Monthly Archives: September 2010

Countdown to Better Consumer Labeling for New Cars

(Just posted on our sister blog Way2Go by Kathryn Phillips)

Car Lot

Photo by Alex92287

The 60-day countdown for submitting your vote online about the best car label design has officially begun. Today the federal register published the official notice inviting comment on the government’s proposed changes to the information labels posted on new cars. The agency has also scheduled two public hearings to collect opinions about the labels—in Chicago on October 14 and in Los Angeles on October 21.

As we reported about three weeks ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has offered up two new designs to replace the old fuel economy label. The new designs reflect the most significant change in the 30 years since automakers began attaching the information labels to new cars.

Both of the proposed designs still have fuel economy information. But they both also have something new: details about how much greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution will be generated by the auto or light truck on which the sticker is affixed. For the first time ever, consumers living all over the country will be able to easily, while on the car lot shopping, compare the environmental impact of vehicles. It makes shopping greener simpler.

The two label options are not entirely equal, though. One option provides a bit more information about fuel costs and savings, and it includes a letter grade.

The grade has been drawing a lot of attention and there have been some confusing explanations in the press about how it works. So here are two important things to know about the letter grade:

  1. The grade reflects a vehicle’s standing on a scale set according to a combination of fuel economy and how much greenhouse gas emissions a vehicle spews. So basically, a car or light truck that gets a B grade produces fewer GHGs and gets better fuel economy than a car or light truck that gets a D grade.
  2. Every car and light truck has a fair shot at a good grade. When EPA compared its grading scale against the 2010 fleet (see page 36 of the proposed rule document), a lot of SUVs received B grades, and a lot received C grades. A lot of small cars received B grades and a lot received C grades. The difference was that the B vehicles, not matter the vehicle size, were engineered to get better fuel economy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the C vehicles. The grade system helps highlight that the engineering exists to make vehicles less polluting—it’s just up to the automakers to do it.

EPA conducted a lot of market research, including focus groups with consumers. The consumers emphasized that they wanted a label that was simple and quick to understand. Hence, the letter grade on one of the proposed options. 

The auto industry and some pundits don’t like the letter grade. They say it’s intrusive and unnecessary. I say that providing product information in a format that everyone can understand at a glance—and without needing bifocals—is a public service.

So go online now and  let EPA know which version you think makes most sense. And while you’re at it, let us know what you think about the labels, too.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

Donlen, GreenDriver and EDF Commit to Reducing 20% of Fleet Emissions by 2016

(Posted earlier today on our sister blog, EDF Innovation Exchange)

Today, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) joins with Donlen, a leading fleet management company, and GreenDriver™ in a commitment towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the commercial fleet sector by 20% over the next five years. This pledge is being made at the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, attended by Gary Rappeport, Donlen CEO; and Fred Krupp, President, EDF. We invite others to join this effort too, including commercial fleets, fleet management companies and environmental organizations. Together, we can make a difference.

Stabilizing the Earth’s climate is the critical environmental challenge of our time. Many effects of global warming are already being felt and will only grow worse with inaction. Vehicles in corporate fleets release 45 million metrics tons of emissions each year. Reducing the emissions from commercial fleet vehicles can be part of the solution to tackling this challenge.

Opportunities for reducing emissions are plentiful. Right-sizing vehicles to match the job at hand, reducing miles through improved routing, moving to more efficient models, adopting “fuel-smart” driving behaviors [PDF], cutting idling, and deploying advanced technology vehicles are a few of the tactics available. All of these offer significant payback on investment. A few require no upfront investment at all. Each of these tactics is delivering emissions reductions today.

Good emissions management is not unlike good business management. For any company to get the most out of these or other tactics, it needs a long-term vision and a strategic plan formulated for its unique needs and circumstances. Our joint commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative provides joining companies a vision: reduce emissions 20% between now and the end of 2016. Because it is performance-based, the commitment is agnostic on the pathway accompany uses to meet the goal. It remains incumbent on the company to undertake the planning process on how to meet the goal.

The goal is in reach for many companies already. Consider that 80 of the 300 companies with 1,000 or more vehicles have a publicly announced greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. Many companies have already achieved reductions of this magnitude in fleet emissions. The next five years will also see the availability of more efficient vehicles through increases CAFE standards, while electric and other advanced technology vehicles will become more widely available too. Together, the fleet industry can meet this challenge.

Of course, a few companies will face greater challenges given the specific requirements for their vehicles. We welcome these companies into the fold too. Every ton reduced matters.

During the past five years, the commercial fleet industry has created infrastructure to track emissions and developed a deep understanding of how to successfully deploy many emission reducing tactics. EDF believes that the industry is ready to take the next step and start to collectively act towards this aggressive, yet achievable emissions reduction goal.

We applaud Donlen and GreenDriver™ for taking a central role in coordinating this commitment. We look forward to working with both companies and the entire fleet industry to meet this challenge. Together, we can make a difference.

For information about how your company can join this effort, visit

Posted in Cars and Pollution, News / Comments are closed