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Commuters drive 'greenhouse' policy ... and calls for stronger measures.

Fossil-fueled vehicles not only account for more than onethird of all energy used in the United States, but they also produce roughly one-third of the nation's emission of carbon dioxide ([Co.sub.2]), a "greenhouse" gas. Indeed, these vehicles constitute the nation's fastest growing source of [CO.sub.2] releases, according to President Clinton's new Climate Change Action Plan (SN: 10/23/93, p.263).

That plan identifies several new initiatives designed to curb the growth of vehicle miles traveled - and [CO.sub.2] emitted. Chief among them are:

* a requirement that employers offer workers the chance to exchange a free parking spot for its cash equivalent;

* federal promotion of telecommunicating - working from one's home instead of a central office complex; and

* federal-state efforts to either discourage unnecessary travel (with new parking charges or emissions-based fees on fuels, for example) or encourage the development of smaller and "smarter" vehicles, such as those that sense and bypass pollution-fostering road congestion (SN: 3/21/-92, p.184).

By 2000, these three efforts together could reduce U.S. [CO.sub.2] releases by about 6.6 million metric tons a year, the plan estimates. How much [CO.sub.2] is that? Roughly what would be produced by some 5 million cars traveling 11,000 miles each and getting 20 miles to the gallon.

If the President were really serious about aggressively tackling the nation's [CO.sub.2] problem, he would have pushed for raising the fuel economy standards of new cars, argues Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C. These standards, known by the acronym CAFE - for corporate average fuel economy - offer the single biggest payoff, he says.

For every gallon of gas consumed, cars pump 19 pounds of [CO.sub.2] into the atmosphere. Because the average U.S. car on the road now gets only 20 miles per gallon (mpg), each can spew some 50 tons of [CO.sub.2] over 10 years, Becker says. But pushing in a 45 mpg CAFE standard could cut U.S. [CO.sub.2] emissions 30 to 40 million metric tons annually by the year 2000, he estimates.

A similar call for higher CAFEs appears in a new analysis by the Berkeley, Calif.-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C., public interest group. Their report, which focuses on the social costs of oil use, also notes that U.S. imports account for 25 to 30 percent of oil shipped by water. As a result, it charges, "25 percent - or 1.04 million barrels - of maritime oil spills can be considered a consequence of U.S. oil use." Citing a U.S. Coast Guard estimate that each barrel of oil spilled into the aquatic environment costs society an average of $24,000 - including the expense of cleanup and damage to natural resources - the report concludes that some "$16.7 billion in oil spill related damages can be blamed on U.S. oil imports every year."

ACEEE and Public Citizen argue that such costs would be reduced if the administration increased fuel taxes, created stronger incentives for conserving fuel, enacted tougher CAFE standards, and spurred the development of cleaner fuels.
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Title Annotation:President Clinton's Climate Change Action Plan and fuel economy standards for new cars
Author:Cowen, Ron
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 30, 1993
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