Green your life at home, work & play

Fuel Economy Standards May 5, 2011

In the United States, transportation accounts for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions. Within transportation, light-duty vehicles contribute 60% of those emissions, with the rest coming from heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft and other smaller sectors. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program aims to address and reduce the transportation industry’s emissions.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007, April 2009

Phase I – The first phase of the National Program was announced by President Obama in May 2009. It governed both CAFE and greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks of model years 2012-2016. The final rule was adopted in April 2010 and was a significant step since it was the first time the U.S. has strengthened fuel economy standards since the 1970’s. The final rule of Phase I requires an estimated fleet wide average of 34.1 mpg and 250 grams of CO2 per mile by 2016.

Phase II – In October 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a joint Notice of Intent that identified a range of proposed standards for cars and light-duty trucks of model years 2017-2025. The agencies projected an annual decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 3% to 6%. This correlates to a range of 47 mpg to 62 mpg in 2025. They are expected to propose the new standards by September 2011.

According to a recent study, even under the most stringent standards being considered (6% decrease or 62 mpg), variable profits in the industry would likely increase. Also, the Detroit Three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) actually would gain more of the profit increase than the rest of the industry, since they are more invested in trucks and larger cars and therefore likely to be required to make greater fuel economy improvements than their competitors. Improved technology doesn’t come without its costs. But these higher fuel standards are actually cost-effective as long as fuel stays above $1.80 per gallon, and with gas currently hovering around $4 a gallon it’s not hard to imagine it staying this high.

Many companies are improving their own fleets ahead of the anticipated fuel economy regulations. For example, in 2004, FedEx launched the first street-ready hybrid trucks. They increased fuel efficiency by 57%, decreased particulate emissions by 96%, and reduced smog-causing emissions by 65%. As of 2010, FedEx was operating one of the largest fleets in the industry. They use nearly 2,000 alternative energy vehicles worldwide, include natural gas, all-electric and biodiesel vehicles.

Instead of trying to roll out hybrid vehicles across the entire fleet, which would not have been cost effective, FedEx instead has focused on managing the fleet to reduce emissions. They have set a goal of improving efficiency of the entire fleet by 20% by 2020. This includes a variety of methods such as optimizing routes, using smaller and more fuel-efficient “sprinter” vans, and delivering by foot or bicycle in large cities like New York City and London. Other companies, such as UPS, are
also looking to reduce their fuel consumption and improve the management of their fleet, as are companies that own fleets.

FedEx image source: Autoblog Green


Car Rental Takes a Turn for the Sustainable February 11, 2011

For many travelers today, car rental is an inevitable part of any personal or business trip. When deciding which car rental company to choose, have you ever taken the company’s sustainability efforts into consideration?

One major car rental company, Enterprise, recently made an announcement that they plan to spend more than $150 million to build or retrofit sustainable and more energy-efficient buildings. These projects will take place at over 1,000 of their locations nationwide and will go into effect over the next five years.

The plans are part of Enterprise’s set of internal sustainable guidelines: the Enterprise Sustainable Construction Protocol (ESCP). The goal of the ESCP is to create a healthy workplace and long-term savings through lower consumption of water and energy. The initiative focuses on seven areas:

1. Materials: Include regionally-produced materials and materials with at least 10% recycled content in construction

2. Energy: Use both interior and exterior energy-efficient controls and systems.

3. Sites: Build on previously developed sites and use materials that reduce the heat of parking lots.

4. Recycling: Reuse fixtures, furniture and equipment (e.g. rental counters, signs, furniture) and recycle construction debris.

5. Water: Install water reclamation systems or low-flow/high-efficient pressure wash systems, use high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, and design efficient landscaping.

6. Air quality: Use Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) material in paint, carpet, coatings, and adhesives and use Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) plans where appropriate during construction.

7. Process: Develop innovative approaches for each facility and ensure changes positively affect employee satisfaction.

Enterprise is clearly a leader in energy-efficient operations. They opened a location last summer at the O’Hare International Airport which became the rental car industry’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-certified independent car rental location. The building was constructed using regional materials and includes a roof system that insulates the building and provides a suitable habitat for native plants. The facility also has a storm water retention system, energy-efficient lighting, and a system for recycling car wash wastewater. The new features have reduced the facility’s energy use by 15% and water use by 22%.

Green buildings aren’t the only change moving through the car rental industry. Enterprise has been putting together a fleet of energy-efficient cars, and they are the first company to add the new Chevrolet Volt. If you’re considering which rental car company to choose on your next trip, keep these companies and fuel-efficient cars in mind.

Alamo (nationwide) carries the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid, Saturn VUE Hybrid

Avis (nationwide) offers the Nissan Altima Hybrid, Toyota Prius Hybrid, and Ford Escape Hybrid
Bio-Beetle (Los Angeles and Maui) carries biodiesel-compatible cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle, Golf and Jetta

Budget offers the Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Prius Hybrid, and Nissan Altima Hybrid

Enterprise (nationwide) carries the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid, Saturn VUE Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt

Hertz (nationwide) offers the Ford Fusion, Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima

National (nationwide) carries the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid, Saturn VUE Hybrid

This list will continue to change as technologies change and as hybrid vehicles increase their share of the market. Keep in mind that these companies don’t offer hybrid or fuel-efficient choices at all of their locations, so remember to think ahead when planning your car rental. Not interested in driving a hybrid? Some companies, such as Enterprise, National and Alamo, offer the opportunity to pay an extra charge to offset the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions from your rented vehicle.


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