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E-M:/ fuel efficiency can save money, clean up environment

Enviro-Mich message from davemec@acd.net (Dave Dempsey)


Michigan Ranks Eighth for Potential Savings;  New Mileage Rules Would
Get the U.S. Halfway to its Global Warming Reduction Goal

Increasing fuel efficiency standards to 45 miles per gallon for cars and
34 mpg for light trucks would save the United States more than $200
billion in petroleum costs over the next ten years, according to a new
study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project and the Environmental
Working Group.

Drivers in 25 urban areas will save $1 billion in the first ten years
that new standards are in effect or $2,160 per family. After 20 years or
full phase-in, American families will save on average about $590
annually or $60 billion per year.

When international climate treaty talks begin December 1 in Kyoto,
Japan, the U.S. position will recommend reducing greenhouse gas
pollution to 1990 levels. Increasing fuel efficiency alone could
decrease emissions by 36 million tons per year, more than half the
amount needed to reach 1990 levels.
Transportation is responsible for 30 percent of all carbon dioxide
emissions--produced when fossil fuels are burned--which the overwhelming
majority of the world's scientists agree, is raising the temperature of
the planet.

The automotive industry has successfully blocked an increase in
corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards since 1975 when Gerald
Ford was president. And as in 1975, the industry claims that increasing
CAFE now would bankrupt the industry, cost thousands of jobs and give
unfair advantages to the competition.

"Detroit has consistently been wrong about safety and efficiency
technologies and their costs," said Dave Dempsey, Policy Director of the
Michigan Environmental Council. "They're wrong again with regard to the
global warming debate."

"Some car companies are already marketing the next generation of "clean"
vehicles at current market prices, so cost and technical feasibility are
not at issue," said Dempsey.  "The issue is a lack of vision and
leadership on strategic goals."

Car companies have logged objections to several safety and efficiency
innovations over the years.  For example, when speaking to the New York
Chamber of Commerce, then Ford President Lee Iacocca stated that it was
impossible for  U.S. car companies to meet the requirements of the Clean
Air Act, which mandated that the levels of  hydrocarbon and carbon
monoxide emissions be reduced 90 percent from 1970 levels.  Iacocca
said, "[W]e could be just around the corner from a complete shutdown of
the U.S. auto industry and all that implies . . . "  Of course, the U.
S. auto industry did meet the emissions requirements after some slight
modifications. (Iacocca 1973)

Existing standards have not been changed since Gerald Ford sat in the
White House. The 1973 OPEC oil embargo set off a worldwide energy
crisis, prompting measures for energy conservation.  Two years later,
the CAFE standards were passed, requiring that by 1985 automakers double
average new car fleet fuel
efficiency, from 13.8 mpg to 27.5 mpg (and to 20.6 mpg for light
trucks).  These measures were successful, dramatically increasing fuel
efficiency of automobiles, and reducing fuel consumption to half of what
it would be otherwise.

But the successes of the 1970s and 1980s are now being overwhelmed by
other trends. Miles driven have increased every year since  1981, for a
total increase of 50 percent between 1981 and 1995 (U.S. DOT 1996).  The
average number of cars per family is up from one in 1969 to almost two
in 1995.  As a result, emissions of greenhouse gases from cars and
trucks are once again on the increase.

Readily available technologies can easily increase fuel efficiency
including, improved engines, improved transmissions and drive trains,
lightweight materials and good design. The report recommends making cars
more fuel efficient; speeding the introduction of alternative fuel
sources for cars; strengthening the nation's transportation law, ISTEA.

For more information on manufacturing impacts and global climate change,
contact Jeff Gearhart at the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor,
313/663-2400.  Journalists may request copies of the full report from
the list of contacts above.

Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912
(517) 487-9539
(517) 487-9541 (fax)

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