While consumers are happy that oil prices have dropped dramatically in recent months, if people start driving a lot more some worry about the impacts on climate change and conventional pollution.
Since we really don’t want to control people and tell them if and when and where they should drive, this leads us directly back to building better cars that get higher mileage and emit less CO2. So how are we doing on this?
In 2012 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Richard Nixon’s legacy to the nation (well, there’s Watergate, but…) issued a report detailing improvements in automotive performance between 1975 and 2012.
Happy news! Just the one-year improvements between 2011 and 2012 were worth reporting (although I never saw it in the news…). CO2 emissions per mile declined by 7% from 2011 to 2012. Gas mileage improved by 1.2 mpg! Hooray for those in Detroit, Germany and Japan!
But looking at the improvements since 1975 is even more impressive. In 1975 the average CO2 emissions were 681 grams per mile. In 2013 they were 370 grams per mile, a drop of 45%.
Fuel economy went from 13.1 miles per gallon in 1975 to 24.0 mpg in 2013–getting close to a doubling.
You can file this in a category of ‘Good News That Goes Unreported’. In their zeal to get us to support ever more stringent controls on anything we do that emits CO2, there seems to be an earnest desire to never mention anything that is getting better.
Now of course all that efficiency can be outpaced if driving increases. In the U.S., miles driven per year in fact has increased–but slowly. Peak miles driven occurred in 2007 and Americans are driving 60 billion fewer miles right now than they were during the recession.
Good news on the technology! Good news on the environment! Good news on the behavior of the citizens of the U.S.A.!
Not bad for a Wednesday.