We depend on these vehicles to take our kids to school, get the goods we order online, and collect our trash. But they also have a big impact when it comes to oil use: heavy-duty vehicles collectively make up 7 percent of traffic on American roads, but account for over 25 percent of the fuel used to travel them. Trucks may be relatively small in number, but large in impact, and there is more we can do to increase their efficiency and reduce the pollution they create.
Today as the President reaffirmed his commitment to cutting oil use and global warming pollution, he started the wheels in motion on a process that should culminate in proposed standards early next year. Setting strong efficiency standards for trucks is part of a suite of proposals the President included as part of his Climate Action Plan last year, as well as an essential part of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Half the Oil plan. In addition to new efficiency/emission standards, there are other initiatives the President announced today that include additional research dollars for new truck technology and fleet purchase incentives as the more efficient trucks roll out.
UCS applauded today’s announcement and the President’s commitment to cleaning up our trucking fleet, but the real work is still to come in making this commitment a reality. We will be generating analysis on the potential benefits of the new standards as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation develop the standards over the coming months.
We know from policies already on the books that the potential benefits are considerable. The first ever fuel efficiency/emission standards for heavy duty trucks enacted just two years ago and covering trucks sold between 2014 and 2018—will, when fully implemented:
Our analysis shows that standards that go beyond 2018 could realize even greater oil savings and emissions reductions than the first round by considering the full vehicle (both tractor and trailer) and technologies coming online over the next decade. In addition, according to the analysis in our Half the Oil plan, improving the fuel efficiency of all types of heavy-duty trucks could reduce oil consumption by 1 million barrels a day in 2035, more than the maximum capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline.
There is a lot of work to do to ensure that the new standards are as robust as they need to be. But with today’s announcement we are clearly “truckin” in the right direction.]]>
We are good at making the case for policy based on the best science by crunching the numbers, but reducing air pollution from cars and trucks is not just a numbers game. Yes, the numbers are impressive: according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the proposed standards would prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 3,200 hospital admissions and 22,000 asthma attacks each year and by 2030, Tier 3 will result in up to $23 billion in annual health care savings.
But most importantly, those numbers represent real people with real health issues living in communities suffering from ongoing pollution problems. Last fall, we asked UCS supporters to write to the editors of their local newspapers about why cleaner cars and fuel matters to their families and their communities. Hundreds of people from all over the country responded with very personal reasons why strengthened clean car and fuel standards are important to them. Here are just a few of their stories.
Ria Tanz Kubota of El Sobrante, California and her daughter and grandson all live in an area surrounded by packed freeways and oil refineries. The other thing they have in common is that they all suffer from asthma. As Ria put it in her letter in the Contra Costa Times,
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Tier 3 air quality standards could save our lives and the lives of the children in our area. The oil industry would try to convince the very citizens its pollution sickens that it can’t afford Tier 3 standards — at 1 cent per gallon of gas…
Our kids deserve to breathe more than oil companies deserve one penny more profit.”
Unfortunately, air pollution problems aren’t isolated to the refinery communities of California, but rather face Americans from coast to coast. As Albert Collins of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania wrote about the air quality challenges in his home county,
“As a native Pittsburgher and an asthmatic, I hope that the EPA will pass the tier III gasoline standards to make our air cleaner and healthier… Allegheny County fails to meet federal air quality standards, threatening our health and especially that of the most vulnerable. I stand with the automakers, labor unions, consumer groups, public health and science advocates who support steps to clean up one of the primary causes of dirty air: the cars and trucks we drive every day.”
Kent O’Quinn of Salt Lake City, Utah should be enjoying a winter wonderland in and around his home but instead he had this to say about the particular air pollution challenges his community faces,
“Every winter, when the temperatures and temperaments are at their lowest points, we find ourselves struggling to breathe the very air around us. We know this toxic cloud as “the inversion,” and have come to simply take it for granted, like it’s a perfectly natural and manageable thing. It is neither.
The oil companies have the technology to dramatically clean up the pollution caused by cars, a major contributor to our ever browner and more hazardous inversions.”
Doctors and health experts in Utah and across the country are working every day to limit pollution from our vehicles and fuels, and that’s why health professionals are leading supporters of the Tier 3 standards.
Dr. Leng Ky, an anesthesiologist who lives in San Diego sees the impact of air pollution every day in his work, but he also sees the promise of reducing emissions through cleaner vehicle and fuel technology. As he explained,
“We are on the cusp a new age in the automobile, Tesla has produced an expensive but truly impressive luxury sedan, Nissan has a very good commuter car in the Leaf, and even the Volt is a reasonable electric choice. On the horizon are better electrics and plug-ins which will bring the cost down and increase the visibility.
These advances will be substantially hindered if we backpedal on tailpipe emissions and lower our standards for gasoline. As a physician who takes care of patients daily with respiratory diseases, I know how much more difficult it is on the patient when the air quality is poor. If we can improve the air on a daily basis all the people I take care of will literally breathe easier.”
These are just a few among hundreds of personal reasons why swift finalization of these standards must be a priority for policy-makers. You can add your voice tomorrow, when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy takes to twitter to talk about the impacts of air pollution on our families. If you follow the hash tag #cleanairmoms at 2 pm EST on Wednesday, January 8, you can ask Administrator McCarthy about how EPA is working to move ahead with key pollution-cutting programs like Tier 3, and share your personal story. You can also write a letter directly to Administrator McCarthy, at any time, calling on EPA to put Tier 3 into action.
EPA has a chance to start the new year with a real victory for clean air and public health. Strong clean car and fuel standards will make a critical difference in the lives of many struggling with the impact of pollution on their families and communities.]]>
As Kurt Straif of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) put it, “We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.” Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatics at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, put a finer point on what this means: “You can choose not to drink or not to smoke, but you can’t control whether or not you’re exposed to air pollution.”
Far too many of us are exposed to — and contribute to — this dangerous pollution every day. One in three Americans live in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards, and passenger cars and trucks are a major culprit. In fact, passenger vehicles are the second largest emitters of nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — the primary pollutants that form smog — in the U.S. These vehicles emit more than half of all carbon monoxide pollution and contribute significantly to particulate matter emissions. The WHO announcement is a timely reminder that addressing vehicle pollution must be a priority for the federal regulators charged with protecting our health and air quality.
Here’s the good news — the EPA has developed a new rule to address vehicle pollution. Earlier this year, the EPA published a proposal to reduce smog-forming pollution from cars and trucks, known as the Tier 3 standards. These cleaner gasoline and vehicle standards will reduce air pollution to protect health and save lives, and create thousands of new jobs in an ailing economy. The sooner these standards are adopted the sooner we will see real pollution reductions, and that’s why it is critical that the Administration finalize Tier 3 as quickly as possible.
The EPA and the White House have many priorities on their plates, but few compare to Tier 3 when it comes to potential health and air quality benefits — and at such low cost. The standards will cut harmful emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds by approximately 80% from today’s fleet average. Additionally, vehicles would emit 70% less particulate matter, and toxic pollutants such as benzene would be reduced by nearly 40%. The Tier 3 program is expected to reduce the average gasoline sulfur concentration from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 10ppm. This decrease in sulfur will reduce pollution from all cars and trucks on the road by improving the performance of the emission control equipment under the hood.
Most importantly, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the proposed standards would prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 3,200 hospital admissions and 22,000 asthma attacks each year. By 2030, Tier 3 will result in up to $23 billion in annual health care savings.
The WHO finding on air pollution and the fact that EPA has proposed new tailpipe and fuel standards deserves more attention in the media, and we need to keep the pressure on to finalize the standards. You can help shine a light on these important developments by sending a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper with the talking points we’ve put together. Believe it or not, even in today’s digital media landscape, LTEs are still one of the most widely read aspects of the news media. Help us tell the story of the dangers of air pollution and the need to reduce emissions from cars and trucks by finalizing the new standards in the next few months.]]>
New car buyers not only have more choices, but also have better information on which to base their new car purchase decisions, thanks to improved fuel economy labels developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011. So where does that leave someone looking to purchase a used car? Out of luck, when it comes to good information on how far that vehicle can go on a gallon of gas and what that might mean in terms of global warming emissions. That is, until yesterday.
The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency just announced the release of a new fuel economy tool for used vehicles. You can check it out at www.fueleconomy.gov. Consumers looking to purchase a used car, and auto dealers and individuals looking to sell, can use the tool to estimate the fuel economy and global warming emissions of any vehicle, based on the original EPA fuel economy estimate of that vehicle. The tool then generates a label with this information; the electronic version can be linked to online advertisements and a paper version can be printed and posted on a vehicle window. The tool is easy to use and it only takes about 30 seconds to get this important information – as I learned when I tried it out myself!
This new tool will help consumers find a used car that can save them money at the pump, reduce their oil use, and their global warming pollution – really a classic win-win-win situation. According to the Consumer Federation of America, some 75% of car buyers in the market choose used vehicles. With so many potential customers, the real question is whether these new labels will actually be put to use by used car dealers. As fuel economy standards increase over the next several years, so too will the value of accessible information about the fuel economy performance of vehicles in both the new and used car markets. But consumers can’t benefit from information they don’t know exists. Auto dealers have a great new tool in their toolbox – let’s hope they use it.]]>
Known in regulatory parlance as Tier 3, the new standards require reductions of smog-forming pollution from cars and trucks and significant cuts in the sulfur content in gasoline. As you may have surmised, these standards are the third in a series of rules (after Tier 1 and Tier 2) – and they build on the cost-effective success of these existing regulations.
So what does Tier 3 mean and why does it matter to communities across the country? Here is a quick snapshot of the proposed standards and their many benefits:
Sounds like a win-win situation. In fact, the standards have broad support from science, environmental and health organizations, the United Auto Workers, consumer groups, the manufacturers of emission control technology, and many automakers.
So who would oppose such cost-effective, health protective, job creating, technology enhancing standards? The answer, which may not surprise you, is the oil industry. Oil companies and their allies in Congress have worked hard to stall the proposal of these standards, and they continue to rely on misleading and discredited data that overestimates the standards’ costs. In fact, according to the proposal, it will cost refiners only an additional penny per gallon to reduce the sulfur content of gasoline to the mandated level. That’s a cost they can afford and a small price to pay for the health and economic benefits of Tier 3. But, once again, the oil industry is putting their self-interest over the public interest.
Getting back to the good news – now that the proposal is out, the EPA will be scheduling public hearings and opening up a public comment period. That will be your chance to be part of the growing chorus in support of the standards, so stay tuned to our blog and follow us on twitter (@ucsusa or @ucsrachel) – we will keep you posted on the best way to make your voice heard in the weeks ahead.
We looked at this question in a new report entitled appropriately enough, Where Your Gas Money Goes. This is a particularly timely report given that several major oil companies recently released their earnings for the last quarter of 2012, and their profits soared to new heights. It is also not breaking news that oil companies reap huge benefits from the status quo and invest in obstructing progress toward oil-saving, climate-friendly solutions.
Oil companies have been trying to improve their public image by arguing that these record-breaking earnings benefit the millions of Americans who own stock in oil companies – so go ahead – fill up your gas tank and help out your fellow citizen’s retirement portfolio. But this rhetoric begs the question: Does your oil use benefit you?
In our new report, we calculated how much money an average consumer spends on gas, where that money really goes, and what a consumer can expect in return. It turns out that regardless of how many shares you may own in oil companies, your oil use fails to benefit your bottom line. In fact, the ‘average’ ExxonMobil shareholder gets far less than a penny back in additional dividends from their annual gas expenditures. Even ExxonMobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson, who owns 1.7 million shares of ExxonMobil stock worth almost $150 million, would only get 34 cents back per year from spending money on gas purchased exclusively at Exxon stations.
Everyone’s bottom line, therefore, is better served by spending less money on gas and investing in oil-saving solutions such as fuel-efficient vehicles.
So back to the question of where your money really goes, or doesn’t:
It doesn’t go to gas stations. Out of a $50 fill up, the gas station receives only around 80 cents. (Your local gas station makes more selling soda and half-smokes than on gas.) Instead, two-thirds of the money you spend on gasoline goes to one place – oil companies. Out of the $22,000 spent on gas over the lifetime of an average vehicle, oil companies rake in about $15,000, or 68 percent.
It doesn’t help your retirement bottom-line. While your gas expenditures certainly help the bottom line of oil companies, they don’t help you – even if you own stock in oil companies. If you own an average retirement portfolio that includes $20,000 in oil company stock, after spending close to $2,000 on gas over the course of a year, your oil company stock would yield far less than a penny in return.
Using less oil always pays dividends. Whether you want to invest in oil companies is up to you, but regardless of the number of oil company shares you own, spending money on gas is not a worthwhile investment. Reducing your oil use, on the other hand, pays major dividends. You can save thousands by investing in a fuel efficient vehicle, and save even more by investing in a hybrid vehicle, even after paying for the upfront cost of the hybrid technology. While you may pay $3,500 more for a fuel-efficient vehicle like a Ford Fusion SE Hybrid, you’ll save nearly $9,000 in fueling costs over its lifetime. So which would you prefer, a penny growth in your stock or thousands more in your pockets?
We can 1/2 it! Reducing our oil use is a smart strategy for our pocketbooks, for the climate and our health. Putting efficient technologies and innovative solutions to work, we can cut our projected oil use in half—saving more than 11 million barrels of oil every day by 2035. The oil industry is doing all it can to block progress, so to get to Half the Oil, we need to build a strong and diverse chorus of voices demanding action.
Let’s start by sharing the key findings of this new report with family, friends and colleagues, so we can all better understand where our gas money really goes and what we can do about it. Will you join us?
This isn’t even a case of playing fast and loose with the facts. This is a case of pure fabrication and misrepresentation. Here are the facts:
It is also confusing that Representative Terry is misrepresenting UCS statements and analysis to tout his “leadership” on fuel economy, while he is publicly questioning whether the recently finalized fuel economy/vehicle emissions standards (supported by automakers, labor, consumer and national security groups, and the Union of Concerned Scientists) are good policy.
Our view is that honesty would be his best policy. UCS sent a letter to the Terry campaign on Friday requesting that he refrain from citing our name, analysis, and materials inaccurately, and correct the record. We are awaiting his reply.
For years, my colleagues and I at the Union of Concerned Scientists have been not just dreaming about but working, day in and day out, for a future where cars and trucks go significantly farther on a gallon of gas – actually becoming a part of the solution to our climate and oil problem, not a primary cause.
Today, August 28, 2012, we are taking a major step in that hopeful direction. Today the administration finalized historic new federal automobile standards that will nearly double the average fuel efficiency of new passenger vehicles by 2025. This is one of the biggest steps ever taken to reduce U.S. oil use and a huge step on the path toward cutting the country’s projected oil use in half within 20 years.
Under the new standards, the result of a widely-supported agreement between automakers, the White House, and California state officials, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) for new cars and light trucks will climb to about 50 miles per gallon (mpg) and global warming pollution levels for the new vehicle fleet will tighten to an average of 163 grams-per-mile by model year 2025.
These standards, combined with the set of standards the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation enacted for model years 2012 through 2016, will produce tremendous benefits if they are implemented without opening up loopholes in the program in the years ahead.
UCS analysis shows the combined standards will:
In addition to helping to shield consumers from volatile gas prices, strong standards will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs around the country.
To meet strong standards, we need solid auto engineering and manufacturing, not rocket science, and that means jobs both in the auto industry and industries that supply them. From new jobs at a Ford plant in Ohio and GM plants in Tennessee to satisfy demand for fuel efficient gasoline models, to ramped up production of hybrid transmissions at Ford’s Van Dyke plant in Detroit — these standards will drive innovation and be a true win-win.
Consumers who have been waiting for cleaner choices and care about saving oil and money will have more options across vehicle classes, and the talented engineers and production line workers who are building these vehicles and helping transform the market will have money in their pockets. And because consumers will be spending less on oil, they can spend more on the things they need and enjoy, from food and education to buying gifts for their family, which will lead to more jobs throughout the nation. After all, “spending $1 on almost anything in the U.S. economy is better than spending it on gasoline or oil when it comes to jobs!”
The best thing about this “dream come true” is that UCS supporters across the country helped make it a reality. UCS supporters and hundreds of thousands of other concerned citizens have been demanding tougher standards for years, and weighed in at every step in the policy process. You have helped shape our transportation future and put us on a path to cutting our oil use in half in the next 20 years. Oil companies are making record profits from the status quo and will fight against the change we are seeking, so I hope this important victory inspires you to keep working with us on the efficiency and innovation policies we need to stay on a path of real progress!]]>
Court upholds endangerment finding
On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding that carbon pollution and global warming constitute a threat to public health – the finding that led EPA to propose the first ever carbon emissions standards for cars and trucks. Opponents had argued that EPA was operating under a faulty interpretation of the Clean Air Act and improperly relying on assessments of climate science from a variety of sources. The Court dismissed these arguments, often repeated by climate deniers like VA Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, outright saying, “EPA’s interpretation of the governing Clean Air Act provisions is unambiguously correct.”
The court went a step further in support of the agency’s scientific analysis, adding, “EPA simply did here what it and other decision makers often must do to make a science-based judgment. This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question”.
The question of EPA’s ability to regulate vehicle carbon emissions is put to rest!
The American auto industry is back…
Yesterday, I attended a White House event celebrating the remarkable resurgence of the auto industry. The event featured leaders from the auto industry, labor, and local communities discussing the role of the proposed fuel economy and emissions standards, set to be finalized this summer, in job creation in the automobile and supply chain communities. Speakers emphasized how the standards will drive industry to innovate and develop transformative automotive technologies. Mike Gamella from UAW Local 1250 told the story of how Ford’s Eco-Boost technology – which uses conventional technology to maximize efficiency – has helped revitalize production at his plant in Cleveland, Ohio, and is helping to revitalize the city.
We need to hear more stories like Mike’s, and in future years there may be hundreds of thousands of them. On Tuesday, the Blue Green Alliance (of which UCS is a member) – released a new report, Gearing Up: Smart Standards Create Good Jobs Building Cleaner Cars showing that up to 570,000 American jobs will be created by 2030 as a direct result of the administration’s proposed 2017-2025 fuel economy/global warming pollution standards. This includes 50,000 new jobs in light-duty vehicle manufacturing and assembly alone. In addition to the jobs created, the study reaffirms that the standards will save drivers significant money at the pump, help reduce oil use, and open new markets abroad for U.S. automakers. More good news!
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill
But turning to the House of Representatives reminds us that we haven’t won this fight just yet. In deliberations over the annual appropriations for EPA this week, Republicans on the House Appropriations committee proposed an amendment that would prohibit EPA from spending money on developing or finalizing global warming pollution standards for vehicles after model year 2016. The amendment passed by a vote of 26-18. Fortunately, this House action is not likely to make any headway in the Senate, but it’s a startling reminder that we have to continue fighting for clean car standards.
Which of these things is not like the other?? Though this vote shows the true stripes of some in the House, they are clearly out of step given the strong, diverse support for the clean car standards that we are seeing across Washington and across the country. It’s time to finalize these standards and continue taking steps to cut our nation’s oil use in half in 20 years.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives will consider HR 4480 – Domestic Energy and Jobs Act – or DEJA. It’s aptly named, because as Yogi Berra would say, it certainly feels like “deja-vu all over again” – with fossil fuel lobbyists and their Congressional allies once again attempting to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency by using false claims about the impacts that future standards could have on gas prices.
While providing no discernible impact on gas prices, Title II of the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act – which has been referred to as the Gasoline Regulations Act – would significantly diminish crucial public health benefits for all Americans. Among other provisions, this legislation would delay the “Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards” (or the Tier 3 program).
The Tier 3 program, currently being considered by the EPA, would reduce the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline and set fleet-wide emission limits on new vehicles. By addressing engines and fuels together, the Tier 3 program would realize more efficient and economical emission reductions than if treated separately.
The Tier 3 program would significantly cut emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. According to a study released by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) in October 2011, these reductions would avoid more than 400 premature deaths and 52,000 lost workdays each year. That same study finds that the cleaner gasoline needed to secure these clean air benefits would cost less than a penny a gallon.
Just last week, Navigant Economics confirmed the results of the NACAA study concluding that not only would reducing the sulfur content of fuel cost less than one cent per gallon, but also that these costs would not be passed along to the consumer. Additionally, the study found that the Tier 3 program “would decrease smog, generate billions of dollars in health and economic benefits, and create thousands of new jobs.”
There’s no magic fix that will make gas cheaper overnight, but blocking science-based environmental regulations will not ease pain at the pump. Taking steps today to cut your own gasoline use and supporting a plan to cut projected U.S. oil use in half in 20 years will help insulate us from even higher gas prices as we scrape increasingly expensive and dirty oil from the bottom of the barrel.
Tell your Member of Congress: Don’t block standards that protect our health and the environment. Vote no on HR 4880 – the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act.