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March 24, 2010

Obama Administration Swings for the Fences on Emissions!

Guest Entry by: Branden Grubb, Energy Intern

Baseball season is right around the corner, and with the upcoming release of historic new vehicle standards, the Obama Administration is set to hit a grand slam. These standards will increase the efficiency of our vehicles, resulting in billions in consumer savings at the pump, reducing oil dependence by nearly two billion barrels, slashing global warming pollution and leading to a more competitive, sustainable auto industry (count it, those are four things!). The Administration set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by implementing new standards that will raise passenger vehicle fuel economy to a fleet average of 35.5 mpg by 2016 - a move that will require the Department of Transportation to work with the Environmental Protection Agency who is responsible for setting new greenhouse gas standards. The new standard will be 250 grams of greenhouse gases per mile. Kudos to President Obama - whose proposal is the single biggest step that the U.S. has ever taken to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The current demand for reduced greenhouse gas emissions has sent automakers back to the drawing board. Considering the proposed emissions standards of the Obama Administration, automakers will be forced to create new fuel efficient vehicles. Since vehicle emissions account for one third of all carbon dioxide emissions, the U.S. needs to move forward in creating low carbon fuel and electric vehicles that will deliver results.  Wouldn’t it be nice to develop technology that could reduce emissions to the equivalent of wiping 177 million vehicles off of the roads? Several recent studies have suggested that this is a possibility. One setback is consumers want a fuel efficient vehicle that maintains current performance standards.

Current ideas suggest reducing vehicle weight in order to obtain optimal mpgs. In order to reduce vehicle weight, an advanced design that incorporates lighter, stronger materials such as advanced high strength steels (AHSS) must be considered. Less vehicle weight means less power required to accelerate the vehicle. Less power required to accelerate the vehicle mean less fuel used. Less fuel used means less carbon dioxide emissions. Let’s go one further, if a light weight vehicle is developed that doesn’t require as much power – then why not downsize the engine to base performance? This would not only greatly increase vehicle miles per gallon, but would also meet the current performance standards – hopefully making everyone happy. A downsized engine combined with the use of low carbon fuels could be a compelling force in meeting emissions standards.  

The only thing left is doing our part to curb global warming – and the possibilities are seemingly endless. A few simple ways to do our part are using cruise control, checking tire pressure, proper vehicle maintenance (tune ups, service and lube), and walking or riding your bike on a short commute. Since commuting accounts for one third of carbon dioxide emissions, something has to be done. Perhaps getting into the market for a new hybrid or fuel efficient vehicle?


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