Fuel economy warning for Commonwealth countries 


Dr. Lew Fulton and High Commissioner Garvin Nicholas with the Commonwealth paper 
The GFEI briefing at the High Commission of Trinidad and Tobago

Commonwealth countries can cut their cumulative oil bill by £2 trillion through to 2050 and can help cut the world’s road transport energy use and CO2 emissions by nearly half in that same time, by adopting a high-impact, low-cost solution: improving vehicle fuel economy, according to a paper published by the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau (CAB) and sponsored by the GFEI published on 19 November 2012.

In an Opinion Piece for the CAB, Dr. Lew Fulton from the University of California Davis, a GFEI partner, warns that the oil importing countries, which make up the vast majority of the Commonwealth, could face high economic costs given the explosion in the number of vehicles on their roads over the next few decades.

Dr. Fulton a key contributor to the Global Fuel Economy Initiative says:

“The number of road vehicles, and road fuel use, in Commonwealth countries could double by 2030 and increase four-fold by 2050. Given that about half the Commonwealth’s and world’s oil is used in transport and oil accounts for about 95% of transport fuel use, this could spell economic disaster for the oil importing countries which make up the vast majority of the Commonwealth.”

Focusing on Kenya, Dr. Fulton warns that with rapidly increasing motorisation, that country’s total fuel bill could reach $75 billion by 2030 with devastating consequences for the country’s economy.

However, with support from the GFEI a partnership of six major international organisations, Kenya has begun to explore steps towards cutting this cost increase by at least a quarter by 2030 and by half by 2050. These savings could be even greater if they were combined with other transport policies, such as shifting vehicles to new fuels, and curbing car travel growth through sensible transport policies.

To avoid a fuel induced economic disaster, Commonwealth countries are urged to address the following key areas:

  • Measure vehicles and give consumers the information they need. Countries should implement a fuel economy labelling system, based on the tested score of each model available in the market;

  • Send price signals. The most important price signal that will spur consumers to save fuel is a tax on that fuel;

  • Set fuel economy standards. The most reliable method to improve the fuel economy of new cars is to require that it happens. Apart from India and countries in the EU, no Commonwealth countries have as yet adopted fuel economy, or CO2 emission, standards;

  • Regulate vehicle imports. Import regulations could involve minimum efficiency standards for all imported cars and trucks, either overall or separately for each vehicle class.

The paper has been sent to the High Commissioners of Commonwealth member countries based in London. Dr. Fulton and GFEI Executive Secretary Sheila Watson also briefed the High Commissioner for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago His Excellency Garvin Nicholas in detail on the paper. Trinidad and Tobago is interested in starting discussions on fuel economy with the GFEI.

His Excellency Garvin Nicholas, High Commissioner for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago said: “Fuel economy is an increasingly important issue both for our country and from a global perspective. Dr. Fulton’s paper for the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau underscores the need for action in order to address both economic and environmental concerns. Together with the Global Fuel Economy Initiative, we look forward to advancing this agenda.”

Dr Fulton is Co-Director, NextSTEPS Program, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California Davis, formerly of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

A longer version of this article published by the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau is available at http://commonwealth.sas.ac.uk/

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