Monday, 13 April 2015

GHG cuts will save 40,000 deaths - EPA

Margo T Oge is proud of her term as former director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the US’s EPA, citing two ‘landmark achievements": reducing emissions from diesel engines, and cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving fuel efficiency for cars running from 2012 to 2025.
The US White House announced at the end of last month (31 March) that the US had submitted its target to the United Nations to reduce its emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce them by 28 per cent.

Interviewed by the Ricardo Quarterly Oge said achieving reductions in emission from diesel engines was “a big effort”.

“It was not supported by the truck engine companies or the oil companies,” she said. “Yet it became one of our most successful programmes and collectively, all the diesel reductions will save 40,000 premature deaths a year.”

She claimed that the US’s mission to reduce GHGs would not have come about without pressure from regulations.

“The momentum we now see to improve economy and reduce GHG emissions – lightweight materials, aluminium, graphite, stop-start, hybrids, improved internal combustion engines, electric vehicles – we would not have seen this progress without regulations.”

Oge added that when she interviewed Cummins’ chief executive officer, Tom, Linebarger, he told her: “In his industry investment for cleaner engines would not have happened without regulations.”

As to saving lives, Ope pointed to a colleague from Corning who had estimated that 1.5 million lives are saved annually as a result of having catalytic converters in cars.

She noted too that thanks to regulation, cars are more durable. 

“The regulations require manufacturers to warranty a number of systems on the cars for eight years,” she said.

But progress had not been achieved without a struggle.

“The oil industry has been the more challenging to work with to develop environmental regulation,” Oge confessed. “In all my 18-year tenure at the office, of all the actions we took to reduce emissions from fuel, they supported only one.”

Another lesson learned, in the US, “is to work with pro-active states like California where the State government often wants to more than the Federal government.”

So is the battle for reduced GHGs now over?

Yes, partly, according to Oge. She notes the current US programme will double fuel economy by 2026 and reduce GHGs emissions from new cars by 50 per cent. But Oge sees trouble ahead.

“The reason I’m saying that is that the 2025 standards require the Federal regulators to conduct a mid-term review in 2018 of all the factors affecting the 2025 standards,” she said. “The understanding is that if all the factors do not play out, there may be some changes to the 2025 standards. With gasoline prices falling, we have seen some suggestions from certain OEMs that the 2025 standards may not be appropriate.”

Oge hinted however that the moves will not be successful as gasoline prices are not going to stay low.

In choosing its CO2-focised strategy, Oge maintained the EPA had evaluated very carefully what the Europeans were doing with their weight-based system.

“We decided that the most effective strategy to reduce GHGs was to encourage weight reduction across the board,” she said. “We chose to regulate cars and light trucks based on their footprint rather than their weight. You don’t want people to build heavier cars.”

Would every automaker have to include EVs just to meet the 2025 standards?

“No,” declared Oge. “We have made certain assumptions for each OEM based on their confidential business plans. The 2025 standards will be met through the use of improved internal combustion engines (ICEs).”

She added that the standards for strong hybrids and EVs are estimated at between one and three per cent.

“What is amazing is that more can be done to improve the ICE beyond what we need for 2025.”

• Meanwhile, in Europe, the latest issue of Ricardo Quarterly also notes that new European regulations will allow “longer and more rounded cab designs” for commercial vehicles allowing drivers a better all-round view so as to improve safety to pedestrians and cyclists.

The European legislators had hoped originally to have the new designs on the roads by 2017 but the Ricardo Quarterly notes “the proposals have been strongly resisted by truck makers who wanted implementation postponed until 2025 at the earliest.”

Under the compromise agreement, the changes will take effect in 2022 though the exact sequence will depend on the Commission’s vehicle safety update scheduled for 2016.

Trucks make up three per cent of vehicles on EU roads but account for 25 per cent of Europe’s transport-related emissions. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) International Transport Forum has forecast that freight emissions will rise by 286 oer cent by the middle of the century and overtake passenger cars as the biggest source of CO2 in the transport sector.

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