Historical CAFE Fuel Economy Requirements for Passenger Cars and Light Trucks through MY 2020 and Range of Projected EIS Alternative Standards through MY 2026. Graphic: NHTSA

By Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Chris Mooney
28 September 2018

(The Washington Post) – Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous six degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of six degrees Fahrenheit, or about 3.5 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed. [Page S-15: “Global mean surface temperature is projected to increase by approximately 3.48°C (6.27°F) under the No Action Alternative by 2100.” –Des]

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed. The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly four degree Celsius or seven degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming, the analysis states. And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. [more]

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100


Here are a few interesting graphs from the NHTSA report:

Number of Passenger Cars and Light Trucks Equivalent to Carbon Dioxide Increases in 2025 Compared to the No Action Alternative. Graphic: NHTSA

Using the methods described in Section 5.3, Analysis Methods, NHTSA estimated projected emissions increases for 2021 through 2100. These emissions increases represent the differences in total annual emissions in future years of U.S. passenger cars and light trucks in use under the No Action Alternative and each action alternative. The projected change in fuel production and use under each alternative determines the resulting impacts on total energy use and petroleum consumption, which, in turn, determine the increase in CO2 emissions under each alternative. Because CO2 accounts for such a large fraction of total GHGs emitted during fuel production and use—more than 94 percent.

From 2016 to 2027, Alternative 8 would have lower emissions than Alternative 7. However, Alternative 7 would result n lower emissions than Alternative 8 from 2028 to 2100, and would be the lowest emissions alternative from 2021 to 2100.

Well-to-Tank Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Gasoline. Graphic: NHTSA

A variety of studies have evaluated the well-to-wheels emissions associated with petroleum from oil sands, and have reached a consensus that oil sands petroleum is more GHG-intensive to produce than conventional counterparts, because oil sands petroleum requires more energy to extract and process.

Oil sands also contain higher amounts of impurities that require more energy-intensive processing prior to end use (Lattanzio 2014).

Historical and Projected U.S. Utility-Scale Electric Capacity Additions and Retirements (2005 to 2050). Graphic: NHTSA

Figure 6.2.3-1 shows that oil, natural gas, wind, and solar power accounted for most electricity capacity additions from 2005 through 2017, and coal power plants accounted for most power plant retirements.

The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks - Draft Environmental Impact Statement

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