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Posts Tagged ‘National Fuel Efficiency Policy’

Fight Looms Over Our Dysfunctional Transportation Policy. Kicking the Problem “Down the Road”

After decades of neglect, a huge bill is due as the deficit soars.

by on Jul.07, 2009

DOT Project in Wyoming

A budget-busting bill of $500,000,000,000 alters Federal funding of transportation, increasing it 40%.

Minnesota Democrat James Oberstar has introduced a bill that calls for sweeping changes in U.S. transportation policy, as well as how taxes and fees are assessed to keep the now bankrupt Highway Trust Fund solvent. It’s a half a trillion dollar program.

He also wants to restore rail freight service, institute high-speed train travel between major cities, and increase funding for mass transit by establishing higher fees on highway users.

His “Surface Transportation Authorization Act Of 2009″ introduced late last month in the House of Representatives claims to be a “blueprint for investment and reform,” and directly challenges the Obama Administration. It has cleared a sub-committee, and markups are proceeding. [See Oberstar here]

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wants to defer the larger discussion of transportation policy that is being prompted by the impending bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund. It runs out of money this month.  And the current transportation bill expires this October 1, when the new fiscal year begins. The new bill has good bipartisan support in the House.


LaHood is kicking the core issue down the road.

LaHood proposes maintaining the status quo for 18 months by injecting, oh, $10 to $20 billions of dollars into the existing system to keep the money flowing to the states, which then can divert up to 50% of the money for other purposes. Oberstar wants accountability and coherence to the unsupervised spending. LaHood ducks this core issue by saying he thinks that it will take 18 months for Congress to “think creatively as we search for sustainable funding mechanisms.”

Translation: your taxes are going up

Gas Tax Free!

Gas Tax Free!

The Obama Administration doesn’t want to deal with this right now, although it’s tough for me to foresee just when increased taxes will become more popular. And what about Obama’s claim that it is time to stop kicking tough problems “down the road” — I guess that doesn’t apply to our actual roads. 


EPA Grants California’s Waiver Request for Separate Emissions Standards

Latest defeat for the auto industry could create administrative chaos and severely restrict your new vehicle choices.

by on Jun.30, 2009

EPA Adminstrator Jackson

The Obama appointee claimed the waiver is appropriate and consistent with previous interpretations of the Clean Air Act by EPA.

At least 13 other states and the District of Columbia have said that they intend to follow California in instituting tougher standards than previously called for under federal regulation. Since these areas comprise about 40% of new car sales, it is possible that California legislators and bureaucrats will determine the size and types of cars that you can buy after 2016.

The first California waiver request was made in December 2005 under the Bush Administration and was subsequently denied in March 2008. This previous decision was based on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act finding that California did not have a need for its greenhouse gas emission standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” EPA said in a statement defending the reversal of this previous policy ruling.

Act Now!

Act Now!

“This decision puts the law and science first. After review of the scientific findings, and another comprehensive round of public engagement, I have decided this is the appropriate course under the law,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. The Obama appointee claimed the waiver is consistent with the Clean Air Act as it’s been used for the last 40 years. 

“More importantly, this decision reinforces the historic agreement on nationwide emissions standards developed by a broad coalition of industry, government and environmental stakeholders earlier this year,” she said.

While automakers dependent on government support and others observing the “bully pulpit” that the administration has used to shape the debate on automotive matters have been cowed into public silence, auto dealers, many them small business owners with Republican ties, are more vocal in their opposition.

“EPA’s decision to reverse its 2008 denial of California’s request for a pre-emption waiver is sadly a triumph of politics over good common sense,” said John McEleney, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association. “Moreover, with its action today, the Obama administration has effectively ceded the long-term setting of national fuel economy standards to unelected California regulators,” he added.

Just after taking office in late January, President Barack Obama directed EPA to assess the appropriateness of denying the waiver. EPA received a letter from California on January 21, 2009, raising several issues for Administrator Jackson to review regarding the denial.

Last month, President Obama announced a first-ever national policy aimed at both increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The new standards would cover model years 2012-2016. Cars and light trucks must average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, about 40% higher than today. Congress in 2007 passed a 35 mpg requirement by 2020. The accelerated time table will add thousands upon thousands of dollars to the cost of a new car critics say.


Plugged In: Volvo Develops a Line of Hybrids

Is the maker anticipating demand or forced by EU rules?

by on Jun.03, 2009

Volvo Hybrid

A line of Volvo plug-in hybrids is coming in 2012, just in time for Super Credits from the EU.

Volvo has become the latest European manufacturer to join the hybrid parade, with a joint- venture program with the Swedish power company Vattenfall. Production of Volvo “plug-in” hybrids are coming in 2012. This is well behind the auto industry’s hybridization, which has been underway for more than a decade now, with Toyota producing its third generation of Prius, while Honda is on its second generation Insight.

“There is no doubt that the environmental issue is at the very top of Volvo Cars’ product development agenda right now,” says Stephen Odell, CEO of Volvo Cars. “Carbon dioxide emissions from our cars will be drastically reduced by the plan we are now implementing and our aggressive electrification strategy will put us in a leading position when it comes to environmentally optimized passenger transport.”

What Odell is leaving out is the quite visible hand of European regulation governing carbon dioxide, which is forcing all makers to downsize cars, and produce electric cars to get “Super Credits” to allow them to continue to produce vehicles that resemble the ones we know today. More than a dozen hybrid and full electric vehicle models are slated for release by 2010. This includes new vehicles from Ford, Daimler, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, and Opel.

EU and CO2

The European Union is moving ahead — over automakers’ protests — with new CO2 standards for passenger cars that dictate a reduction in average CO2 emissions from new cars to 120 g/km. Fewer than 9% of the cars sold in the EU in 2006 met this level of emissions. The costs of moving towards CO2 of 120 g/km by 2012 through vehicle technology are estimated at about €3,600 ($5,108) on an average per car.  (The EU does not recognize light trucks as we do in the U.S., just cars and commercial vehicles. And naturally there are complicated credits and exemptions or special treatment for cars bought by the wealthy.) (more…)

President Obama Asks Congress to Move on the Stalled “Cash for Clunkers” Bill

As the economy and automobile companies burn, politicians fiddle different special interest tunes.

by on Jun.02, 2009

Senator Feinstein

What do we want a Cash for Clunkers bill to do -- improve fuel economy or protect U.S. jobs?

President Obama asked Congress yesterday to pass fleet modernization legislation that provides credit to consumers who turn in old cars and purchase cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars during his GM bankruptcy speech. It wasn’t the first such request, as readers will know.

This should be a relatively simple law-making task. Well, nothing is easy about our special interest-dominated legislative process.

Cash for Clunkers is caught between environmentally-oriented legislators, who want to concentrate on fuel efficiency, and domestic auto industry- friendly lawmakers, who see it as a sales boosting tool.

As we have covered in detail, House Democrats from the Committee on Energy and Commerce have already passed legislation authorizing the government to subsidize vehicle buyers who trade in old ones for new, but it is tied up in a much larger, more controversial energy and global warming bill that won’t move forward anytime soon. Democrats are saying that they might attach the Clunker bill to another bill to get it moving, but until the Senate acts, it’s stalled. The Senate is due to consider a Clunkers bill this week, and the greens (as in environment) are fighting the greens (as in dollars from jobs).

The compromise House bill provides billions of dollars in taxpayer-financed incentives to buyers who trade in older vehicles for new ones. Buyers would receive a coupon, worth $3500 or $4500, if the new vehicle is more fuel efficient than the one replaced. The House program could cost taxpayers as much as $4.5 billion during the one year it would run, if all of the one million authorized coupons are cashed in. The money would come from the economic stimulus plan already approved by Congress last winter.    (more…)

Rose Garden Ceremony Proclaims New Auto Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Policy

The President demonstrates his powers of persuasion and the collapse of auto industry influence.

by on May.19, 2009

President Obama at a Townhall meeting

In an historic first, the projected reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions sets in motion a policy that says it's America's desire to deal with global warming after decades of denial.

For followers of the auto emissions and fuel economy wars that have been going on for five decades now, the announcement today by President Barack Obama that one “National Fuel Efficiency Policy” is decreed is a clear turning point in America’s growing interest in cleaning the air we all breathe.

It is also a stark demonstration of the growing inability of the auto industry to promote its own narrow self-interests to the detriment of the larger public good.

The proposed National Fuel Efficiency Policy adopts uniform federal standards to regulate both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions while preserving the legal authorities of the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of California and 13 other States, according to the President.

The fuel efficiency program covers new vehicle model years 2012 to 2016, and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016. An estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil will not be used by vehicles bought over the five-year life of the program — over an unspecified lifetime of each vehicle. The fuel economy gains of more than 5% per year would have once been unthinkable in lobbyist-dominated Washington.

In an historic first, the projected reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions sets in motion a policy that says it’s America’s desire to deal with global warming after decades of refusing to do so. The 35.5 in 2016 is equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal plants, according to the Administration.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe key component in this reduction is the increase in the average mileage requirement from new vehicles that leaves as road kill the existing CAFE law passed by Congress and President Bush in 2007. Back then, under heavy auto industry lobbying, the bill only required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg in 2020.

“In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible,” said President Obama. “That is why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington.”  (more…)