More on the need for fuel economy standards in Mexico

Mario Molina published an op-ed yesterday in the Universal, one of Mexico’s leading newspapers, that deserves wider attention.

Dr. Molina was one of three recipients of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in determining the chemical processes involved in the destruction of Earth’s ozone layer. He is the founder and president of the Centro Mario Molina, an independent nonprofit dedicated to research on energy and environmental issues. A credible authority, in short. (He’s also, full disclosure, a member of the ICCT’s participants’ council.)

Molina’s aim is to highlight the economic and environmental need for Mexico to adopt passenger vehicle fuel economy standards. The piece is in Spanish, of course, but for those who don’t read that language here’s the key argument in translation:

The importation and sale of gasoline in the national market at subsidized prices is one of the principal economic concerns in the energy sector right now, and it is also one of the circumstances that has made the transition to a low carbon economy more difficult for our country…

However, our country has the possibility to immediately start to change fuel economy patterns, by issuing a standard that will elevate average fuel economy of the new vehicle fleet by 19%, encouraging the sale of more efficient vehicles–vehicles that are already found in the international market and that can help us to increase our energy security, improve our trade balance, reduce greenhouse gas emissions….

The expedited finalization of this standard is one of the climate commitments of the federal government. Just as has occurred with our principle trading partners in the automotive sector, particularly the U.S., where this industry has agreed to double fuel economy of vehicles in the next 15 years, Mexico is prepared to and for economic and environmental reasons needs to take this important step forward.

Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology has just published a review of new vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions trends for 2008–2011 that highlights just how reasonable a goal the current proposal is. Average new vehicle fuel economy in Mexico has improved from 11.8 km/L in 2008 to 13.1 km/L in 2011, a trend of 3.5% improvement per year. The proposal under consideration would bring fleet average fuel economy to approximately 14.9 km/L by 2016, an average of 2.6% improvement per year, far less than the average annual improvement of 3.7% required of automakers under the U.S. standards. (See our policy update here for details on the 2012–2016 U.S. standards.)

Coincidentally, also yesterday, Ford Motor Company’s 1.0L Ecoboost engine won the International Engine of the Year award. This engine has been used in the Ford Focus sold in Europe to improve fuel economy by 47%, achieving 21.4 km/L, similar to some of the best hybrids on the market in the U.S. The current proposal in Mexico would help encourage automakers to make the most efficient vehicles available to consumers in Mexico. INE’s report suggests that consumers are ready for these vehicles. Dr. Molina’s op-ed makes the further essential point that the economy and the environment depend on them.