CHICAGO One of the three pillars of President Obamas climate action plan is to cut U.S. carbon emissions by implementing strict fuel economy regulations for U.S. vehicles.
While this is a sound objective, the strategy to meet this objective is seriously flawed, Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), said in a statement.
Under the plan, the Obama administration failed to consider total emissions during the entire lifecycle of a vehicle, instead focusing on the tailpipe, or emissions that occur while the vehicle is being driven, he said.
As vehicles become lighter and engine technologies advance, tailpipe emissions become a much smaller part of the total, according to SMDI.
Citing studies by the University of California-Davis and UC-Santa Barbara, Kavanagh said that emissions from materials and vehicle manufacturing can be half of a vehicles total emissions, but regulations that ignore this significant portion of a vehicles total emissions may not achieve the desired environmental result, particularly as vehicles become more fuel efficient.
SMDI said it supports vehicle regulations that consider emissions from all phases of a vehicles life: manufacturing, use and end-of-life disposal.
Many materials used for vehicle lightweighting and in alternative drivetrains produce such high emissions when they are made that they may not be overcome by savings during the driving phase, Kavanagh said.
Considering tailpipe emissions alone may result in a net increase in vehicle emissions, which is why the only way to ensure a reduction in emissions is to regulate total, or life cycle, vehicle emissions, Kavanagh said.
Regulators in the United States and European Union have fallen into the trap of waiting for each other to go first in implementing life cycle based regulations, Kavanagh said. The concepts are well known, so lets work out the details to get it right.