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More Than 100 Economists Endorse Stronger Fuel Efficiency and Auto Pollution Standards

Auto Pollution

Washington – More than 100 economists issued a letter on June 7 calling for stronger pollution and fuel efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks sold in model years 2017 through 2025. They said that stronger standards would protect consumers, strengthen energy security, generate new jobs, and reduce global warming emissions. 

The letter, which was sent to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board -the three agencies developing the standards – was signed by 114 economists from across the country, including Nobel Prize-winner Kenneth Arrow, a Stanford University economist. 

“Strong, cost-effective standards will provide consumers with a wider choice of cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles that save drivers money,” the economists’ letter stated. “In the absence of standards, market barriers prevent drivers from realizing these savings, leaving drivers without the options they need to respond to volatile and rising gasoline prices. Standards are the right policy approach given the realities of this marketplace.” 

The economists also noted that the United States sends $ 1 billion daily to foreign countries for oil, and that “[O]ur continued dependence on oil puts our economy at risk from the effects of oil price volatility and energy insecurity.” 

The three agencies are expected to release proposed standards in September. Based on their initial technical assessment report, the strongest standards under consideration would reduce new vehicle global warming pollution 6 percent per year, equivalent to a fuel efficiency standard of approximately 60 miles per gallon by 2025. The weakest proposal would only require a 3 percent annual reduction.   

The economists stressed that strong standards would generate new jobs by encouraging innovation and investments in new technology. 

“To remain competitive, the American auto industry must invest in innovation through the production of clean, fuel-efficient vehicles,” said letter co-signer Robert Richardson, an economist at Michigan State University. “Strong standards will push the industry to regain that technology lead.”

Finally, strong standards would help reduce the heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming by boosting fuel efficiency, improving vehicle air conditioning systems, and encouraging the use of low-carbon fuels. For example, every gallon of gas burned is responsible for about 25 pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2), the main pollutant causing climate change. A spring 2011 UCS analysis (“Strong Auto Standards to Save Consumers over $ 600 Billion”) concluded that the strongest standards under consideration would avoid 3.3 billion metric tons of global warming pollution between 2017 and 2025 – the equivalent to taking all of today’s cars and light trucks off the road for more than two years.

“Current and projected climate change impacts pose significant risks to public health, the economy, and the environment,” the economists said. “Delaying action now and waiting for the future before initiating accelerated action to reduce global warming emissions would be more costly than initiating action now.”

The full text of the letter is available online:

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About UCS
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.ucsusa.org.

Source: UCS.