A report by the ecofriendly World Resources Institute threatens to undermine claims of congressional Democrats that boosting fuel efficiency standards for cars is a critical step in the fight to curb global warming.
In Bali, where international climate negotiators are wrangling over a post-Kyoto climate agreement, WRI presented a new report stating that proposed fuel efficiency standards in the United States and the European Union will not reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks over the long term.
"Total emissions from this part of the transport sector are dependent on how many people drive, what they drive, and how they drive," said Lee Schipper, author of the report, titled "Automobile Fuel; Economy and CO2 Emissions in Industrialized Countries: Troubling Trends 2005/6." The report argues that a booming population that is increasingly reliant on automobiles, as well as real-world traffic conditions and poorly maintained vehicles, will all serve to undercut fuel efficiency gains.
"The current proposals are not enough," Schipper says. "Meanwhile, the number of people driving, and the congestion they drive in, will increase so much that the atmosphere will see greater overall emissions from this sector compared to today, not less." The report also points out it will take at least 15 to 20 years for all vehicles on the road to meet the new standards. The report argues for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector but argues that the best way to make progress is for consumers to purchase lighter vehicles and drive less frequently.