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Increased Fuel Efficiency a Critical (But Insufficient) Step in Cutting Transport Emissions

An article ("Report Undermines Drive for Fuel Efficiency") posted on the U.S. News and World Report website December 14, 2007, misinterprets a recent report on fuel efficiency standards authored by Lee Schipper, from EMBARQ, WRI's Center for Sustainable Transport and UC Berkeley.

The article claims that the EMBARQ study "threatens to undermine claims of congressional Democrats that boosting fuel efficiency standards for cars is a critical step in the fight to curb global warming." The article misunderstands Dr. Schipper's report. The point of the study is that fuel economy standards, while critical, are only one part of a larger effort needed to reduce emissions from the transport sector. A comprehensive climate protection effort will have to do more, but the new standards are clearly a good start.

In addition to more fuel efficient vehicles, a variety of other policy changes are also needed to motivate a shift towards more efficient and sustainable modes, including: smarter land-use policies that reduce the need to drive; improvement of facilities for bicycles and pedestrians that make it easier for pollution free modes to thrive; more comprehensive and efficient public transport systems that provide high quality services; and traffic management tools, like congestion pricing and increased taxes on vehicles and fuels, that offset the negative impacts of car use in the society as a whole, while providing the necessary funds to make the alternative modes attractive alternatives.

EMBARQ and WRI applaud recent efforts by lawmakers to boost fuel economy standards. These are much-needed and long overdue policy changes. We now urge officials to expand on this success by implementing the various other transportation reforms that are required if society is to address the dangers posed not only by global warming but by local pollution, congestion and accidents.

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