U.S. lags in a global race for fuel efficiency
Driving down greenhouse gas emissions with more fuel-efficient vehicles may be the world's greatest opportunity to combat climate change, but it will take a truly global effort to get there.
As the global middle class expands, more and more people will seek the freedom of mobility. But the more cars there are, the worse traffic jams, air quality, oil demand and greenhouse gas emissions will become.
The United States recently completed historic new fuel economy standards, but the aggressive increase in international vehicle sales could undermine any environmental benefits derived from them
"We believe we're at an energy crossroads and the stakes are high," said Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the Department of Energy, at the 5th International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle Conference earlier this month. "The global transportation system has really never challenged our economic and environmental security more than it does today."
Despite expected increases in fuel economy, the world will need to develop twice the amount of oil currently being developed in the Middle East to meet growing demand, nearly all of which will come from emerging economies, she said. The political and economic risks will increase as demand grows, she added. And the environment will suffer, too.
According to the International Energy Agency, transportation currently produces about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that figure is en route to double by midcentury without major advances in fuel economy.
But, independent of any formal international negotiations, policies are being implemented to confront these challenges in both wealthy and emerging economies.