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Fuel efficient cars best way for individuals in US to fight climate change, study says

Feb 17, 2016

Credit Doug Kerr / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

If you want to help reduce greenhouse gases - without a major change in life style, the best single action is to drive a more fuel efficient car.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute,  if every American were to drive a car that gets 31 mpg, instead of the current average of 21.4 mpg, total U.S. carbon emissions would drop by 5 percent.  Driving a vehicle that gets 56 mpg would mean a 10 percent drop.

"That's simply because in this country there are so many vehicles, and we do so much driving," said Brandon Schoettle, one of the study's co-authors.

The study compared other small actions that Americans could take to reduce U.S.carbon emissions with little impact on their lifestyles.  But according to the researchers, each would reduce total emissions by 0.2 percent, a small fraction of the impact of driving a fuel efficient vehicle.  Examples of possible individual actions that would result in the 0.2 percent reduction include flying 10 percent less, replacing 20 percent of existing residential incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, decreasing meat consumption by 7 percent, using tires with rolling resistance that is 9 percent better than the current average, and lowering the home thermostat by 3 degrees for 8 hours per day.

"If you're looking for an individual impact, we think fuel economy is, of course, the way to go," said Schoettle. "But they're all worth it because the more you do, the more it all adds up, and of course that means lower greenhouse gas emissions across the board."