Fuel Efficiency

CAFE Standards

The Road to Fuel EfficiencyBy Adriana Lenarczyk

Second in a five-part series on climate change issues.

Happy Climate Week, everybody!

So, I was standing on the subway on my way to work (chances are you don’t get to sit down on your crowded morning commute from Bushwick, Brooklyn) and as I stood squished between a businessman and a street punk, I found myself missing the privacy and freedom of my car back in Portland, OR. Steel-grey 2009 Jetta, heated seats (!), the incredible amount of trunk space, and 27 miles to the gallon (which was pretty good back then).

And that got me thinking of sky-high gas prices in New York City. Which got me thinking about my boyfriend’s gas-guzzling SUV that got 15 mpg. Which made me cringe at the thought of the cost of gas for our backpacking trip to Vermont this weekend. Which made me wonder:

Why don’t we just trade these enormous hunks of steel for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars? I mean, are people buying them? Wait, no, are car manufacturers actually producing more fuel-efficient vehicles??

And just then, I learned about CAFE standards—

CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy, are regulations that were first enacted by Congress in 1975, intending to improve the average fuel economy of cars and “light trucks” (i.e. trucks, vans, and SUVs) sold in the United States.

In 2009, President Obama proposed a new national fuel economy program which adopts federal standards to regulate both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. The program covers years 2012 to 2016, and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016 (39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks), which is a pretty decent jump from the current average of 29 mpg. The result of all this is a projected reduction in oil consumption of about 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program and a projected total reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 900 million metric tons.

So if you’re thinking of buying a new car consider an electric vehicle. The U.S. government offers a $7,500 federal tax credit with the purchase of a new Tesla acquired for personal use. In Southern California, where my parents live, electric vehicle purchasers are eligible for a rebate up to $2,500 from the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) until funds are exhausted. Currently there are no state incentives for New York, but things may change.

More information on EPA Fuel Economy can be found at: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

To read the entire proposed rule for carbon pollution emission guidelines, please visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/18/2014-13726/carbon-pollution-emission-guidelines-for-existing-stationary-sources-electric-utility-generating#h-13

About the Author: Adriana Lenarczyk wrote this as an intern in EPA’s Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Adriana is originally from the West Coast.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Rollin Down the Highway

Ah it’s summer time again and with it hundreds of thousands of families hitting the road in the Family Truckster.  Many will probably use GPS units, but some will head out with the old stand-by, a folded Interstate map.  If you are like me, you were taught that Kansas’ native son Dwight Eisenhower helped to create the system, of which a primary purpose was to improve the mobility of troops in times of war.  Apparently the other thing I learned (that it is law that once every five miles the road must be straight so planes could land) was actually an urban legend.

Interstates are often the most visible geospatial feature on the maps that we construct, and in fact it is tough for me to imagine a road map without the tell-tale red white and blue shield, yet this wasn’t always the case. Check out this original map from 1947 laying out what would be the Interstate System.   Ten years later in 1957, an official numbering scheme was developed, and for a bit of local flavor, check out this video circa 1961 from the Department of Commerce talking about the new Interstate in Kansas City entitled the, “Path to Prosperity” which expounds the virtues (some which are obviously dated) of I-35 in Kansas City.

Thankfully, summer vacations no longer require gassing up every fourth exit or so due to increasing fuel efficiency.  EPA is responsible for providing the fuel economy data that is used by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to publish the annual Fuel Economy Guide.  You can access the guide here. It is a good resource if you are looking to pick up a new or used vehicle or want to ground truth your own vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

This brings me back to the family vacation; before you head out on the road make the most of your trip by planning ahead to save both gasoline and money.  You might just want to get an old service station map to plot your course, circle the roadside attractions you want to visit, and scribble notes.  Trust me a crumpled, folded, stained, marked-up map makes a great thing to throw in your kids’ memory box to remind them of your trip to Region 7 to see the largest ball of twine (I’ll let you decide whether it is the one in Cawker City, KS or Branson, MO…better yet visit them both).

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Summer Tips: Get That Car Ready Before You Hit The Road

By Lina Younes

Summer is my favorite time of year. Days are longer. There are more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends. As some of you may be planning a family road trip this summer, there is one thing that you should consider as part of your travel preparations. If you’re driving, make sure the car is ready to hit the road.

Proper car maintenance will make your car more fuel efficient, save you money and protect the environment by producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping tires properly inflated is a simple step that can go a long way to improve fuel efficiency and enhance your safety on the road as well. By following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule you’ll also reduce the overall wear and tear of the vehicle.

Do you want another useful tip to increase your gas mileage without any additional cost? No, you won’t find it in a store. Simply obey the speed limit! Avoid sudden stops and hard accelerations. Aggressive driving only wastes gas, increases emissions, and makes you waste money at the pump.

So, simple steps can go a long way to have a great summer this year. Do you have any special plans? We will love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greater Fuel Efficiency Has Many Benefits

By Cristall Grant

Early in his term, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,” which sets sustainability goals for federal agencies and focuses on greening the government.  EPA is implementing this in many ways, including through the management of our fleet of vehicles leased from the General Services Administration. Here in Region 2, employees often use these government-owned vehicles to drive to sites, conduct sampling or inspections, or attend public meetings. As the leases for EPA Region 2 vehicles expire, we are moving toward more fuel efficient vehicles.

What are the benefits to increased fuel efficiency?  For EPA, it reduces our reliance on gasoline, trims our operating costs and shrinks our environmental footprint.  For the community, it means that we are putting less green house gases in the air and that we are contributing less to smog that impacts our air quality and health.

Our fleet also consists of some hybrid vehicles now, which is a great thing.  This is better for the environment and, in general, a smart buy for many reasons:

  • There’s a federal tax deduction for hybrid buyers. Fact is, since 2004, hybrid vehicle buyers received a $1,500 federal tax break
  • Drivers don’t need to change their habits at all. You don’t have to learn anything or do anything different to drive a hybrid.
  • You won’t have a guilty conscience for polluting the environment – hybrids emit up to 97% less toxic emissions and half as much carbon dioxide as the average car.

The EPA fleet makes it easier on the environment and riders.  Fuel efficient cars can save you money on gas, while saving the environment from greenhouse gas emissions.

As the summer approaches, and you start thinking about jumping in your car and heading on vacation, I hope you, too, will think about the benefits of greater fuel efficiency.  For my job, I have researched fuel efficient compact cars and even newly introduced electric vehicles. You can do your own research by checking out EPA’s Green Vehicle site to look at new cars and their fuel efficiency. You can even compare it to your current set of wheels!

About the author: Cristall Grant started her career at EPA in the Student Career Experience Program with EPA Headquarters in 2008.  She now is a full-time employee in the Facilities and Management Branch in Region 2’s NY office.  Cristall has a degree in Finance and Management and is currently pursuing her MBA in Human Resources.  In her spare time she likes to enjoy cultural events, music and shopping.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Ever-Elusive, Energy-Efficient New York City Taxi

By John Martin

Although I prefer riding the train to get around town, sometimes taking a cab isn’t a bad option. If I’m with a group of people, or I’m running late, taking a taxi sometimes just makes sense. As a New Yorker, I understand the value of having cabs filling our streets, but I also recognize the damage they’re doing to our air. With car companies finally producing fuel-efficient cars in large numbers, I decided to look into what, if anything, is being done to clean up the New York City taxi fleet.

Back in February, the Supreme Court refused to allow a city plan that would require cab owners to replace old gas-guzzling cabs with more fuel-efficient models. The 2007 law would have mandated all taxis operating in New York run at an average of 30 mpg, and would have required all 13,000 of the city’s cabs to be replaced with hybrids by 2012.

Not to be deterred, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Nadler soon thereafter introduced the “Green Taxis Act,” a federal law that would allow cities to mandate use of more fuel-efficient taxis. So far, the mayors of Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles have all come out in favor of this act, but it’s not likely this support will be enough to get it through Congress.

Now it’s not clear when, if ever, New York will get cleaner taxis. Our most popular cab model—the gas-guzzling, 12 mpg Crown Victoria—is now in its final year of production. That’s the good news. The not-so-great news is that the city will soon unveil a universal taxi to replace the 16 models currently on the road beginning in 2014. Although the three models under consideration have their advantages (including the ability to transport wheelchair-bound passengers), fuel economy isn’t one of them. The Ford Transit Connect gets only 21 mpg in city driving. The two others don’t figure to be much better.

With the average New York taxi currently getting 22 mpg (even after you factor in all those Crown Vics), and no viable plans to make our fleet more efficient on the horizon, it looks like city taxis will be burning lots of gas for the foreseeable future. Looks like the subway will continue to be my preferred mode of transportation for a long, long time.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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You Dump It, You Drink It!

By Lina Younes

In an earlier blog on car maintenance tips,  I mentioned the need to keep your car well tuned and to change the oil regularly in order to improve fuel efficiency. One of the commenters quickly pointed out that newer car models don’t require changing the oil as often as in the past. The guidelines used to be “change your oil every 3,000 miles or every three months, whichever comes first.” With new engine technologies and better lubricants, most auto manufacturers are revising their recommendations for oil changes intervals. For some cars, the intervals can be up to every 7500 miles. Ultimately, this has positive environmental benefits and monetary savings as well. So the best advice is to check your owner’s manual for the best oil change interval for your vehicle.

Some of you might prefer to change the oil yourself. I like my car, but I would never attempt to take car maintenance into my own hands. Since I don’t have those skills, I leave that to the experts. Just a word of caution, don’t dump the oil down the drain! That contaminates our water! Used oil that ends up in our waterways also threatens aquatic lives. Tossing it in the trash, contaminates landfills. Recycle used oil!

EPA developed a bilingual outreach campaign aimed at increasing environmental awareness among automotive mechanics and consumers. The campaign encourages do-it-yourselfers to take their used motor oil to recycling centers for recycling and/or reuse. There might be an auto shop near you that provides that service, check it out. As always, looking forward to your comments.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Informed Decisions Make Car Buying Greener

By Lina Younes

Not long ago, I was in the market for a new car.  As with any major purchase, I decided to do some research. I had three requirements for this new vehicle. I wanted it to meet the highest safety standards. I wanted it to get good mileage and not to break the bank in the process. At the time, I consulted some valuable resources online: www.safercar.gov, www.fueleconomy.gov , and EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide . In sum, I was successful in getting a fuel efficient car for my daughter.

Just this past week, EPA proposed new labels for fuel efficiency which will help consumers make informed decisions when purchasing a new vehicle. The proposed labels will appear on the window stickers on new vehicles on sale at dealerships around the country. These new labels are an improved design over the EPA label which has appeared on new vehicles for the past thirty years. They help consumers to compare the vehicles with similar vehicles in their class. These labels help consumers to compare vehicles not only for fuel efficiency, but for their environmental impact as well. What I found most interesting is that the proposed labels are equipped with a barcode used by many Smartphones which will allow consumers to access a web page with the fuel efficiency info for that vehicle. What’s really cool is that consumers at the dealership can input their personalized estimates based on their own driving habits and fuel costs. They will have better information at the time of purchasing the vehicle and they will be in a better position to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges, or so they say. A lot of what I was searching originally on the Web, will now be available in these new window stickers.

We are encouraging consumers to visit our website and compare proposed Label 1 and propose Label 2.  We want to hear from YOU! We are accepting comments in English and in Spanish. To submit comments as part of the rulemaking process, please send your emails to newlabels@epa.gov

We really want to hear from you! With your input, we can all help the American consumer to make the best decision regarding the environment and their personal transportation needs.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Keep a Level Head at the Wheel…and Save Money

image of traffic on a highwayA recent survey on aggressive driving habits across the United States pointed to a wide variety of activities in which drivers vented their rage at the wheel. Some of these bad driving habits include tail-gating, honking horns, making obscene gestures, and speeding, to name a few. Large metropolitan areas have consistently been featured among the top offenders in the road rage arena. Nonetheless, many of us have encountered these aggressive drivers whether we live in the city, suburbia or rural areas. While I hope no one will challenge that many of these bad habits are dangerous, offensive and even illegal, keeping a level head at the wheel will allow you to save money and ultimately protect the environment.

Here are some tips that will help you use fuel more efficiently while driving. Try to keep a steady pace while driving. Sudden acceleration and heavy braking may reduce the fuel efficiency of your economy by up to 33 percent. By keeping distractions to a minimum, you can gauge your pace even in heavy traffic. Another piece of advice—observe the speed limit. Seems like a no brainer, but did you know that fuel efficiency decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph?

Furthermore, keep your car in shape. It’s important to keep your engine properly tuned to improve gas mileage. Plus we often forget to keep our tires properly inflated. Inflating tires at the proper pressure will improve your gas mileage and the life of your tires. Using the proper octane level at the pump also improves your mileage. Check your owner’s manual to see the most effective octane level for your car. Unless it’s recommended by the manufacturer, buying a higher octane gas might be a waste of your hard-earned money.

Since we’re approaching the 4th of July weekend, there are many who will hit the road to visit family and friends or relax in the great outdoors. Consider these tips so you can enjoy your drive and protect the Planet at the same time.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Mantenga la calma al volante y ahorrará dinero

image of traffice on a highwayUn reciente sondeo sobre los hábitos agresivos de conducir en Estados Unidos destacó una amplia variedad de actividades adoptadas por los conductores para ventilar su furia al volante. Algunos de estos malos hábitos incluyen el manejar demasiado cerca de otro automóvil, utilizar la bocina, hacer gestos obscenos, guiar a exceso de velocidad, entre otros. Las grandes zonas metropolitanas normalmente figuran entre los principales practicantes de la furia al volante. No obstante, muchos de nosotros nos hemos topado con estos conductores agresivos independientemente si vivimos en centros urbanos, en los suburbios o en áreas rurales. Mientras espero que nadie me vaya a negar que estos malos hábitos sean peligrosos, ofensivos y hasta ilegales, el mantener la calma y cordura al volante le permitirá ahorrar dinero y finalmente proteger el medio ambiente.

He aquí algunos consejos que le ayudarán a utilizar el combustible más eficientemente al manejar. En primer lugar, mantenga un paso estable al guiar. El proceso de acelerar y frenar repentinamente reduce el rendimiento del combustible hasta por un 33 por ciento. Al mantener las distracciones al mínimo usted puede controlar mejor el paso de su automóvil aún cuando el tránsito es pesado. Otro consejo—vaya al límite de velocidad indicado. Eso parece obvio, pero ¿sabía usted que la eficiencia de combustible se reduce drásticamente cuando acelera más de 60 millas por hora?

Además, mantenga su automóvil en buenas condiciones. Es importante hacer una revisión con regularidad de las condiciones de su automóvil para mejorar el rendimiento de la gasolina. Además no se olvide de mantener las llantas debidamente infladas. El inflar las llantas con el nivel adecuado de presión mejora el rendimiento de la gasolina y la duración de las mismas. También utilice el nivel de octanos adecuado cuando escoja la gasolina para mejorar el millaje. El manual de uso le brindará la información sobre el índice de octano de la gasolina para su automóvil, a menos que sea recomendado por el fabricante, el comprar una gasolina de un octano alto sería desperdiciar su dinero.

Como nos acercamos al fin de semana feriado del 4 de julio, hay muchos que usarán el automóvil para visitar familia y amistades o simplemente para pasar su momento de ocio al aire libre. Considere estos consejos para disfrutar su pasadía y proteger al Planeta Tierra también.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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