Eco-briefs | Fuel efficiency in vehicles continuing slow increase

Wolverine habitat could be reduced by 63 percent by 2085.
Roy Anderson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


A report from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that
in 2012 the average fuel economy of vehicles sold in the U.S. reached an
all-time high of 23.6 miles per gallon. That’s a 1.2 mile per gallon increase
over the 2011 average.

“Today’s new vehicles are cleaner and more fuel efficient than ever,
saving American families money at the gas pump and helping to keep the air that
we breathe cleaner,” Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s
Office of Air and Radiation said in a press release. “Each year new
technologies are coming on line to keep driving these positive trends toward
greater and greater efficiency.”

In seven of the last eight years, average fuel economy has
increased and that trend is expected to continue as the Obama administration
pushes its National Clean Car Program standards, which calls for doubled fuel
economy by 2025, cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half. Preliminary projections for 2013 indicate that fuel economy for 2013 is expected to increase by 0.4 miles per gallon.

Since 2008, the average fuel economy for cars has increased 2.6 miles per gallon, or 12 percent.


After receiving significant disagreement with the science
used to draft their proposal for listing the wolverine as threatened under the
Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced an
extension to the deadline for that decision and a reopened comment period. Peer
reviewers of the proposed rule to list wolverines as threatened were critical
of the information used to describe wolverine habitat and estimates of the
expected affects climate change will have on that habitat.

Wolverines are said to resemble small bears with bushy tails — they’re actually cousins to otters, weasels and mink. Females weigh between 17 and 26 pounds and males between 26 and 40 pounds. Their short legs and wide feet are made for snow travel, and each foot has semi-retractile claws used for digging and climbing.

Wolverines live primarily in boreal forests, tundra and the western mountains of Alaska and Canada and were extirpated from the lower 48 states in the early 1900s and have been slowly re-establishing populations in the contiguous U.S. They’re now found in the North Cascades in Washington and the Northern Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming.

They rely on deep, persistent spring snow for dens, particularly for raising young. The loss of that snowpack may expose wolverine kits to predators. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that habitat may be reduced by 31 percent by 2045 and 63 percent by 2085.

Comments on the proposal can be submitted at