CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICEMarch 6, 2017 Standards on car emissions hurt industry, but help communities

The Environmental Protection Agency may loosen regulations on car emissions standards, including the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) legislation which binds automakers to a significant improvement in fuel efficiency by 2025. Cornell University experts comment on what this means for the environment, and the industry.

Max Zhang, associate professor of engineering and a fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, studies the effects of airborne particulate matters and gaseous pollutants on air quality, climate change and the ecosystem. He says that withdrawing the 2025 CAFE standards hurts communities, already struggling to mitigate climate change.


Zhang says:

“Withdrawing the 2025 CAFE standards jeopardizes community efforts to mitigate climate change.

“Many cities and towns in the U.S. strive to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in their communities. Since only federal government can regulate fuel efficiency, many communities rely on the 2025 CAFE standards to achieve their emissions reduction targets.

“For example, our analysis shows that the 2025 CAFE standards alone can lead to up to 40 percent reduction of total GHG emission in Tompkins County of New York by 2050, against the 2008 baseline. In the absence of the 2025 CAFE standards, it will be extremely difficult for Tompkins County, any other community, or the nation as a whole to achieve aggressive GHG emissions reduction target by 2050.”


Arthur Wheaton is an automotive expert and senior extension associate with Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Wheaton says customers’ preferences for larger cars, and the possibility for states to set different standards hinders the ability of automakers to meet fuel economy standards.


Wheaton says:

“What is uncertain for automakers is whether courts will continue to allow California and other states to issue their own environmental standards such as the California Air Resources Board. A key to future profitability for car companies is having time to meet standards.

“If there are different standards for various states or regions, it will make compliance and profitability more difficult. Another factor that has hindered automakers ability to meet fuel economy standards has been the transitioning from a car-based market to a truck/SUV/CUV market.

“Americans have placed more emphasis on larger vehicles and shied away from small fuel efficient cars. That trend has only accelerated with the continued low price of gasoline.”

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