, resulting in the prevention of 40,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of respiratory illness. She received Presidential Awards from Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and numerous environmental and industry awards. In commending her achievements, President Obama wrote, “Under your tireless leadership, we have realized significant environmental achievements in the transportation sector, from making diesel fuels cleaner to finalizing the most aggressive fuel economy standards for cars and trucks out to model year 2025.”
Photo credit: Caleb George via StockSnap.