Why C.A.F.E Standards are Dumb

Clocker

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Good article:
http://www.caranddriver.com/columns/12936/the-steering-column-the-10-reasons-why-the-corporate-average-fuel-economy-law-is-d-u-m-b.html

IMO: Higher gas taxes and use of alternative energy sources are the only useful way to address our consumption problem in the US.

BY CSABA CSERE, June 2007

Now that gasoline prices are rising again and Al Gore has proven the existence of man-made global warming by winning an Academy Award for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and even George Bush is talking about reducing energy usage, there’s much talk in the halls of Congress about tightening up the CAFE law.

Most of you know CAFE stands for “corporate average fuel economy,” a law setting minimum average fuel-consumption levels for cars and trucks sold in America. The law has been in effect since 1975, two years after the first U.S. fuel crisis. Since 1985, the law has required that an automaker’s line of cars average 27.5 mpg. The current truck standard of 22.2 mpg was raised 1.5 mpg over the past three years.

Now Congress wants fuel-economy averages raised much higher. A group of senators led by California’s Dianne Feinstein wants to bump both the car and truck standards to 35 mpg by 2019. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois went even farther, proposing last year to raise CAFE for all vehicles to 40 mph by 2016.

But there’s a problem. CAFE has always been a dumb law that’s not only wrong-headed but also doomed to fail. Here are my top 10 reasons why CAFE standards make no sense:

1. CAFE laws do absolutely nothing to reduce fuel consumption in the short term. Because increased CAFE standards only affect the fuel efficiency of vehicles yet to be made, they have no effect on the fuel used by America’s existing fleet of 247 million vehicles.

2. By making driving less expensive, higher CAFE levels actually encourage more driving. Bump an SUV’s fuel economy from 20 mpg to 40 mpg, and you reduce the cost of gasoline (at $2.40 a gallon) from 12 cents to 6 cents a mile. Uh-huh, that’s really going to encourage less driving.

3. Because CAFE laws make driving cheaper, they do nothing to foster the use of public transportation or encourage housing choices that reduce commuting distances.

4. CAFE laws put the entire burden of fuel and carbon conservation on cars and ignore industry sources, home energy use, airlines, agriculture, trucking, locomotives, etc. Yes, cars and trucks do consume a great deal of energy, but of America’s total energy consumption of about 100 quadrillion BTUs (in 2005), the vehicles affected by CAFE only account for some 18 percent of that total. That’s not much more than the 14 percent of our energy that is generated by nuclear and renewable sources. Doesn’t the CO2 produced by the other 68 percent also cause global warming? Why should SUVs be demonized when Al Gore, in the largest of his three homes, uses 20 times as much electricity as I do in my not-insubstantial house? Meanwhile, other energy-conservation advocates jet around in Gulfstream 5s that burn 17 times as much fuel as an Escalade does getting from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

5. CAFE puts the burden on automakers to produce products that buyers don’t necessarily want. Last year, when gas prices went over $3 a gallon, Americans, for the first time in nearly five years, started buying more cars than trucks—at least for five months. By February of this year, after gas prices dipped in the low $2 range, trucks once again were outselling cars, by 20 percent. Forcing manufacturers to sell fuel-efficient vehicles in America without the encouragement of high fuel prices is like trying to make steakhouses sell tofu-fillet sandwiches for the same price as a chateaubriand.

6. CAFE laws imply that Americans can continue to drive the vehicles they want, if only the stingy automakers would spend a few more pennies on efficient technologies to improve vehicle mileage. Not only is this nonsense, but it also denies the reality that major reductions in energy consumption will require changes in the habits and lifestyles of most Americans.

7. Because CAFE increases keep gasoline costs low, buyers have no reason to invest in energy-saving technologies, such as lightweight materials, that would actually improve efficiency.

8. CAFE puts the burden on car manufacturers to reduce consumption rather than on the drivers who actually burn the fuel for their own benefit. It’s like those lawsuits that sought to blame McDonald’s because the food its customers bought and ate of their own free will made some of them fat.

9. CAFE laws create unanticipated distortions in the market, such as the rise of SUVs to replace station wagons, the EPA labeling of cars such as the Dodge Magnum and Subaru Outback sedan as trucks, and the enlargement of trucks to get them out of the CAFE pool. Selling more vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings of more than 8500 pounds sure saves fuel.

10. Finally, CAFE will accomplish nothing because its glacially slow effects are offset by the growth of trucks in the U.S. vehicle fleet. For example, if the Feinstein bill to raise both car and truck CAFE to 35 mpg by 2019 were enacted, fuel use by America’s vehicles would not decrease at all, as the CAFE gains would be more than offset by the inexorably increasing number of cars and trucks (about four million vehicles annually) and the increasing proportion of trucks on the road.

The bottom line is that CAFE doesn’t save any fuel because it fails to motivate drivers to worry about fuel economy. Anyone who professes to be worried about conservation and thinks the solution can be found in some version of CAFE law is too simple to understand the problem, too cowardly to ask voters to make some sacrifices, or sufficiently cynical to promote a law that accomplishes nothing other than capturing self-aggrandizing headlines.
 

CougTek

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I think law makers should be pushing bio-diesel instead of ethanol. Bio-diesel is easier to produce, is less damageable for the environment, works in more fuel-efficient diesel engines and could be cultivated inland. I read something about a new type of culture that allows to grow bio-diesel-intended vegetation even on hostile land with a good yield.

I don't know why ethanol is having such a success (lobbies?). It's been proven to be a poor way to shave CO² emanation.

Although the CAFE reduction law doesn't attack the problem from the right angle, it's better than nothing. The large majority of consumers have proven over and over to be too selfish and irresponsible to make environmental-friendly choices. People prefer mp3 players to safety features like side airbags, 19in mags over ESC, alluring body design over fuel-efficiency, etc. And law makers are just clueless idiots with big mouths put in charge by the sea of incurable morons. What would you expect?

The reason why you (representing the auto industry) are so against the new CAFE law is because of the not-in-my-courtyard syndrome. Why should auto makers be alone to provide an effort? Answer : because global warming needs a scape goat and you're an easy target. For a politician, the choice is to piss-off the great majority of the voting herd with increased gas taxes, or to piss-off only the tiny part that works in the auto industry. It's not the most effective solution for the environment, but it's the easiest politically-wise. IMO, someone should do something about the 49% of the U.S. electrical production being done in coal power plants too, but that's another issue.

Bottom line : I agree that the more severe CAFE standards are not a good solution, but I believe that asking for a better solution is simply to ask for too much from the brainless law makers you have. Learn to live with it.
 

ddrueding

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I don't think the government should be pushing any particular fuel at all; there is far too much money at stake to call them impartial. Just turn the taxes way up on all fuels, based on emissions and scarcity, and let everyone figure it out. You don't need to force the auto industry to do anything; with gas at $15/gallon, everyone will want to drive a fuel efficient car. Even American automakers would see the writing on the wall for 5+ liter engines that produce crap power.

Take all that tax money and put it in more X-Prizes, on a scale that could actually fix things.
 

Wavemaker

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I'm still waiting on those fabulous two-stroke powerplants the car-folk were talking up back in the late '90s -- the motors that would power our small cars with high fuel efficiency and low levels of pollution; exhibit small size, low mass, low cost, and low maintenance.



 

jtr1962

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IMO: Higher gas taxes and use of alternative energy sources are the only useful way to address our consumption problem in the US.
I agree with you 100% here. If we really want to reduce fossil fuel usage, the goal of policy should be to create a more balanced transportation network. This basically means greatly reducing car travel and car ownership, not the reverse. CAFE standards really do nothing in that regard. Even an 80 mpg auto has a huge environmental footprint once you count the roads and parking lots to service it. Better to have a gradually increasing gas tax (I'd say increase it about $0.50 per year), and use that money to fund a new public transportation grid, including especially high-speed rail and connecting subways/light rail/commuter rail. The former will virtually eliminate the need for long-distance passenger transport along Interstate highways plus cut airline use substantially. The latter will allow one to go entirely via public transit. When looked at logically autos serve two and only two transportation niches very well. The first one is rural transport where there is no population density to support even bus service. The second is local errands like grocery shopping or going to/from train stations where electrics would serve quite well. Any other use where autos were shoehorned into is better served by other modes. This is what I mean by a balanced transportation grid where each mode is used for what it does best. For example, using trains for grocery shopping makes no more sense than using cars for state-to-state travel.

As for the inevitable huge drop in auto sales were this plan to be implemented, Detroit could take up the slack by manufacturing rail vehicles. That would bring back a manufacturing capability which has largely gone overseas.

Unfortunately, I doubt any of this will happen. What I see happening is business as usual at Detroit, meaning gas-guzzling SUVs, at least until such time as a country like China mass produces decent electrics using the latest battery technology. Those electrics will be cheaper to buy, break down way less, and be way cheaper per mile to operate, all while offering more than enough range for 99% of trips. The public will embrace them, Detroit will try too little too late to get back into the electric game (GM should have taken the EV1 to the next step ten years ago), go belly up, and that will be the end of the US auto industry. Fact is Detroit has for years managed to sell people vehicles with high profit margins via clever advertising. The public has been made to believe they need sub-10 second 0-60 times, huge cargo/towing capability, ridiculous range, bulk for safety, etc. because all of these things were cheaper to engineer than an ultra efficient, safe vehicle which meets the real needs of the average driver. In fact, far too much of the general public has been made to want a car even in places where there's no real need for one. Sooner or later the public will realize it's been had, and Detroit will pay the price. I have little faith in our legislators to embark on a sensible course before then. The sad part is once the auto industry goes belly up, it may well throw the whole country into a major depression.

Hint to Detroit-battery technology has arrived. 10 minute recharge and more than adequate range are possible. Electrics are really the only way forwards. Everything else I've looked at falls short. We lack sufficient land to replace all gasoline with biofuels, plus the engines running on them still have some emissions and are still noisy. Fuel cells make zero sense when once one factors in the energy needed to manufacture/store/transport hydrogen. The hydrogen economy is just a way for the usual players to maintain control of the energy supply. Electrics can be recharged by power generated from any of a number of diverse sources. The distribution network (i.e. the power grid) is already in place. Cost per mile is way cheaper than anything else, even free if one uses solar panels for recharging. There are no local emissions, something which is very important in population centers. They're very quiet, another huge plus in urban areas. If Detroit doesn't make them somebody else will.
 

udaman

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Cougtek = Flagreen = Wavemaker....[SIZE=-1]Mon Dieu, que vos enfants sont laids[/SIZE], merdé! Or is wavemaker really SC?

Well it would take me about 5 separate posts minimum to counter jtr's post points and how they are so distortedly wrong, due to his life long subway & train/bus usage in NYC. But suffice to say jtr, no amount of massive public advertising by the government (we have some of the billions in tabbaco lawsuit settlements going into public ads about the dangers of smoking yet, we still have tons of people picking up that terrible health hazard addiction. Besides I have more important (not really, just personal stuff I want/need to get done right now) things to attend to. But to look at Motor Trends CC cynical and somewhat satirical editorial, we can see that it's not wholly serious, and is easily pointed out fault in some/many of the arguements, just like jtr's (say, didn't we have this discussion on SR before, back before the B&G got lobotimized?).

Cost per mile jtr, umm, that's like saying along with solar, after the six gazillion in R&D, another century of gazillions to make it actually economically reliable and feasable, we're going to have almost 'cost free' electricity (what, so it's free to get it to your vehicle, I don't think so, there are always cost associated with any kind of power distribution that you yourself don't own, and there are always costs of ownership like maintenance, upkeep/repairs the crop up with any source of power...there ain't no free lunch and those who supply you with something have a vested interest in not making it excessively inexpensive to run, otherwise you'll never end up buying another and the company will go bankrupt in the long run....which of course will not happen as long as we have greedy corporate Enron officials and those in government in bed with those who stand to benefit financially...dem's or Repub's or whereever ...Chinese gov.officials getting their share of the 'take' etc).

Shall I rant some more ;).

Ah well, where's that Princeton (IIRC) Poly-Sci grad FS when you need him to patronize us with his superior knowledge of macro/micro economics (when even the expert economic professionals/professors rarely agree)? No, we'll not have $15/gal of any fuel for cars, trucks, trains, airplanes; simply because it would bring the economy to a complete halt!

I guess few remember reports of GDP or whatever they call it now, dropping as a purported direct result of higher fuel costs last year (or was it the year before, oh well Bush had to address that, seeing how there was supposedl discontent in the USA's population and mid-term congressional elections were coming up).

Long term, feasable energy policies are indeed needed. but politicians don't stay in power long enough to focus on decades long goals, and those types of goals if they do try to focus on, get lost in more short term, fashionable issues the public is focused on like education (nothing much there gets done), medical care/cost rising (nothing much significant there gets done either), the war in Iraq/Afganistan...well something's going to get done about that after Bush is out of power, I'm sure.

But long term energy policy isn't going to happen in the USA or for that matter most countries, even if there is a recognized need for it. Just look at the Governator (Arnold), a 'green' governor of Calif, but who's term will run out in a few short years. Calif has the most comprehensive energy saving/pollution controls of any US state, but it's kind of lost in multiple technologies, and competing interests. Supposedly by 2010 (originally) Calif was supposed to have 10% of all vehicles being sold, zero emissions, which means electric. But that got pushed back further and further and is always subject to further revisions. Lots of goals, Kyoto accords, which China & India are not signatures on.

It's a complex problem linked to economic health, special interests galore, and all sorts of complexities not the least technological feasability, which has been falsely hyped. ethanol, as pointed out many times, doesn't provide the necessary energy density, to be as cost effective as petro/gasoline.

I'm fine with CAFE of 40mpg, but auto lobbies would stop that, and no way it would ever get to being law by 2016.

Well to make it short(er, you don't want to see the long version where I actually take the time to research each and every point, with links to multiple source like I'm writing an energy policy article for the Rand Corp, do you?), most of jtr's logic if fine from his point of view, but the reality is few would ever agree with his logic as being practical, nor cost effective. Too many assumptions made on the basis of desire, rather than concrete numbers to support those claims. People need to get to places quickly in this societya and many are fully capabile and willing to pay for that luxury. Planes get you anywhere over long distances faster than trains, and I'd rather risk being in a plane accident than a TGV going at record land speed records of 350mph (which is much slower than a plane...not counting time it takes to get in and out of the airport of course ;) ). Neither are really practical, even in a city like NYC, and are even more impractical in larger cities like Los Angeles or Tokyo...can jtr tell me why? I think not. Not saying subways/buses/trains are not useful, just that they aren't the answer for the way we live now, and will live for at least the next century (aren't the subway of Paris more than a century old?).
 

Stereodude

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So, to sum up JTR's post, if the gov't took away our right to choose what we drive and controlled how we get around we'd all be better off... Ahahahahaha... Uh no...

Until we live in a totalitarian regime and everything is decided by the state, that's not going to happen.
 

Clocker

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The reason why you (representing the auto industry) are so against the new CAFE law is because of the not-in-my-courtyard syndrome......
Not true. I believe people should be allowed to choose any vehicle they want and that government should not (essentially) mandate what vehicles are available to them based on regulations made by politicians who know nothing about automotive design or performance.

People will become less "selfish and irresponsible" once it really starts to hit them in the pocket book and the free market economy will drive what additional vehicle choices they have.

However, I do agree with you that politicians are morons. :) All I'm hoping for is more nuclear energy, clean coal (if that is ever possible) and avoiding the middle east for oil. The environment is important to me too but I think priority one is reducing our dependance on the middle east. Bio Diesel is nice but if Ethanol helps with that I'm all for it too. I really think E-Flex is the way to go for daily commuter vehicles though. Then it doesn't really matter where the power comes from and pollution can more easily and centrally controlled at the power plants.
 

jtr1962

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So, to sum up JTR's post, if the gov't took away our right to choose what we drive and controlled how we get around we'd all be better off... Ahahahahaha... Uh no...
Um, that's what we have now in most of the country. I hardly call a transportation system where the auto is the sole means of getting around in many places a system with many choices. Suppose you can't drive, or maybe just don't want to, don't want the hassle of owning a car, can't afford a car, or riding in a car for more than a short time actually makes you physically sick (from either fumes or motion). Well, the last four actually apply in my case. Even if I didn't mind wasting my precious time piloting an automobile instead of doing something else as a passenger on a train, and could afford an auto, fact is they're useless to me except on short trips. I get physically ill breathing in the fumes from all the other cars in front of the one I'm in. I'm sure I'm far from the only one with this problem.

I want more choices, not fewer as you seem to. Want to drive an auto, and want to pay a fair price for that luxury, that's fine by me, but don't dictate that I have to do the same. When auto is the only choice available except in a few areas of the country then something is seriously skewed. And before you give me the usual crap about people choosing the auto over the other choices you might remember that lousy policy decisions by our "leaders" in the 1950s basically encouraged the move to suburbia plus the dismantling of a good, albeit in need of modernizing, public transportation system. Fact is Detroit wanted to sell cars, but cars were a hard sell unless you could get people to move to places where they really needed them. Hence the start of the biggest mistake of the 20th century. Besides getting us into the mess we're in today, suburban sprawl destroyed quite a bit of valuable farmland. This is farmland we could have been using to grow crops for import which would have helped our horrid trade imbalance. Lots of other reasons why we're wedded to the auto now such as clever advertising, but the hard facts are free choice was only a small part of it. People are for the most part sheep. They can be incented to want or do almost anything while being made to think it's their own choice. Government plus Madison Avenue incented them to want to live in suburbs and love their automobiles. And continued to do so even when it was painfully obvious in the 1970s that this was bad policy (except for oil/auto execs).

Of course, I hardly expect any sea change soon given the morons of both major parties who run this country. Rather, I expect that we'll go on business as usual until oil gets so expensive that we more or less are forced to abandon suburbia. Of course by then the country will be in a major depression so it probably won't matter much anyhow. I somehow suspect those countries like France and Japan which have built nuclear power plants plus electric trains powered by those plants will be way better off. And so will the few US cities which have a more balanced transportation system than middle America, although they'll be hurting also. Perhaps we'll also have a few more ME terrorists pissed off by our presence over there flying some more planes into buildings. Good enough excuse for the US to start WWIII to stimulate the economy out of the depression I suppose. Hey, it worked with WWII. Maybe we'll invade France and take their trains! Or just beat up on them because we're pissed off they're not hurting like we are. Yep, the fun times are just starting.
 

jtr1962

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People will become less "selfish and irresponsible" once it really starts to hit them in the pocket book and the free market economy will drive what additional vehicle choices they have.
While I feel increasing gas taxes is worth a try, I also somehow feel even $100/gallon gasoline won't get Detroit to start making EVs. EVs will cost Detroit a good part of their spare parts business as they break down far less frequently. And then you'll have the mechanics unions and service stations complaining that EVs will put them out of business. Governments will cry because EVs won't be paying gas taxes. Lots of reasons we don't have EVs now. Few of them have to do with EVs not being technically feasible. Like I said, I'm 100% sure if Detroit doesn't make EVs very soon someone else will. I'm betting that someone else will be China. Labor is cheap enough there that they can use a different business model where the sales price of the car generates enough profits to make it worthwhile, even without selling spare parts down the road. Heck, it may even be worth it for them to design these EVs to last 50 years, and charge 10% or 20% more. That would give them yet more environmental appeal.
 

Stereodude

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I want more choices, not fewer as you seem to.
But you think by eliminating the most popular choice you will create a flurry of choices.
Want to drive an auto, and want to pay a fair price for that luxury, that's fine by me, but don't dictate that I have to do the same.
But it's not up to you or the gov't to determine what a "fair price" is. Just because you think that the current price is too low and if it were higher there would be more alternatives doesn't mean the current price isn't "fair".

Push it all you want... Gas taxes and high gas prices unfairly affect the poor. I thought liberals and democrats were supposed to look out for the little guy?
 

jtr1962

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But you think by eliminating the most popular choice you will create a flurry of choices.
Show me where in any of my posts I said one damned thing about "eliminating" automobiles. I feel they're not the best choice in many cases, but that doesn't mean they don't have valid uses. I feel if we had a system where each mode was used for what it does best autos would be used a lot less, but that's a far cry from eliminating them (well, maybe in places like Manhattan that might actually happen but nowhere else).

But it's not up to you or the gov't to determine what a "fair price" is. Just because you think that the current price is too low and if it were higher there would be more alternatives doesn't mean the current price isn't "fair".
"Fair" in my book means paying the true cost. Right now taxpayers who don't own autos subsidize wars to secure oil, pay for medical conditions brought on by burning fossil fuels, etc. I suppose my main problem isn't with autos perse, but rather ICE autos. EV autos have much lower true costs of ownership, so even in a world where everyone paid the true costs they might still cost less than today's ICE autos.

Push it all you want... Gas taxes and high gas prices unfairly affect the poor. I thought liberals and democrats were supposed to look out for the little guy?
The truly poor don't even own cars. They can't afford to. That's another myth I'm tired of hearing. And I'm not a Democrat. I'm probably more a Libertarian. This is why I feel everyone should pay the true cost of doing whatever it is they want to do. If you don't feel you should pay taxes to subsidize mass transit that's fine, but don't make me pay taxes to subsidize oil wars, either. BTW, in 2000 I voted for Bush (lesser of two evils). In fact, I've usually tended to vote Republican although less than enthusiastically. While the Democrats may be more in tune with me environmentally, they just carry too much welfare and other socialist baggage I can't stomach. I'm not against helping the poor, but not when they're poor because of drug addiction or having babies or other reasons of their own doing. Last election I didn't vote. I'm not bothering any more. No real differences between the parties at this point. Sort of like choosing between Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.
 

sechs

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This is why libertarians aren't in charge: they can't get anything done.

People are stupid. See how folks still bough gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs as the price of gas rose (due to no action of government)? Gasoline (and other fuel) demands are highly elastic; if we don't force more efficient vehicles onto the market, people won't be forced to buy them!

Second, the kind of fuel taxes necessary to make big changes are politically unpalatable. We're talking about doubling (or more) the price of gasoline. Folks can't even agree on whether illegal immigrants should be illegal, how are going to get a huge gas tax?

Few folks know what CAFE is and the effects are totally transparent to car buyers. Since they are stupid, they'll just buy the better, more fuel efficient vehicle, none the wiser. It takes no extra thought.

In my opinion, the realistic solution works both sides of the coin: you need higher CAFE standards and higher fuel prices.

If the US automakers had been proactive in improving efficiency, rather than fighting it, there wouldn't be such a hard push to change the CAFE standards (most foreign manufacturers appear to be on the bandwagon already).
 

Stereodude

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Show me where in any of my posts I said one damned thing about "eliminating" automobiles. I feel they're not the best choice in many cases, but that doesn't mean they don't have valid uses. I feel if we had a system where each mode was used for what it does best autos would be used a lot less, but that's a far cry from eliminating them (well, maybe in places like Manhattan that might actually happen but nowhere else).
Ok, so you didn't use the word eliminate. You don't want to make the illegal or prevent them from being made, but you clearly want to make the economics of owning one so expensive that almost no one can afford one. In this regard you're no better than a communist. At least they're honest about what they're doing. You just want to manipulate the market to get your desired outcome while still telling people they have a choice.

For example lets say that you and a communist want to stop people from buying guns: A communist makes it illegal to buy guns. Someone like you makes guns cost $100k and tells people they can still get a gun (if they can afford it). The end effect is the same. The communist is just more honest about things.
 

Stereodude

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People are stupid. See how folks still bough gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs as the price of gas rose (due to no action of government)? Gasoline (and other fuel) demands are highly elastic; if we don't force more efficient vehicles onto the market, people won't be forced to buy them!
People may be stupid, but the gov't isn't responsible to babysit everyone and turn the USA into a nanny state. You can attempt to force car makers to make more fuel efficient cars, but you will have a very hard time getting people to buy them unless you're going to make them...
 

P5-133XL

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I'm Sorry, but I disagree that C.A.F.E standards are dumb. Matter of fact, I think they are necessary to force the automobile industry to improve energy efficiency. They were created, in the seventies, at a time that the industry was not particularly forward-thinking or even particularly responsive to the consumers needs. It really is not much different than requiring seatbelts, headlights, polution, or any ot the other minimum standards that the nation has required of the automobile industry because of inheirant "national interests".

It is an issue that has national importance and leaving the issue up to the industry or the consumer is/was not a sufficient solution. Matter of fact, the automobile industry, should not be singled out, but rather, there should be minimum enegry standards across many different segments of the nation, including the consumer. Matter of fact, at roughtly the same time, and with automobile energy efficiency as the primary objective, the US capped the speed limit at 55 MPH to attempt to address the driver side of the equation. Higher gas taxes were also implemented at a similar time.

Yes, there are far more issues that exist: The speed limit was raised; there is no real legislative meathod of dealing with the actual drivers behaviors; comute distances; mass-transit or public transportation; to name just a few. Perhaps we should be legistlating maximum acceleration to assist the "lead-foot" or jack-rabbit starts too. I don't feel qualified to judge what is necessary. I just know that more is necessary and the fact there are more issues that need to be addressed does not mean the areas that have been addressed, such as C.A.F.E. standards, are invalid, "wrong", or even "dumb".

Yes, it is probably true, that the government has placed an excessive burden on the automobile industry. There are other industrys that should be more regulated too. That alone does not invalidate the need or the regulation: It's just a fairness issue. Someone has to be first, and it is impossible to be totally fair.

Yes, the C.A.F.E. regulation produces distortion in the market place. Yes, the regulation is not perfect in its definitions of what is a truck, vs car, etc. Those distortions are an attempt to make the standard more workable: Its for the industries benefit that those exist. Would you prefer that they did not exist and that even Semi-trucks were required to maintain the same fuel-efficiency standards as a sedan? Of course not, so while those definitions are not perfect, they create useful and necessary distortions. I'm sure it would be appropiate to occasionally re-evaluate those definitions to limit the distortion but it is difficult because the industry really would not like the rules to change midstream after huge investments have been made.

I'm sure I could wax on for a long time about this subject and my opinions but my time right now is limited. So I stop for now ...
 

fb

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You can attempt to force car makers to make more fuel efficient cars, but you will have a very hard time getting people to buy them unless you're going to make them...
Not if they make good fuel efficient cars... ;) It almost seems like you don't trust the ability of the American car makes.
 

Stereodude

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Ok... Why don't all of you who agree that the US needs higher CAFE standards please post what you currently drive...

Year, Make, and Model please...
 

fb

Storage is cool
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Ok... 2006 Saab 9-5 2.0t BioPower, 150hp with gas, 185hp with ethanol.

And did I mention that I drive it 24/7 and use maximum acceleration all the time, just because it's so cheap with ethanol? Just like that wise man Csaba Csere predicted. ;)
 

jtr1962

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Ok, so you didn't use the word eliminate. You don't want to make the illegal or prevent them from being made, but you clearly want to make the economics of owning one so expensive that almost no one can afford one. In this regard you're no better than a communist. At least they're honest about what they're doing. You just want to manipulate the market to get your desired outcome while still telling people they have a choice.

For example lets say that you and a communist want to stop people from buying guns: A communist makes it illegal to buy guns. Someone like you makes guns cost $100k and tells people they can still get a gun (if they can afford it). The end effect is the same. The communist is just more honest about things.
First, to clarify what I was proposing, it is merely an example of manipulating the market towards electrics. A $5 or even $10 gas tax will only make driving less affordable if you insist on driving a gas car. Even then many will still be able to afford it. An electric will of course be cheaper. Heck, they would be cheaper to buy/operate even without any tricks even now. Consider a 25 mpg sedan. At today's gas prices of $3/gallon that's $0.12 per mile for energy costs. Now consider a similar electric. The widely quoted figure is around 0.15 kW-hr/mile but I'll even play devil's advocate and double it to 0.30 kW-hr/mile. Further playing devil's advocate let's use NYC's high electric rates of $0.30/kW-hr instead of the national average of around $0.12/kW-hr. Cost per mile is then 0.3*$0.30, or $0.09. Doing everything I could to make the electric look bad, it still comes out ahead in operating costs! It also wins hands down in maintenance, and if mass produced, in initial purchase price. Now the operating cost difference probably isn't yet so dramatic that the public would scream for electrics, and unless they do they auto makers won't make them. Hence the rational for my gas tax. The public will temporarily pay more now, but once the electrics I mentioned were made, transport would suddenly get a lot cheaper. Besides the direct savings, long term there will be medical savings as cancers decline dramatically. There will also be a dramatic quality of life improvement in population centers from cleaner air. Hardly seems like a plan to eliminate cars by making them prohibitively expensive to me. To be sure, I would certainly want to restrict auto use in very congested places like Manhattan regardless of whether they're electrics or not but Manhattan, perhaps NYC proper, is about the only place in the US where something like this would work.

Second, I think we've come full circle. It seems implicit in your argument that you feel the general public has some God-given right to cheap cars. At what point would you consider that autos have gotten too expensive, via a gas tax or otherwise? If 20% couldn't afford them, or 50%, or perhaps some other number? Funny but this sounds a lot like an argument a socialist might make, not a so-called capitalist like you. Can't deprive the proletariate of their right to own a car, or for that matter to drive one, no matter how incompetent they might be. I think your real position is that you're perfectly happy having the government subsidize things you personally care about if it makes them more affordable to you, and you call anyone else who might want their pet projects funded socialists/communists as a smokescreen. After all, the government has poured untold billions into the Interstate highway system, yet more billions into securing oil supplies to run the vehicles on those highways, still more billions dealing with the annual carnage on the highways, and even more fighting pollution-caused cancers. Ditto for all the money given to the airlines since the 1950s. I never see you complaining about any of that, yet you'll probably be the first to complain if Congress gives an extra $100 million to Amtrak. Without all the indirect driving subsidies, I'd be willing to bet it would be costing upwards of $5 a mile.

Ok... Why don't all of you who agree that the US needs higher CAFE standards please post what you currently drive...

Year, Make, and Model please...
Raleigh, 1980s vintage, uses no gas at all, meets all emissions requirements except when I eat beans:



My "town car":

 

jtr1962

Storage? I am Storage!
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Bush a lesser evil than Al Gore? You can really read anything in our forums.
Bush might be dumber than a potato chip but at least I knew what I was voting for. Gore I just don't trust, especially given who he served under as VP.

Next election should be even more interesting. It's looking like it might be Hillary versus Rudy.
 

Stereodude

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Second, I think we've come full circle. It seems implicit in your argument that you feel the general public has some God-given right to cheap cars. At what point would you consider that autos have gotten too expensive, via a gas tax or otherwise? If 20% couldn't afford them, or 50%, or perhaps some other number? Funny but this sounds a lot like an argument a socialist might make, not a so-called capitalist like you. Can't deprive the proletariat of their right to own a car, or for that matter to drive one, no matter how incompetent they might be.
I would think autos have gotten too expensive when I can no long afford one. Each consumer should make that choice based on their own situation. It's not the job of the gov't to ensure that they're too expensive to drive. I like being employed, and I need a car to be employed. You're living in a fairy tale.
 

Pradeep

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Runny glass
04 Hyundai Elantra, manual. Around 430 miles per tank, ~12 gallons.

Should C.A.F.E standards increase over time, as engineering efficiencies also improve, and new tech comes online? Sure. Should they change at such a rate as to cause auto companies to stop designing new cars/trucks because they have to see how it pans out? I don't believe so.

The fact is no matter how much hybrid tech you have, it's impossible to have a full size truck that can do 35 or 40mpg. That's just fantasy land. And Dianne is truly out there almost all the time.

Also, we make it even harder for the auto companies by increasing safety standards, which, whilst a good thing to have, also increasess the weight of every vehicle sold.

Yeah, you can have a three wheeled do-dad that can get you 100 mpg, but you need a motorbike license to drive it, and the chances of you walking away from a wreck in it are slim at best.
 

ddrueding

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Passing laws that are against peoples short-term interest is dumb. People are cattle, and will make decisions based on what they think is best for them. This gives you 2 options; remove their ability to decide or make the choice obvious.

Considering that I like to be able to decide, we need a way to make the consequences obvious. Money is an easy way to get your point across, and the government can do this with taxes. By taxing "bad" things and not taxing "good" things, the government can help steer decisions without making hard and fast rules.

With cars, increasing the amount of tax on the purchase based on MPG figures seems like an obvious step. For fuels, increasing the tax based on the amount of emissions that fuel puts out seems a clear decision.
 

jtr1962

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People are cattle, and will make decisions based on what they think is best for them. This gives you 2 options; remove their ability to decide or make the choice obvious.
That's the point I'm trying to make. The average person isn't going to bother doing kW-hr per mile calculations or anything else an engineering type like me or Clocker might. They're simply going to see (using my proposal) gas=expensive, electric=cheaper.

I'm also surprised nobody addressed this yet:

CAFE laws put the entire burden of fuel and carbon conservation on cars and ignore industry sources, home energy use, airlines, agriculture, trucking, locomotives, etc. Yes, cars and trucks do consume a great deal of energy, but of America’s total energy consumption of about 100 quadrillion BTUs (in 2005), the vehicles affected by CAFE only account for some 18 percent of that total. That’s not much more than the 14 percent of our energy that is generated by nuclear and renewable sources. Doesn’t the CO2 produced by the other 68 percent also cause global warming?
You can get the entire auto fleet 100% electric, charged via solar or other renewable sources, and you still won't even be one-quarter of the way to solving your problem. Thus far nobody in power has proposed doing anything about aeroplanes. High-speed rail would certainly easily replace air on trips up to 500 miles, perhaps even 1000 miles if average speeds were high enough. What about trips over 1000 miles? To me it seems air travel in general is more easily addressed because it is more elastic than most auto travel. If someone needs to drive to work, and no alternatives to auto exist, then there's no much you can do short of encouraging them to buy an electric car. However, most air travel is either business or vacation related. By definition all vacation travel, and much business travel, is optional, meaning that it's a want as opposed to a need. Discouraging business travel, perhaps by no longer making it tax deductible, would be a good first step. Ending subsidies to airlines to make air travel in general rise to true cost would be a good second step. You won't stop such travel entirely, but rather this will cause air travel to revert to what it once was-an expensive luxury which mainly the rich can afford, or a once in a lifetime thing for the average person. Cutting air travel by 90% would do as much for emissions as converting all cars to EVs. It would also do wonders for the noise problem around airports.
 

CougTek

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My car has the same age as Pradeep's and it is even less thirsty (albeit slightly). I can do 730~750Km on a full 50 litres tank. It isn't an Eco/Yaris. The particular make/model isn't your freaking business.
 

ddrueding

Fixture
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2003 VW Golf. 145k miles. It did 40mpg @ 40k miles and 70mph; but it's closer to 30mpg now @ 100mph.

I buy more gas than most of the group here combined (about $700/month) and am willing to pay many times that amount if it will get soccer moms out of SUVs.
 

e_dawg

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I vote for 50% higher gas taxes phased in over the next 5 years to go along with tighter CAFE standards. I currently drive a VR6 Jetta that uses more gas than most cars its size (19/28 mpg). I don't feel too bad about my fuel consumption right now, but I would like to lower it if I found a great car that was fuel efficient. If only BMW would bring their nice diesels from Europe over to North America (or if they went hybrid) ;)

I was just in France for vacation and admire the metro (subway) system they have there. Just like London, NYC, HK, Tokyo, and other major world cities, you can get to most places by walking a few blocks to the nearest metro station, transfering 1-2 times to another line, and ending up a few blocks from your destination of choice. Took me half an hour to get to most places, and an hour for my longest trip. Only complaint: the trains are not air conditioned, and it can get stuffy and smelly in the summer.

If my city (Toronto) had a much better subway system, I know I wouldn't use my car as much. As it stands, we have a joke of a subway system with 2.5 lines. We have streetcars and buses to supplement, but only a couple streetcar lines actually have their own right of way, so they're always stuck in traffic downtown like everyone else.

I guess at least we're not as bad as a lot of US cities, where the urban sprawl is even worse. Good luck getting decent mass transit systems across the country. I know here in Toronto, there is a huge budget shortfall in the tens of billions with respect to funding improvements to our transit system. With even more sprawl, the commuter density just isn't high enough to support the investment.
 

Howell

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Chattanooga, TN
I have to drive for work. I drive an '01 VR6 Jetta manual, the same car edawg has. Maybe the same year. I would love to leave my car at the office and commute to the office on public trans. Ironically, I live so close to work that my commute is less than 50% of my total driving.

I agree that a perfectly efficient market should decide. However, we don't have a perfectly efficient market we are working with here. Too many of the costs are hidden from the consumer for us to make an informed decision.
 

Stereodude

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I guess we need the gov't to step in and restrict how far people can live from work, and how often and how far they can travel for pleasure too.

I also notice none of you are driving GEO Metro's that get 58MPG on the highway either... Why's that? Shouldn't you lead by example?
 

ddrueding

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The government shouldn't restrict anything, just make sure we pay for it.

I was going to buy a Honda Insight, but I'd need to do something about that top speed...
 

jtr1962

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Matter of fact, at roughtly the same time, and with automobile energy efficiency as the primary objective, the US capped the speed limit at 55 MPH to attempt to address the driver side of the equation.
I submit that this was a big mistake for two reasons. First, enforcement is pretty much not practical. Traffic will move at its own pace based on the road, traffic conditions, a whole bunch of other factors. The only way to get comliance is with saturation enforcement. However, this costs a fortune, and also results in loss of life from police chases. Second, the presence or absence of speed limits has been found to have very little to do with this pace. The only way to get fairly good compliance is to set the limit at the 95th percentile. This allows enforcement to go only after those who are statistically the most dangerous. By setting limits at the 5th to 10th percentile, which is what we have been doing since the 1970s via legislated speed limits, you basically turn everyone into lawbreakers. Since most people uneventfully drive over the limit, they also feel they can uneventfully violate other traffic laws, such as running red lights. The end result is what we have today-a group of largely incompetent, largely inconsiderate drivers.

I think a better way to encourage fuel efficiency is to use speed limits to the driver's advantage. More fuel efficient cars would be issued special license plates, and allowed legally higher speeds. For example, on a road currently posted at 65 mph, perhaps vehicles with EPA highway ratings of 30 to 40 mpg might be allowed 80 mph, those which get 40 to 50 mpg might be allowed 90 mph, and those which get greater than 50 mpg, as well as EVs, would be allowed 100 mph (about the maximum design speed of most Interstate highways). Conversely, large vehicles with poor fuel economy could be restricted to the truck lanes, and allowed only 45 mph. It will be in the public's best interests to buy more fuel efficient vehicles as it would speed their trip, plus remove the worry of getting speeding tickets. I liken it to using a carrot instead of a stick.

Perhaps we should be legistlating maximum acceleration to assist the "lead-foot" or jack-rabbit starts too.
If there were a way to selectively limit acceleration rates to about 3 mph/sec on local roads, perhaps by means of sensors embedded in these roads, I've long thought this might be a good idea. While high acceleration rates might be justified for highwy merging, they just aren't needed when driving on local streets. However, drivers use the acceleration capabilities of their vehicles to do all sorts of stupid weaving in and out maneuvers to jockey for position. Limit acceleration rates to about that of a city bus for in-town driving, and this selfish behavoir is no longer possible. Frankly, it never made any sense anyway. These drivers waste gas, nearly cause accidents, and then end up a big two car lengths ahead at the next light. Wow, they saved a whole second, if that! Everytime I see these bozos, I think they should be in a commercial with the tag line "Driving is so easy even a caveman can do it."
 
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