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
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
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.