Graduate students from UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management have proposed amendments to alter alleged mistakes they found in the Obama administration’s 2012-16 fuel economy standards.
While the official government proposal determined the social cost of carbon to be $20 per ton, Bren students estimated the cost at $34 per ton — a rate that would increase the incentive for corporations to pursue non-carbon technological advancement. The students also addressed the stringency with which fuel efficiency targets are pursued, credits for electric vehicles, standards for nontraditional greenhouse gas emissions, mobile air conditioning units, current emissions testing protocols and light vehicle classification.
Upon examining the testimony and recommendations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conceded that errors did exist in the proposal, but said the blunders were “not significant enough to impact the overall analysis.”
Accordingly, the heads of the Transportation Dept. and the Environmental Protection Agency signed the final procedure setting fuel efficiency standards on April 1, with intentions of reaching a combined average mpg of 35.5 for cars and trucks over the next six years. This creates an increase of nearly 10 mpg over existing regulations established by the NHTSA.
Economics Dept. Chair Charles Kolstad, who led the Bren group working on vehicle fuel economy that discovered the mistakes, served on an earlier National Academy of Sciences committee to review possible changes to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations.
Kolstad said the testimony authored by the Bren group embodies the mission of the institution.
“It’s an important issue and part of the charter of the Bren School is to contribute to the public debate on the environmental matters,” Kolstad said. “The investigation of the proposal provided the perfect opportunity for students to have a hand in improving public policy.”
Prior to the final gas mileage standards set for new cars and trucks, UCSB student Alexandra Speers appeared before a government panel consisting of NHTSA and EPA representatives to discuss these matters at a Los Angeles public hearing last October.
The hearing gave environmental advocacy groups, concerned citizens and other interested parties the opportunity to air grievances regarding greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards formulated by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in mid-September.
Despite the mistakes, students said they admired the motivation behind the proposal, citing it as a step towards a more environmentally conscious nation and world reform.
“This proposed rule presents an opportunity for the United States to stand as a global leader in combating climate change,” Speers said in a testimony. “But just as importantly, this provides a real opportunity to strengthen our domestic economy in many dimensions, including reducing dependence on foreign oil.”