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U.S. Fuel Economy Standards Led To Big Savings, Lower Emissions

The U.S. fuel economy standards, one of the longest-running energy regulations in the United States, have led to big savings for consumers and helped cut greenhouse gas emissions and America’s reliance on foreign oil producers over the past four decades, Princeton University researchers found in a recent assessment of the standards.

According to the paper of Princeton University researchers, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards, enacted in 1975, have saved US$5 trillion in fuel costs and prevented 14 billion metric tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere, the equivalent of the U.S. eliminating its emissions from all sectors for nearly three years.

In the United States, the transportation sector accounts for the largest part of greenhouse gas emissions, 28 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has sought to roll back fuel efficiency standards, drawing criticism from many U.S. states and from environmentalists.

Now the Princeton University researchers found in their study that the fuel economy standards have been primarily responsible for saving 2 trillion gallons of gas since 1975.  

According to the analysis in the paper, fuel savings have exceeded the cost of improving fuel economy, traffic safety has improved, and the impact on vehicle travel has been small.

“It has been one of the most effective policies to date,” said study co-author Judi Greenwald, a former top U.S. Department of Energy official and non-resident fellow at the Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

A previous study led by David Greene of the University of Tennessee showed that over the lifetime of the standards, the technology for fuel efficiency raised the cost of cars by an average of US$4,800, but led to as much as US$16,000 in savings for consumers at the pump, Princeton University said.

The latest Princeton University study was published right about the time when a U.S. appeals court overturned earlier this week a 2019 rule of the Trump Administration looking to delay the doubling of penalties for carmakers who are not meeting the efficiency standards.

By Charles Kennedy for

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