Transportation Nation

Two Charts Show Where Our Cars' Carbon Savings Come From

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vehicle MPG average. (Chart by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, U. Mich)

UPDATED with more recent data.

American drivers are using less gas to get around, but it's not because they're driving fewer miles. Still, we're spewing less pollution per driver according to research out of the University of Michigan.

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in January hit a record 23.0 MPG. That's up 0.8 m.p.g. from December. That also means that drivers are spewing less CO2 on average. The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute crunched the numbers here and found a steady decrease in CO2 emissions per driver since April 2009 and a net decrease of 14 percent since October 2007 when they began measurements.

U. Mich's Eco-Driving Index (EDI) created by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle estimates the average monthly emissions generated by an individual U.S. driver. The EDI takes into account vehicle fuel economy and distance driven. Together that captures the fuel consumed and therefore CO2 emissions for internal combustion engine vehicles.
The reference point is October 2007 when the EDI started, so that's 1.00. As the chart below shows, December 2011 (the latest month available) is a 0.89, 11 percent less than the start point in October 2007.
What's interesting is that average distance driven hasn't changed all that much, so the CO2 savings are coming almost entirely from fuel economy improvements. President Obama has called for carmakers to double their fleet fuel efficiency by 2025.

Trends in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions since 2007. (Chart by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, U. Mich)

*An earlier version of this post used November's EDI data and stated a different level of reduction in CO2 emissions.

Read More


Transportation Nation

It's Official. Obama Announces 54.5 MPG Fuel Efficiency Standards

Friday, July 29, 2011

We knew this was coming, but here's the official announcement just out from the DOT on President Obama's new tougher Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards.

Full report coming soon.

Press Release from the DOT:

President Obama Announces Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standard
Consumers will save $1.7 trillion at the pump, $8K per vehicle by 2025

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama today announced a historic agreement with twelve major automakers to pursue the next phase in the Administration’s national vehicle program, increasing fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. The President was joined by GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Volvo, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Jaguar – which together account for over 90% of all vehicles sold in the United States – as well as the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the State of California, who were integral to developing this agreement.

“This agreement on fuel standards represents the most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “Many of these companies were part of an agreement we reached two years ago to raise the fuel efficiency of their cars over the next five years. By 2025, the average fuel economy of their vehicles will nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon.”

Building on the Obama administration’s agreement for Model Years 2012-2016 vehicles, which will raise fuel efficiency to 35.5 mpg and begin saving families money at the pump this year, the next round of standards will require performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

These programs combined with the model year 2011 light truck standard represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in three decades and span Model Years 2011 to 2025. Together, they will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars at the pump, and by 2025 result in an average fuel savings of over $8,000 per vehicle. Additionally, these programs will dramatically cut oil consumption, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 reduce oil consumption by more than 4 million barrels of oil a day – more than America currently imports from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela, and Russia combined.

The standards also curb carbon pollution, cutting more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the life of the program – equivalent to an entire year’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions from the United States. The oil savings, consumer, and environmental benefits of this comprehensive program are detailed in a new report, Driving Efficiency:  Cutting Costs for Families at the Pump and Slashing Dependence on Oil, which the Administration released today.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have worked closely with auto manufacturers, the state of California, environmental groups, and other stakeholders for several months to ensure these standards are achievable, cost-effective and preserve consumer choice.  The program would increase the stringency of standards for passenger cars by an average of five percent each year. The stringency of standards for pick-ups and other light-duty trucks would increase an average of 3.5 percent annually for the first five model years and an average of five percent annually for the last four model years of the program, to account for the unique challenges associated with this class of vehicles.

“This is another important step toward saving money for drivers, breaking our dependence on imported oil and cleaning up the air we breathe,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “American consumers are calling for cleaner cars that won’t pollute their air or break their budgets at the gas pump, and our innovative American automakers are responding with plans for some of the most fuel efficient vehicles in our history.”

“These standards will help spur economic growth and job creation, protect the environment, and strengthen our national security by reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Working together, we are setting the stage for a new generation of clean vehicles.”


A national policy on fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emissions provides regulatory certainty and flexibility that reduces the cost of compliance for auto manufacturers while addressing oil consumption and harmful air pollution. Consumers will continue to have access to a diverse fleet and can purchase the vehicle that best suits their needs.

EPA and NHTSA are developing a joint proposed rulemaking, which will include full details on the proposed program and supporting analyses, including the costs and benefits of the proposal and its effects on the economy, auto manufacturers, and consumers. After the proposed rules are published in the Federal Register, there will be an opportunity for public comment and public hearings. The agencies plan to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the end of September 2011. California plans on adopting its proposed rule in the same time frame as the federal proposal.

Read More

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

Debate: Is Obama's 56.2 MPG Goal Feasible?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

(Photo: (cc) by Flickr user emilio labrador)

President Obama has suggested requiring all cars and light trucks to run at 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025. Our partner The Takeaway, wanted to find out if this is feasible.

Listen. The conversation starts at 1:45 after a few calls from listeners about alternative fuels.

Seth Fletcher, thinks it's an achievable goal. He is the senior editor at Popular Science and author of, "Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy."

Sean McAlinden, executive vice-president for research and chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research, on the other hand, believes that this goal is just too ambitious, and too high a bar to set for many car companies.


Read More

Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: FAA Resignation, 2,500 m.p.g. Buggy, Rail Freight Up

Friday, April 15, 2011

The official in charge of air traffic control at the FAA resigned yesterday, following a second controller falling asleep on the job. (Politico) An overhaul to the whole system is coming. (Marketplace)

Can mayors save the planet? We published our first Portuguese language post ever yesterday on this topic, but if you want a related post in English asking the same question, well, that's OK too. NYC Mayor Bloomberg teams up with Bill Clinton to take the C-40 cleaner cities initiative global. (WNYC)

The struggling commuter rail line in Minnesota's Twin Cities, the North Star Line, is doing a little better at meeting ridership expectations. Part of the reason is higher gas prices. (Pioneer Press)

Motor Trend tested out the Chevy Volt. After 818.3 miles, the team testing it say they used 6.6 gallons of gas. That's worse than expected. But Motor Trend concludes, it's worth buying. (Motor Trend)

A tougher test for one hybrid vehicle is coming up. A team plans to enter the most punishing race on four wheels, the Dakar Rally, with a hybrid-electric truck. Can the delicate electronics survive the sandy trek? (Autoblog)

Look how shiny and new. San Francisco gets a new airport terminal. (SF Gate)

"The good news is the dam is still there and it's holding steady..." A North Dakota dam is in danger of collapse, which would flood 30 homes. (AP, via Infrastructurist)

Yesterday in this post, we linked to a report that trucking freight was down 1.5 percent in February. So here's some cargo data that points in the opposite economic direction. Rail freight was up 7.9 percent in the last quarter of 2010. (Bloomberg)

The tightly watched ticketing of cyclists in New York City for road offenses continues, now handbags are a hot button issue. The dean of students at an elite prep school was ticketed for riding with a handbag on her handlebars. (NY Post) And apparently, you can blame all the bike beef on Paris. NYC Mayor Bloomberg was smitten with the bike network there after a visit and came back with the idea to replicate it in NYC. (NYT)

Next month, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will deliver the commencement address at Boston College. Chances he tells the graduates not to text and drive? Very high. (Boston Globe) Or maybe he'll tout the good work students can do. Like this impressive bunch form California in a contest to build a vehicle that uses the least fuel possible. Last year's winners got almost 2,500 m.p.g. Yes. 2,500. (Wired)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter

Read More