Press Release

Regulating Auto Emissions and Fuel Economy: The United States and Europe

Apr 26, 2016

WASHINGTON—A new policy brief, Comparing US and EU Approaches to Regulating Automotive Emissions and Fuel Economy, was posted today by Resources for the Future (RFF) Senior Fellow Joshua Linn and Thomas Klier, Senior Economist and Research Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Given the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal, the authors summarize the regulation of vehicle fuel economy and tailpipe emissions, contrasting the approaches that the United States and the European Union have taken in regulating fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and local pollutants.

Comparing the United States and European Union, the authors state that "not only can regulatory requirements differ across markets, but [they] also can influence the choice of vehicle engines and fuels.”

The brief describes the 2015 scandal that involved VW “cheating on tailpipe emission claims for 11 million vehicles.” The authors provide an overview of the regulation of emissions and fuel economy, and discuss the role of testing in reducing vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.

The scandal has led to a tightening of US emissions testing procedures, whereas EU regulators have responded to widespread noncompliance with current emissions standards by providing manufactures more time to adjust to upcoming standards.

Looking ahead, the authors conclude, decisions about how to address environmental challenges will depend on local conditions and public sensitivities. For example, recent occurrences of smog in London and Paris may have shifted the policy discussion in Europe regarding the future role of diesel.

Following the VW scandal, some have suggested giving more weight to real-world testing—that is, measuring emissions and fuel consumption from vehicles while on the road, possibly over their lifetimes and not just at the time of certification.

Read the full policy brief: Comparing US and European Approaches to Regulating Automotive Emissions and Fuel Economy

Resources for the Future does not take intitutional positions. Please attribute any findings to the authors or the research itself. For example, use "According to research from RFF …" rather than "According to RFF …".

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Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC, that conducts rigorous economic research and analysis to improve environmental and natural resource policy.