The higher vehicle fuel efficiency requirements and new federal emissions standards proposed by the Obama Administration represent a key step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they are only part of the solution.
To really make a dent in climate change, says Richard M. Rosan, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Land Institute Worldwide, a three-part solution is needed that includes: 1) improved vehicle efficiency, 2) cleaner fuels and 3) reducing the need to drive by improving urban growth patterns.
Much More Development Coming
At least two-thirds of the development expected to exist in the U.S. by 2050 is not yet built, and the bulk of what’s coming will be built on the outer edges of urban regions. Sticking to sprawling development patterns of the past will leave us spending more time behind the wheel, and even if we’re spending that time in more fuel-efficient cars, we’re putting more cars on the road and adding to gridlock.
That’s not a good answer to climate change. Responsible land use is a much better response.
The Urban Land Institute’s publication, Growing Cooler, states that if 60 percent of new development is built in a way the minimizes driving – and instead encourages walking, biking and using public transit – up to 85 million metric tons of carbon gas emissions could be saved each year by 2030.
Getting People Out of Their Cars
That’s the equivalent of at least a 28-percent increase in current federal vehicle fuel-efficiency requirements, reaching a level of about 32 miles per gallon. It’s a substantial impact that can be achieved by getting people out of their cars, and by building housing closer to jobs and shopping.
The greenest car is the one that is not needed for every trip to get from one place to another. Well-planned, compact development that reduces auto dependency is as critical to protecting the environment as cars that use less fuel, concludes Rosan.