Sunday, May 24, 2009

More fuel efficient cars may increase global warming.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required new car fleets to average 35 mpg by 2020; President Obama’s new rules tightens that standard by just a little and requires fleets to average 35.5 mpg by 2016.
While the federal government is pushing for more fuel efficient cars they are assuming that this will reduce fuel use and reduce auto emissions. There is an assumption that an X% increase in fuel efficiency will result in a corresponding X% reduction in auto emissions and fuel consumption. That is simply faulty logic. It does not take into account the way people really behave. From 1977 to 2001, the number of miles driven every year by Americans rose by 151%. More fuel efficient cars make driving cheaper, so people will do more of it. We can expect an increase in the rate of increase with stable gas prices and increases fuel efficiency.

More fuel efficient cars may mean we become even more mobile. Extended families can be scattered and still see each other frequently. More fuel efficient cars may mean that people who live in the country won’t think twice about jumping in the car go to the store ten miles away to rent a movie or buy a carton of drinks. There will be less need for thoughtful planning to combine trips With driving costing less you can take a Sunday afternoon drive just for pleasure. With greater fuel efficiency people may find that moving further away from urban centers is more attractive than moving closer in. College students away from home my go home more often with more fuel efficient cars. The family can take that summer vacation to the beach or even a further away beach with more fuel efficient cars. With more fuel efficient cars people will be less likely to use mass transit.

Fuel efficient cars, in the absence of higher fuel prices, will make consumption of fuel and driving more miles, more attractive. More fuel efficient cars will put more cars on the road driven more miles contributing to road wear and tear, urban sprawl, and more auto emissions.

Driving more miles needs to be made less desirable not more desirable. There must be an economic incentive to drive less. Greater fuel efficiency without an increase in the price of fuel provides an incentive to drive more.

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1 comment:

  1. You forget the increased input energy required to build cars like hybrids and the energy required to recycle them when they are scrapped.