Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fuel Efficiency Standards to Help Go Green(washing)

Are the U.S.’s new fuel standards just a go go green-washing scheme?

Let’s say you are putting your best foot forward and trying to go green in one of the toughest areas to do so, transportation. Some cities have extensive public transit systems, well-connected bike routes, or beautiful walking paths. Unfortunately, countries like the United States’ built environment are more recent and consequently structured around the automobile. In fact, the entire city of Los Angeles was planned in a whopping 30 minutes with a grid that is easy for cars to navigate. Public transit, common spaces, and walk and bike routes were not included in the sketch that has formed the City. So what is a go green enthusiast to do when they are grid-locked in a car-centric world?

Well, one solution is to invest in an electric or hybrid vehicle. The other auto-centric solution is to invest in a highly efficient vehicle. Governments point to fuel standards as a way to identify the suggested progress of engine efficiency, and therefore reduce an automobiles environmental impact. The US government struggled to pass new fuel efficiency standards in 2009 and most recently published even higher standards for the future. These standards, called the Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE, are set at around 27 for light cars and now up to 34 for the year 2016. Sound impressive? Its not.

Shortly after the US published their 27 mpg standard, a number proposed over ten years ago as an acceptable level, they were showed up by China. China now has one of the most aggressive fuel economy standards (FES) on the market, with a projected 42 mpg by 2015 behind the long-time leaders Japan and Europe.

What does this mean for the go green, ethical consumer? When making automobile decisions, don’t rely on the government to push the automobile industry to create efficient vehicles.

The movie “Who Killed the Electric Car” illustrated the long-term struggle of environmental advocates for clean air quality. After the state of California passed aggressive legislation in response to air quality and climate change concerns, pushing the auto industry to create efficient and electric vehicles, the controversy began. Concerted efforts to downplay the importance of the issue and the ability of the auto industry to not only comply but excel, but choosing not to.

When you are listing ways to go green, your transportation choices can have a major impact. Air travel has the most significant impact given the location of the emissions, yet every aspect of our lifestyles can always be tuned to reduce our impact. It is nice to see the US finally jump on board in terms of reasonable, yet definitely not aggressive, fuel standards.

Cheers to a reduced environmental impact through regulation and ethical consumption!

Photo Credit:
Crossroads Creative

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