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The Greening of the U.S. Car Industry April 10, 2012

The car industry in the United States isn’t known for its particular environmentalism, especially compared to European or Japanese cars. Fortunately, recent regulations have caused great changes in how cars must be made. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE regulations mandate the number of miles per gallon (MPGs) cars must achieve. In 2009, President Obama announced an increase in MPGs of 30% by 2016, which was agreed upon by the auto industry and environmental activists. This raised MPG to an average 39 for cars and 30 for light trucks and was the first increase in MPG since 1985. More recently, there is speculation that the administration will try to increase MPG again to 56 or 62 by 2020.

Any increase in MPG standards is great for the environment because it significantly decreases carbon dioxide emissions from cars. Burning a gallon of gasoline releases 19.4 pounds of CO2 and a gallon of diesel releases 22.2 pounds. 27% of the U.S.’ emissions are from transportation, so a decrease in emissions in this industry would help significantly.

Some, such as the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), argue that enforcing an overall standard of 62 MPGs for vehicles would be too expensive for the car industry because it would require more fully electric cars (which are more expensive) to make up for the less efficient cars that would still be manufactured. However, the EPA’s study shows that the additional price of cars would increase by only $3,000 instead of the almost $10,000 suggested by CAR.

Whichever price increases that actually occur, the average MPG of cars is definitely increasing, which is good for the environment as well as buyers, who can save money at the pump. What still needs to be determined is by how much our cars’ MPG will increase, and whether it will be from a significant increase in manufacturing all-electric cars or more conventional hybrids.

Photo Courtesy of Planet Green


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