Trimming the Growing Emissions from the Transportation Sector

Many industries in the U.S. have cut their carbon footprints in recent years, but transportation remains one sector where emissions are still increasing. And in an effort to put the brakes on this trend, the Obama administration announced a set of new fuel-efficiency standards this week for heavy-duty trucks, vans and buses.

“The main reason emissions are up in the transportation sector is due to increased emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucking,” says Brandon Schoettle, the project manager for Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. “That, of course, we think is mostly due to increases in the actual use of medium and heavy trucks—things like construction, transporting goods and cargo around the United States.”

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Schoettle says there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of light-duty vehicles on the road since 1990. And emissions from most other parts of the transportation sector—like cars—have stayed relatively flat during that time.

“Vehicles have just been getting more efficient during that time,” he says. “Recently, we’ve hit some records in terms of new vehicle fuel economy—especially over the past 10 or 15 years. So those gains—even though we’ve been also gaining quite a few vehicles—have led to a sort of stable performance in terms of emissions.”

But Schoettle says reducing the collective carbon footprint of the country’s truck fleet might be more difficult.

“For cargo, it’s a little different,” he says. “They get what we would generally think of as pretty poor fuel economy—five, six, seven miles per gallon. But, of course, they’re hauling tens of thousands of pounds of cargo around. So they’ve been increasing their cargo efficiency significantly during the same period we looked at. But the increase in just cargo operations moving around the country has led to the increase.”

Schoettle says his team is looking at ways to improve the fuel efficiency of heavy trucks. Their new study is due out later this summer.

Reporting by Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

 

More Americans Have Become ‘Believers’ in Climate Change

The past 15 months have seen a slew of broken heat records worldwide. And according to a new survey, fewer Americans think that’s just a coincidence.

“We found that 15 percent of Americans do not believe there is solid evidence of climate change, while 66 percent of Americans do see solid evidence,” says the University of of Michigan’s Sarah Mills, a postdoctoral researcher with the National Surveys on Energy and Environment project. “That’s the lowest percent of doubt in climate change in the survey’s history.”

She says the survey also revealed that some groups expressed more uncertainty than others. For instance, 19 percent of Americans said they “weren’t sure” if there was solid evidence the climate is changing.

“But the biggest group that said they weren’t sure was Republicans,” Mills says.

In addition, Mills says more than a third of Republicans surveyed said there is no evidence climate change is happening, compared to 5 percent of Democrats.

The group has tracked Americans’ views on this issue since 2008, though it doesn’t ask people what they think is causing climate change. You can check out the full report here.

Reporting by Kara Holsopple