regularly publicize new technologies and other activities promising emis-
sions reductions.
Nevertheless, automakers have yet to make significant progress in
cutting CO
2
emissions in the United States, the world’s largest auto market.
With few exceptions, their strategies have made emissions worse. Major
product trends, such as the shift to light trucks, have been driving CO
2
emis-
sions rates higher. Some policies rationalized under the guise of reductions,
such as the FFV credits, are actually aggravating the adverse CO
2
emissions
trends as well as increasing U.S. oil consumption. Although HEVs offer a
ray of hope, assessing their influence using the metric of fleetwide carbon
burden indicates that any one technology, even an advanced and promising
one, can do little to offset broad market trends that continue to push emis-
sions upward.
The missing part of the auto industry’s role in cutting carbon burdens
is a constructive stance on public policy. Government intervention is
essential for resolving the inherent tension between market forces and
nonmarket concerns such as global warming and energy security. As this
analysis has shown, technology strategies alone are unlikely to address the
auto sector’s CO
2
emissions problem. Automakers need to embrace bal-
anced but meaningful regulation in order to be true to their promises to
address these public concerns. There is no other way to break out of the
competitive box that binds product strategies and design priorities to offer-
ing consumers almost every variation imaginable, but doing very little
to address the huge, nonmarket problems of global warming and oil
dependence.
Automakers rightly point out that lack of customer interest is a barrier
to higher fuel economy, in contrast to when CAFE standards were estab-
lished during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Indeed, an extensive public educa-
tion effort to make fuel efficiency matter more to consumers is needed as
part of a broader public strategy to realign market signals and establish U.S.
leadership in addressing oil consumption and global warming. The auto
industry’s cooperation and expertise could help guide such endeavors, but
effective steps seem unlikely until automakers take a more positive
approach in helping establish a binding U.S. greenhouse gas reduction
policy. A good faith effort on the industry’s part would open the door to
developing more comprehensive solutions for the cars versus climate
challenge.
References
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Hellman, K., and R. M. Heavenrich. Light-Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy
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86 Driving Climate Change
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2005.
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