In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|May 21-27, 2009
• See Letters page
• Jim Hightower
Good move on cars, Mr. President
by Paul Danish
Bravo, Obama.The Obama administration has struck a deal that will toughen the country’s fuel-economy standards, cut its greenhouse gas emissions, retool the auto industry, and, most important, slash oil imports by 1.8 billion barrels a year.
This, as the saying goes, could be huge.
Here’s the deal:
The state of California, which has been trying for years to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, will be granted a waiver by the federal government allowing it to set its own emission standards. It will then mandate a 30 percent cut in CO2 emissions for all new cars and light trucks sold in the state. Since the only practical way to cut CO2 in auto exhaust is to cut the amount of fuel used, the new California standard will have the practical effect of forcing car makers to offer product line-ups that average about 35 miles per gallon.
In addition to granting California its waiver, the feds will toughen the fuel economy standards that Congress adopted in 2007. The latter set a national Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon (39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks) to be achieved by 2020. The compliance date will now be moved up to 2016. This will result in a cut of approximately 30 percent in greenhouse gas emissions from new cars sold in the U.S. starting in 2016 — and, eventually, a reduction of 1.8-billion barrels a year
(5 million barrels a day) in crude oil use.
What the auto industry gets out of this is 1) the certainty of a single national standard for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy instead of dozens of differing state standards; 2) the agreement of both the feds and the states that the industry won’t have to start complying with the new rules until 2012, which gives it time to retool and introduce new models in an economically manageable manner; and 3) access to tens of billions of dollars in federal loans and subsidies to pay for retooling their plants to build fuel efficient cars.
Obama deserves a lot of credit for this. He’s found a way to reduce greenhouse gases that also reduces oil consumption, which is a far more urgent national priority.
It’s been received truth that green-energy solutions like wind, solar and geothermal contribute to energy independence, but the reality is they haven’t displaced a barrel of gasoline made from imported oil. Obama’s deal will.
Green energy aside, something like this should have been done 20 years ago as a bedrock matter of national security. The fact that it wasn’t done back then is a public policy blunder of epic proportions, and a bi-partisan one at that. Obama has finally done it. Good move, Mr. President.
To be sure, in some respects there is less here than meets the eye.
The 2016 date is the date carmakers have to start offering 35.5-mpg product lines, not the date the nation’s auto fleet will average 35.5 mpg. It will be more like 2030 before the full impact of the new standards is felt, although they will start reducing oil imports well before then.
Moreover, by the time 2030 rolls around, the driving age population of the country will have grown by about 30 or 40 million. That means the fuel savings may not be as great as estimated.
Within minutes of Obama announcing his plan, some conservatives were howling that it would drive up the price of cars and force American consumers to buy smaller cars than they want. Maybe so, but that seems a small enough price to pay to de-fund the assorted jihadists who are sustained by petrodollars and want to see us dead.
What’s more, it’s not inevitable that the new standards will force carmakers to produce smaller, under-performing models.
That’s because the most likely way the new standards will be met will be by carmakers producing plug-in hybrid electric cars. Plug-in hybrids have batteries that can be recharged from the grid, as well as by the car’s gasoline engine. They also have larger battery packs than are found on current hybrids, which means they can run for 20 or 30 miles exclusively on electricity from a power plant.
Since most vehicles are driven less than 25 miles a day, plug-in hybrids will use a lot less gasoline than today’s cars and trucks, hybrid and non-hybrid alike. Their gasoline usage is apt to be in the 50 to 100 miles per gallon range.
Notice what’s going on here. A bigger battery, translates into better miles per gallon. And as a simple matter of geometry, it’s a lot easier to fit a big battery into a truck or SUV (the vehicles that get the worst gas mileage) than it is into a compact.
In the past, carmakers have met Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards by building a large number of small, fuel-efficient models to offset their full-size models. Thanks to plug-in hybrids, that may not be the case in the future.
back to top