It’s a fact of life in this era of mass manufacturing that stuff – the accoutrements of our daily lives – tends to get better over time.
Fin-styled automobiles of yesteryear, the iPhone 5 and, perhaps, women’s fashion at any time are cases in point. Nonetheless, we rightly expect that the latest version of anything will be superior in some way to the one that preceded it.
Our expectations of continuous improvement certainly hold true for modern vehicles. If you have ever traded in a five- or ten-year-old car for a brand new model, you’ll have noticed technological advances in dashboard controls, satellite navigation systems, computerized engine monitoring, radar-assisted parking, and even brake lights, which have been replaced by LED clusters that never burn out. The addition of numerous cup-holders is a big improvement as well.
54.5 mpg by 2025
New fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks announced recently by the United States government virtually guarantee that the next generation of vehicles will be radically better than existing models.
The standards, dubbed “54.5 mpg by 2025,” aim to nearly double the fuel efficiency of vehicles by model year 2025 compared to current ones on the road. The Canadian government is expected to follow suit and adopt similar rules.
Experience suggests the high-efficiency vehicles of 2025 will not cost significantly more in real terms than the models today they’ll replace. Yet their increased efficiency will save consumers tens of thousands of dollars a year in gasoline purchases, estimated to be equivalent to lowering gas prices by a dollar a gallon.
Not only will higher efficiency standards give drivers a break at the pump, they should help curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It’s no secret that the single biggest source of GHG emissions in developed nations is from the transportation sector (i.e. car emissions). As we have noted in previous OSQARs, for example, almost a third of Canada’s GHG emissions come from transportation sector, and just over half of that is from personal transportation. (For comparison, oil sands production contributes to less than seven percent of Canada’s GHG emissions.)
Reducing GHG emissions from the transport sector has to be a critical piece of any national climate change or energy strategy. Standards to improve vehicle efficiency are a step in the right direction.
Fuel properties, transportation demand
However, real emissions reduction in the transportation sector can only be truly realized if action happens on a couple of other important fronts, specifically fuel properties and transportation demand.
Improving fuel properties means reducing energy use in the extraction and processing of fuel. It’s in this area, referred to as fuel carbon intensity, that Suncor, as an energy producer, can most contribute. We place a high priority on energy efficiency, making it one of our key environmental goals. Changing the way we extract and process the oil sands resource is possible and we’re working hard to get there.
Reducing demand for transportation is something to which we can all contribute by embracing carpooling, cycling, public transit, and teleconferencing using, of course, our ever-improving Apple gadgets.