Mandating more cuts in carbon emissions for America by implementing stricter fuel economy regulations is one of the three pillars of the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan but Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), said "while this is a sound objective, the Administration's strategy to meet this objective is seriously flawed."
Kavanagh says new vehicle regulations which only consider tailpipe emissions are less relevant as vehicles get lighter and engine technologies advance. Citing studies by the University of California-Davis and University of California-Santa Barbara, he noted emissions from materials and vehicle manufacturing can be half of a vehicle's total emissions. Regulatory systems that "ignore this significant portion of a vehicle's total emissions" may not achieve the desired environmental result, especially as vehicles become more fuel efficient. SMDI supports vehicle regulations that consider emissions from all phases of a vehicle's 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," said Kavanagh. "Considering only tailpipe emissions 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."
"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," said Kavanagh. "The concepts are well known, so let's work out the details to get it right."
Information on using a life cycle approach to emissions instead of simplistic MPG goals are available here.