Argument: Fuel economy standards do not directly reduce emissions
Charli E. Coon, J.D. "Why the Government's CAFE Standards for Fuel Efficiency Should Be Repealed, not Increased". Heritage Foundation. 11 July 2001 - WHY CAFE STANDARDS DO NOT IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT
Proponents of higher CAFE standards contend that increasing fuel economy requirements for new cars and trucks will improve the environment by causing less pollution. This is incorrect.
Federal regulations impose emissions standards for cars and light trucks, respectively. These standards are identical for every car or light truck in those two classes regardless of their fuel economy. These limits are stated in grams per mile of acceptable pollution, not in grams per gallon of fuel burned. Accordingly, a Lincoln Town Car with a V-8 engine may not by law emit more emissions in a mile, or 10 miles, or 1,000 miles, than a Chevrolet Metro with a three-cylinder engine.
As noted by the National Research Council (NRC) in a 1992 report on automobile fuel economy, "Fuel economy improvements will not directly affect vehicle emissions." 15 In fact, the NRC found that higher fuel economy standards could actually have a negative effect on the environment:
- Improvements in vehicle fuel economy will have indirect environmental impacts. For example, replacing the cast iron and steel components of vehicles with lighter weight materials (e.g., aluminum, plastics, or composites) may reduce fuel consumption but would generate a different set of environmental impacts, as well as result in different kinds of indirect energy consumption. 16
Nor will increasing CAFE standards halt the alleged problem of "global warming." Cars and light trucks subject to fuel economy standards make up only 1.5 percent of all global man-made greenhouse gas emissions. According to data published in 1991 by the Office of Technology Assessment,
- A 40 percent increase in fuel economy standards would reduce greenhouse emissions by only about 0.5 percent, even under the most optimistic assumptions. 17
The NRC additionally noted that "greenhouse gas emissions from the production of substitute materials, such as aluminum, could substantially offset decreases of those emissions achieved through improved fuel economy." 18