. "Reducing the Impacts of the North American Transportation Sector." Atmospheric Change and the North American Transportation Sector: Summary of a Trilateral Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1998.
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Atmospheric Change and the North American Transportation Sector:: Summary of a Trilateral Workshop
such as Mexico and China. Sloan responded that ‘clean' cars are very difficult to sell to developing nations if they cost more than standard vehicles; the challenge will be to make them affordable so they will penetrate the market and achieve the desired environmental benefits. Other participants felt that it may take some kind of international standards to make the auto industry place higher priority on environmental impacts when selling and manufacturing vehicles to developing countries. There is a United Nations working group trying to harmonize vehicle regulations worldwide; however, some felt that the possibility of this effort succeeding is not high.
Wesoky pointed out that, in contrast to the auto industry, airlines are subject to international emissions standards (on take-off and landing only). Primarily because of economic considerations, aircraft fuel efficiency has continued to improve steadily over time. Most of the improvement has come from better propulsion technology, in particular smaller engine cores that run at higher temperature and pressures, thus requiring less fuel to produce a required thrust. Though NOx generally increases with higher temperature, innovative combustor design has actually resulted in lower emissions of this pollutant. Current research programs promise as much as a further 70 percent reduction in NOx below today's regulatory standards in about a decade.
The principal United States policy instrument to promote energy-efficient auto technology is the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV). Scot Staley, from the U.S. Commerce Department, and Christine Sloan explained that PNGV is an unprecedented public/private partnership program involving many government agencies, national laboratories, universities, the big three auto manufacturers, and several smaller suppliers. The ultimate goal of PNGV is to develop a car that gets up to three times the fuel efficiency of today's cars while maintaining performance, utility, safety, and affordability. Two important operating goals of this program are to bring any new technologies into use as soon as they are commercially viable and to pay attention to design and manufacturing costs as an essential research topic. A few ‘concept ' vehicles have already been made and are beginning to be sold by some of the major auto manufacturers. However, nothing is on sale yet in the United States that can meet all the PNGV goals.
All of the leadership, management, and technical teams in the PNGV program are jointly run by government and industry. The government objectives are to reduce pollutant and GHG emissions from cars, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and to change the balance of trade. Industry's objectives are to provide technology to help the U.S. auto industry maintain global leadership and to address environmental concerns without having to resort to command-and-control regulations. According to Staley, this partnership works because it helps all those involved to meet their objectives.
PNGV was largely viewed by the workshop participants as a highly successful program; however, some general concerns were raised. Staley, Greene, and others stated that the program warrants far greater levels of funding, guaranteed over reasonably long time scales. Sperling brought up the point that ‘winner' technologies could be chosen prematurely, leaving good options behind. Some suggested that the program needs to be expanded to be more international in scope; but others disagreed, saying that this would be far too complex to handle. Sloan added that cooperative arrangements should not be too cooperative, that is, they should still try to take advantage of competition as a powerful motivating force within the auto industry.
In addition to such partnership programs, there are many regulatory tools that governments can use to encourage development of efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. Some of those discussed include: corporate and government fleet quotas; liability limits for companies bringing new products to market; tax credits to manufacturers for selling clean vehicles; tighter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, perhaps tradeable between manufacturers.
There were several points of disagreement among the participants about the effectiveness of these different policies. For instance, many people supported strong emission standards, but others stated that this approach was too inflexible and called for some kind of average fleet emissions standards (analogous to the CAFE standards). Some participants indicated that the fleet quotas and regulatory standards should be deliberately set ahead of the R&D curve, to drive the technology forward; but others argued that the public will not accept new regulations unless it is convinced that the needed technology is already available.