By Sam Ori

The biggest news in energy policy circles this week was the release by federal regulators of a mid-term report on U.S. fuel-economy standards. As has been covered well here and here, the report delivered a bit of bad news: Instead of achieving the original, headline-grabbing efficiency target of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg), the fleet of new vehicles sold in 2025 is likely to clock-in at more like 50 mpg. And even that target depends on fuel prices over the next decade—with oil prices needing to approach $100 per barrel by 2025 to keep efficiency above 50 mpg.

The shortfall came as a shock to many analysts and observers who had long operated under the assumption that U.S. vehicle efficiency targets were effectively written in stone. But those watching recent trends closely were not surprised. In fact, I explained why vehicles might not meet their targets in an earlier post, citing a nearly 30% gap between the levels of efficiency achieved and the target in 2016.

Rightly so, administration officials underscored this week that the projected 54.5 mpg was just that, a projection. As one official said, “54.5 isn’t a standard, never was a standard, and isn’t a standard now. 54.5 is what we predicted, in 2012, the fleet-wide average could get to, based on assumptions that were live back then about the mix of the fleet.”

This underscores an important reason why the target won’t be met, and why achieving future emissions reductions in transportation could be exceedingly difficult: The standards are tied to consumer preferences. As preferences deviate from the forecasts, the target falls short. That’s what has happened over the last few years as consumers went out and bought more pick-ups and SUVs than predicted….

Continue reading at Forbes…

Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
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Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Energy Efficiency
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Energy Efficiency
Improving energy efficiency is lauded as a promising way reduce emissions and lower energy costs. Yet, a robust body of research demonstrates that not all efficiency investments deliver. EPIC faculty...
Fossil Fuels
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Fossil Fuels
Under current policies, fossil fuels will play an important role in the energy system for the foreseeable future. EPIC research is exploring the costs and benefits of these fuels as...
Transportation
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Transportation
Mobility is central to economic activity. Yet, a lack of fuel diversity and continued demand growth have made the transportation industry a major contributor to global pollution and carbon emissions....
Climate Change
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Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Economics
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Climate Economics
Climate change will affect every sector of the economy, both locally and globally. EPIC research is quantifying these effects to help guide policymakers, businesses, and individuals working to mitigate and...
Fuel Economy Standards
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Fuel Economy Standards
Fuel economy standards are the United States’ cornerstone transportation policy aimed at reducing both oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. EPIC research is exploring whether these standards are structured optimally...