New Mileage Standards Encourage More Gas-guzzling, Not Less: Report

(AFP/Justin Sullivan)

New Mileage Standards Encourage More Gas-guzzling, Not Less: Report

The Obama administration finalized new fuel economy rules Tuesday, boasting new requirements that are slated to double fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks sold in the US over the next 13 years; however, environmental scientists at the Center for Biological Diversity warned Tuesday that the new numbers are misleading in the complex regulations. Due to loopholes in the plan, total greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks will actually increase from 2017 through 2025 and over the long term.

According to the new standards, the average fuel economy must reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 28.6 mpg at the end of last year. Automakers will now be required to introduce new technology to improve gasoline-powered engines as well as develop more alternative fuel vehicles to meet the new standards.

However, according to CBD, several loopholes in the rules will actually allow an increase in total greenhouse gas emissions. The rules titled, "Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE," allows automakers to produce cars with poorer mileage by using credits acquired by selling natural gas and electric vehicles, changing air conditioning fluid to one that pollutes less, and placing louvers on car grilles to improve aerodynamics.

Once the various credits and "flexibilities" for automakers are accounted for, the estimated mileage drops to less than 47 miles per gallon. According to CBD, cars are already available today that meet and exceed this standard. Once the exponential increase in cars and drivers on the road is accounted for, that means greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise drastically.

The biggest set back to these standards includes a loophole which relieves automakers from improving pickup truck mileage until 2020.

The loophole will actually act as an incentive to build more SUVs and pickup trucks, according to the group. "These vehicles consume more fuel and emit more greenhouse gases, yet the standards require lower efficiency-improvement rates for them as compared to cars. As a result, building SUVs and pickups will remain more profitable for manufacturers -- an incentive very likely to increase the number of SUVs and trucks on the roads," CBD stated today.

"Cars and trucks are the low-hanging fruit in the fight to get carbon pollution under control, and the technologies to reduce emissions exist or are on the drawing board," said Vera Pardee, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute. "But the administration rejected a standard employing those technologies and instead incentivized SUVs and heavier trucks over cars. Automakers' profits may improve, but the climate crisis will get worse...Setting fuel economy standards for 2025 that are lower than what we can achieve right now is not the kind of progress we urgently need," said Pardee.

The administration had considered but rejected more climate-friendly standards, according to CBD.

"These standards ignore the urgency of the climate crisis," Pardee added. "Gas mileage will improve modestly over the next 13 years, but not enough to offset total emissions from an increasing number of cars driving more miles."

The new national standards for 2025 are also below standards the European Union, Japan and China have proposed for 2020.

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