By on January 25, 2009

California accounts for a huge chunk of America’s new car sales (at least for the transplants). And 13 other states (Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) follow its vehicular emissions laws. Put them together and they account for just under half of all American new vehicle sales. And now, thanks to President Obama’s decision to grant California a waiver from federal emissions regulations, they’re going to call the shots for the entire U.S. automotive industry.

President Obama will free California impose its own vehicular tailpipe regulations. Those rules, already drafted, consider CO2 a pollutant. (Global warming and all that.) Manufacturers wishing to sell vehicles in California and its legislative clones will have to meet a new, fleet-wide CO2 standard. As CO2 emissions are directly related to fuel economy, CA et. al. will be, effectively, directing the carmakers to sell higher mileage vehicles. Significantly higher.

“The California law, which was originally meant to take effect in the 2009 model year, requires automakers to cut emissions by nearly a third by 2016, four years ahead of the federal timetable,” The New York Times reports. “The result would be an increase in fuel efficiency in the American car and light truck fleet to roughly 35 miles per gallon from the current average of 27.”

There are two schools of thought on the effects of this move. First, not only can Detroit and the rest of them meet the higher standards, but it’s about fucking time.

“This is a complete reversal of President Bush’s policy of censoring or ignoring global warming science,” Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress in Washington, told the Gray Lady. “With the fuel economy measures and clean energy investments in the recovery package, President Obama has done more in one week to reduce oil dependence and global warming than George Bush did in eight years.”

For environmental activists, the idea that automakers can meet the new California standard is a given. Another shibboleth: carmakers would have already done so if not for their greedy, SUV-pimping, foot-dragging ways. The fact that $4 a gallon gas did more for the environmentalist’s cause than decades of federal corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards is shoved aside. As is the fact that the electorate voted with their wallets.

There’s a planet to be saved; free markets be damned. From this perspective, the federal waiver is a victory for Mother Earth that will be fully vindicated by its non-impact on the auto industry and its immeasurable impact on the earth’s climate. One way and the other, decades hence, people will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Alternatively, the decision to empower California to set national fuel economy standards will, as the automakers have warned, wreak havoc on a fragile industry, drive-up prices for consumers and, ultimately, fail.

There’s no way automakers selling cars in America can meet the California mob’s higher, fleet-wide fuel economy standards within the deadline without chopping low-mileage models from their lineup within the relevant states. (The fuel-sucking CUV halfway house, for example, just became an evolutionary dead end.) Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes described the CA mandate as the involuntary hybridization of the nation’s fleet. That sounds about right to me.

Whether manufacturers would offer low[er] mileage vehicles for sale outside of the 14-states is a tricky question, given the intersection of politics, PR and commercial reality. Whether those non-CA-friendly vehicles could be “imported” into the 14-state cabal is even trickier. And speaking of tricky…

As The NYT points out, the new laws mean “automobile manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national standard, and on a faster phase-in schedule.”

Has anyone looked at the U.S. new car market recently? Who’s got money for that shit? And who’s going to pay cash money to buy these newfangled fuel misers? What if these wonderful machines don’t sell?

All of which highlights the small matter of what “we” (i.e. taxpayers) are going to do about GM and Chrysler, currently (and for the foreseeable future) sucking on Uncle Sam’s teat.

While the Department of Energy is preparing to dole out dole worth $25b for retooling “loans” to build these more left-coast compliant vehicles, this turn of events suggests that Uncle Sam will be on the hook for even more more money for GM and ChryCo. Hey, you want us to build way cool fuel efficient vehicles? You gotta pay. I mean, loan.

I understand the rationale behind California’s zeal and President Obama’s support. But there’s no doubt that they’ve just invoked the law of unintended consequences. Thought politically toxic, a gas tax hike would have been a far more effective solution. As we shall soon see.

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144 Comments on “Editorial: Obama Lets California Determine National Fuel Economy Standards...”


  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Poor California, they are about to get a lot less cars to choose from.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    …and the wheels of the bus go round and round…

  • avatar
    vww12

    Actually, the idea of every state having freedom to do its own standards does not strike me to be quite as bad as you mention. True, generally speaking, all cars will be more expensive for all U.S. consumers, because the automakers will have to produce several versions in smaller batches.

    Some automakers will disappear entirely as the demand is reduced due to higher prices and due to the additional overhead.

    But letting every state do its thing will also lead, down the road, to competition and benchmarking. The bad states will tend to wither and die and the free states will become healthier and stronger.

    Stonger like Ireland in Europe and Texas in the States.

  • avatar
    dwford

    you mean:

    poor California, Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

  • avatar
    dwford

    vww12:

    actually there will be only 2 standards, Federal and California. The states have the right to choose which one they follow.

  • avatar
    dwford

    All this will do is raise prices on the remaining new vehicles AND raise prices on the used grandfathered cars. The end result is the same: fewer people will be able to afford to drive cars and will be forced onto public transportation.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    This is nuts. Can you imagine the billions it will cost to engineer cars to meet dozens of state emission standards? Most will be determined by zealots to conform to the environmental whim of the day. The domestic manufacturers are already on life support. This should rocket them over the edge.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    If Californians hate the damn car so much, then why do they buy so many of them, then drive them excessively, and rarely use public transit? Oh, that’s right, its somebody else’s problem to solve. If I want to live in Irvine and work in Burbank, I’m gonna do it dammit! Or maybe Los Banos and commute to San Jose. Somebody else figure out how to take care of the problem.

    I wish more than anything California wasn’t as big as it is. Then maybe instead of having to pay any attention to them throwing their weight around, the rest of this country could just ignore their wacky ideas and get on with our lives.

    Obama and the EPA is wrong on this one. ESPECIALLY in this economy. You’re right, nobody has the money, and nobody has the money plus the time to do this realistically. And even beyond that, you’re right that if gas sits at $1.80 whos gonna wanna buy the damn things? Even extending this, the plethora of various fuel standards and ethanol requirements, etc already waste untold amounts of energy and money. Take it a step further. Fuel standards should be nationalized as well. Or go the other way….why shouldn’t states be allowed to set their own crash standards? 50 different rollover test methods with 50 different minimum requirements. Then maybe the rest of us can take our rollover standards from Arizona while our bumper standards come from Oklahoma. RIDICULOUS.

    I can’t wait for it to result in horribly expensive cars and/or a combination of that with no choice of anything over the size of a Civic or Prius. Just WAIT until Californians then go bitching about how they have no choices. Arnold, do something, I can’t get my kids and all their stuff in the Prius! Then CA and CARB will reverse their boneheaded decision (like they did with their equally ridiculous electric-car requirements). Unfortunately, by the time that happens, they’ll have created total havoc in the international auto business, and probably take a few companies down with them. But who cares, right? They’re just big evil faceless corporations from somewhere east of Lake Tahoe.

    California is the most messed up state in the entire country. Hands down. Once people realize they can live better, cheaper, and with more choice elsewhere, they will. And California will end up in an even bigger mess than they’re already in.

    Maybe its more the environtal extremists….most just happen to live in California. Can’t we please move on to another flavor of the week….maybe go back to fear of communists fluoridating the water supply….anything?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Why not turn the question around? Is the current energy waste behavior sustainable? Doing nothing now is NOT the least expensive option, and mandating efficiency will create the necessary investment in structural changes.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    The Transplants were rolling in the aisles with laughter as CAFE rolled out the red carpet to half the U.S. auto sales for them.

    I believe you can hear the second wave of laughter as the red carpet is again rolled out for half the remaining auto sales for them.

    The Detroit automakers can about halfway see this coming.

    The UAW, dreaming of sugarplums with those billions of healthcare dollars soon to be entrusted to their care, could give a rip.

    Crap like this absolutely hammers the full product line automakers.

    More witch’s brew of voo doo numbers is NOT the answer.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    The way this works, the carmakers have to sell cars that meet a fuel efficiency standard averaged over the number of cars sold. So it’s not hard to meet that standard. You only have to sell more small cars. It’s not like an emissions standard that every car has to meet.

    But the idea is that this will force carmakers to spend the money on designing big cars that get better efficiency. Never mind that it never worked in the past. Someone found a loophole, or the law was waived.

    Odds are, we will all spend billions for nothing. Just like when sports utility vehicles replaced cars. And when carmakers made their gas guzzlers flex fuel vehicles.

    The old is new again. History repeats itself.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I would rather it be a CAFE mandate to 35mpg, than $4 gas again, to make manufacturers make fuel efficient cars.

  • avatar

    MBella :

    Why?

  • avatar
    unleashed

    “fewer people will be able to afford to drive cars and will be forced onto public transportation”

    What public transportation???

    “This is nuts.”

    Just a preview. Much more of the same to follow…
    The Americans must learn that elections have consequences.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    …to paraphrase our old pal stan, here’s another fine mess we’re about to get into.

    I thought that was Oliver Hardy’s line to Stanley Laurel, “Well here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Yes, I’m a Laurel and Hardy geek.

  • avatar
    50merc

    “California, Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington”

    Didja notice that most of these states are in economic decline, have high taxes and impose harsh regulation on business? And not a few have rotten political environments. Good places to avoid, and lots of people are doing just that.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

    The value of old Buick 225s is going to skyrocket in California. OTOH, kei cars will finally make it to America.

    California tumbles into the sea
    That will be the day I go
    Back to Annandale.
    Tried to warn you
    About Chino and Daddy Gee,
    But I can’t seem to get to you
    Through the U.S. Mail.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ 50merc

    Didja notice that most of these states are in economic decline, have high taxes and impose harsh regulation on business? And not a few have rotten political environments.

    Which states are not in long term economic decline in the USA?

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    Living on Long Island in New York, I am still trying to figure out why we have the same emissions laws as California. Its 22 degrees outside right now and this is probably the warmest part of the state at this point in time. How is this climate similar to California?

  • avatar
    unleashed

    “How is this climate similar to California?”

    Your POLITICAL climate IS…
    That’s all that matters.

  • avatar

    dastanley :

    Doh! Anyway, I’ve rewritten the ending.

    Robert Schwartz :

    Are you with me Dr. Wu?

  • avatar
    TEW

    So if a state says they want no emissions standards it will be ok? I will write my local representative right now and get rid of these standards and get some cool cars that are not legal now. This might back fire on the greenies if a lot of the conservative states ban the standards.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Why not just take the Mercedes route and just pay the penalties? How much cash would it take for GM to pay the penalties on a fleet that met federal regs and ignored Cali regs?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So if I drive a non approved vehicle to the CA state line will I be stopped? If I am pulled over in LA can they ticket me, or even impound my car? If I move there do I have to sell my non Ca cars and buy different ones(note I did not state new) or else take the bus?

    It’s not right for the federal government to impose upon a state that which is left up to states to decide, the constitution is clear on that, but to have one state impose on the others what they want is another matter entirely.

    It’s time to chop up the US into 4 states and leave it at that. Let the left coast and New England become worker’s paradise, the south can make changes as they see fit, and the middle north can go their own way and trade with Canada. Someone has to provide health care for the Canucks that cannot wait for it.

  • avatar

    toxicroach :

    So we use my federal tax money to prop-up GM so it can pay fines to California for rules on interstate commerce upon which the federal government deferred. Excuse me while I fall down this rabbit hole.

    GS650G :

    At the moment, the laws would only effect the types of vehicles being sold as new within the participating states. But yours is a sensible leap of logic. Car dealers operating in the high mileage-only states would be MAD not to close the “loophole” allowing CA car buyers to buy what they really, really want from out of state and bring it in. Because that’s exactly what they’ll do.

    Look at “dry” and “wet” counties in the south.

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    “Your POLITICAL climate IS…
    That’s all that matters.”

    Exactly!

    A governor we did not elect, a thief who stole 50 billion allowed to stay in his penthouse, and taxes that are soaring out of control.

    As always we are getting forced into a folly.

  • avatar
    dwford

    “How is this climate similar to California?”

    Political hot air is the same in every state..

    “would rather it be a CAFE mandate to 35mpg, than $4 gas again, to make manufacturers make fuel efficient cars.”

    So you would rather go down to the dealer and have only a few small models to choose from instead of having a full lineup? At $4.00 gas driving consumer decisions, larger vehicles could still be made for those willing to pay the price. CAFE or CO2 rules will limit choice to those vehicles that conform to the law, regardless of whether the consumers want them.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    MBella says: I would rather it be a CAFE mandate to 35mpg, than $4 gas again, to make manufacturers make fuel efficient cars.

    I guess this means you actually believe CAFE, soundly proven to generally be ineffective in increasing vehicle fuel economy in the United States, deserves yet another chance? That year 31 will finally be the charm?

    I’m sorry but it’s time to let go and let barrel head taxes yet again show you how to meaningfully increase U.S. fleet fuel mileage in very short order. A side (major?) benefit is that people will continue get to choose the right size vehicle for their needs and the automakers are smart enough to provide good choices at the economy end of the scale.

    I have a hunch we’d see a wave of new car buying and a lot of the unsafe junk at the bottom would finally be pushed off the roads.

  • avatar

    Whine and bitch and moan all you want. I love how the right wing is all for states rights unless it is something they disagree with.

    I’d rather just have no CAFE and gas taxes (not even gas taxes, but just let gas pay for highways, oil wars and everything else that is transportation related), but since a gas tax is untenable, CAFE standards will have to do…

  • avatar

    Akatsuki:

    States’ rights isn’t a right or left wing issue. It’s a constitutional question.

    In this case, the federal government has clear precedence. After all, they’re granting California a waiver. They’re ceding the right to set air quality standards to CA and their 13 acolytes in this case– not abandoning their power over a matter which affects interstate commerce.

    Should we grant the states the right to set automotive safety standards? Same deal.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Does this mean an end to California Reformulated Gasoline version 2 with 10% ethanol? If so, I’m all for it! (Well, I’m all for getting rid of the fed/cal fuel mismatch; CAFE is still stupid.)

    Here’s how to sell a $2/gallon fuel tax… first, it will be phased from the current $0.18 by incrementing it $0.02 per month over 8 years. Second, each adult tax filer gets a tax rebate equal to the tax cost of purchasing 1000 gallons of fuel. Note that since diesel and jet fuel are also taxed and that commercial use is also taxed, 1000 gallons includes driving, flying, and transportation for all the junk people typically buy. Finally, keep CAFE right where it is currently and then just kill it in 8 years–it won’t be relevant by that time anyway. As a last thought… unify European and USA crash and emissions standards so that the majority of European cars could be purchased and used in the US without major headache.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    I’d like to know what the automakers have spent since the late 60′s developing vehicles to meet the myriad of emission rules, safety regs, and fuel economy standards. Frankly I wish one of the CEO’s would’ve stood up in the hearings and said “Mr. Senator, we’ve spent xxx Billion dollars (I’m guessing it’s north of 200B) over the last 30 years meeting all the regulations you and your buddies have choked us with. We’d like a rebate on that now, please.”

    I’m all for efficiency, and clean air, but c’mon making the OEM’s meet 2 different sets of rules, one of which will cost every bailout dollar and more to meet seems really counterproductive. If anything the Gov’t should freeze all new rules and regs until they get thier money back. You don’t loan someone money then tell them they can’t do this or that to make the money they need to to pay you back. Think about it…it’s hilarious.

  • avatar
    pbr

    dwford:
    So you would rather go down to the dealer and have only a few small models to choose from instead of having a full lineup? At $4.00 gas driving consumer decisions, larger vehicles could still be made for those willing to pay the price. CAFE or CO2 rules will limit choice to those vehicles that conform to the law, regardless of whether the consumers want them.

    It doesn’t have to be preference — accepting the fact that markets cannot be trusted to take care of all the folks all the time is enough. Recent events could reasonably lead one to this conclusion … Enron, oil ca. 2008, etc.

    Sometimes the gummint has to step in and do something, in this case allowing California et al to lead on policy for a while might well be political genuis — if it works, the feds claim it as their own, if not, California takes the fall. It also gives us all time to watch and learn from the California experiment, deferring the decision on which policy will do the most good in the long run until there’s better information on what that policy needs to be. No one in D.C. can pull off managing pollution/mileage than CARB does, or they’d have done it by now.

    Like most (?) here, I believe a gas tax will do the most good in the long run, but the time for that comes later, on the way out of the recession.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I knew that there would be a bad ending when the environmentalists starting trying to tell us that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

    First, carbon dioxide is not some trace product that can be done away with by more efficient combustion. It is the main end product, along with water vapor, of combustion of carbonaceous materials, whether that combustion process takes place in the bodies of warm-blooded mammals, in a coal-fired electric power plant, or in the cylinders of my Accord. The only way to get less of it is to burn less carbon, or in the case of mammals to eat less carbon. Period. The only way for that to happen is for the economy to decline. Or, I suppose, the earth’s population to decline.

    Second, carbon dioxide, far from being a pollutant, is the lifestuff of plants. They need it like we need oxygen. Slight increases in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere such as we have had in recent years are helpful to plant growth in general. The planet earth has come through periods in the distant past when the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was much greater than it is now, without apparent ill effect.

    And this is aside from the fact that human activities contribute only a portion of the total carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. And carbon dioxide contributes only a small portion of any global warming that might be taking place, water vapor being the major contributor to the greenhouse effect.

    Policies such as President Obama’s idea to let California set auto emission standards for the whole country probably will not do irreparable damage to the US economy, but they will do damage. California’s state government has shown little evidence that there is any understanding of economic cause and effect, in environmental issues as well as economics in general. There is a reason for the net outflow of productive jobs from that state.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    So now that CA is the new EPA, who exactly is creating the policies dictating this new direction? What automotive experience do the wise leaders of CA have?

    We here in CA are awesome at everything! Just look at how great our public schools are (roughly 1/2 of high school students don’t graduate in LA county). Look at how well we’ve managed ourselves into a $41B deficit. The state has already said it will issue IOU’s for tax refunds as we’ll soon be out of cash. We’ve done a great job at cutting frivolous spending. Why, look at the $3B choo choo train our brilliant electorate just voted in favor of funding.

    We effing suck!

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    sweet!!!

    good to see some balls on somebody…

    though – don’t know if a gas tax would be a better solution or not.

    It would be a lot easier (in 2012) for somebody to campaign on a ‘repeal Obama’s gas tax’ than to run on ‘lets make cars more polluting’…

    or for that matter actually doing it…

  • avatar
    abcb

    Am I the only one who think this is a great news?

    How many of you guys lived in CA 10 years ago? 20 years ago? The pollution was really really bad here. The air quality just sucked. Now, it’s not so bad.

    Yes I as the consumer will end up paying for the retooling and R&D. I for one don’t mind paying if it means I can get some clean air.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I’d rather see $4/gal gas than this. At least then the burden is off the manufacturer and on the consumer to decide what they’re willing to pay.

  • avatar
    cynder

    This is funny, much weeping and gnashing of the teeth over nothing. Mandating fuel economy and emissions has never reduced options, engineering excellence or automotive capability.
    Honestly, if Peugeot can make interesting vehicles that meet similar standards there is nothing to say that Ford or GM can’t.

    In effect, what is happening is that California is setting the standards rather than the EPA. Ford and GM will not build vehicles separately, they will all meet the common denominator.

    The tradeoff will be that V8 and high-horsepower engines will become luxury items and American engineering will need to get a lot better at building C segment vehicles that consumers want.

  • avatar
    the duke

    First, housekeeping for those who talk about other states setting standards. CARB (California Air Resources Board) pre-dates the EPA (1967 vs. 1970) in the action of regulation vehicle emissions, and thus is the only State that could be granted a waiver as it’s grandfathered. As someone mentioned, states can use California Standards, or EPA standards. No state regulated crash standards before the NHTSA did so, so there is no grandfathering of safety standards to other states, so its a non-issue.

    Having said that, the level of emissions coming from vehicles these days is orders of magnitude lower than 1960′s standards (even 1980′s). More importantly, consider that California now proposes to regulate CO2 because of its GLOBAL impact. CARB was formed due to the unique smog forming environment of the LA basin. Thus CARB’s early activities were justified because there were health concerns there not seen in other states. However, California’s new regulations are not addressing a local (i.e. State) concern, but a global concern (i.e. global warming). Whether or not you believe global warming (I think its a crock of sh*t), that fact is that it is a national concern that should be played by our Federal Government on an international state. A single state has no business setting emission standards based on global concerns. I’m a big states-rights advocate, but what California is doing is legislation not about their state but about the international community – in which they have no business. BO is stupid for granting this waiver, as California is trying to trump the Federal Govt in the international stage and it makes the Federal Govt look bad.

    In my opinion, in the early to mid nineties when all automakers were profiatable, every automaker selling in the US should have joined together and universally boycotted selling cars in California, or just intentionally not met Cali standards. Given how car crazed Californian’s are, after just one model year of no new cars, we would never have heard of separate CARB standards again. Voters in LA would have made sure of that. Now that several states have signed on, and all automakers are hurting, that can never happen now. Should have nipped it in the bud when they had the chance.

    Lastly, to those who say Honda and Toyota have no issue with this, think again. They may not vocally oppose CARB regulation (they are too crafty for that), but they are with Detroit lock step in opposition to this. 35 MPG CAFE by 2016? That will hurt everyone. Honda still sells more Accords than Fits, and I have yet to see a 35mpg Acccord.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ golf4me

    I’d like to know what the automakers have spent since the late 60’s developing vehicles to meet the myriad of emission rules, safety regs, and fuel economy standards.

    It’s the same playing field for all manufacturers isn’t it? Why should the Bigish3 be “special”?

    Whinge whinge whinge….

    If CA regs are the “lowest common denominator” then aim for those. Expenses come when you have regs that aren’t subsets or have mutually exclusive requirements. Governments have a responsibility to ensure requirements aren’t inconsistent across state borders, and preferrably all around the world.

    If CA sets the standard and that standard is the best, then you’re “50-state legal”, and every manufacturer has the same requirements, what’s the big deal??? The answer; it’s so UNFAIR to the Bigish3. Boo-hoo.

  • avatar
    MBella

    The way I look at it, higher fuel efficiency standards are coming no matter what. There are two ways for this to happen.

    Gasoline could go up to $4+ a gallon, and like this past summer, everyone will dump or try to dump their gas guzzler, and get the most fuel efficient car that sill meets their needs. It was the reason I bought a 4cyl Ranger, instead of a full size truck, because it will still haul most of my junk, (way more slowly) but will not eat as much gas. If this happens, manufacturers will be forced to increase fuel economy anyway.

    If CAFE is increased, manufacturers will have to increase their fuel economy directly.

    The end result as far as the auto industry is concerned is the same. This just stops people from paying a penalty when filling up.

    The ultimate solution would be for the government not to intervene period, but let’s face it. That’s not going to happen.

  • avatar
    MBella

    CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy
    The cars a manufacturer sells have to average together, in the proposed case, at 35mpg. They can still sell their full sized truck, that makes 20mpg, they would just have to sell two cars at 42.5mpg to make up for it.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Another reason to not buy anything new, and just keep what you have running as long as possible.

    Of course, the environmental socialist know that, so they will also attempt to force you to pay much higher gasoline taxes, or much higher registration fees, in order to get you to come around to their way of thinking.

    The next step will be much higher gasoline taxes in order to get you to buy the new pieces of crap that Detroit is being forced to sell.

    Isn’t living in a free country great?

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    California has shown how well it leads in energy policy. We deregulated the electricity market here several years ago. It was a disaster. In the end, the fiasco cost the governor his job.

    Not that I’m against government regulation, or deregulation. If the government uses a light touch, I think it can do a lot of good.

    But politicians here do a terrible job. We fight fierce battles over issues like affirmative action, abortion, gay marriage, and even whether horse meat can be eaten (it is now against the law here). And then our politicians treat economic issues in the same partisan way, liberals fighting conservatives as though politics triumphed over economics. And as though you can stop global warming by passing a law against it.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I thought states’ rights were quashed in 1865.

  • avatar
    George B

    This policy will fail in a predictable way. The 1990 luxury excise tax shows the pattern.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE4DC1239F932A15754C0A967958260
    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Luxury+excise+tax-a010527875

    First, car buyers will generally not substitute new hybrids for new large cars and trucks. Consumers will substitute refurbished USED large cars and trucks for new.

    Second, there will be some loophole in the CO2 emissions standard that has unintended consequences. The 1990 luxury excise tax exempted vehicles weighing more than 6000 lbs, for example.

    Third, the workers who build and sell new cars will be the people most hurt by the California CO2 emissions standard. They will protest very loudly and for good reason.

    Fourth, political pressure will cause the separate California CO2 emissions standard to be either repealed or severely watered down. Think the California zero emissions vehicle standard evolving into PZEV.

    Note that California doesn’t need permission to raise its own excise tax on gasoline and high gasoline taxes have a proven track record of raising demand for fuel efficiency. However, voting to raise gasoline excise taxes is also a good way for a politician to lose his or her job.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    abcd:
    How many of you guys lived in CA 10 years ago? 20 years ago? The pollution was really really bad here. The air quality just sucked. Now, it’s not so bad.

    Yes I as the consumer will end up paying for the retooling and R&D. I for one don’t mind paying if it means I can get some clean air.

    EPA and CARB nuked the vast majority of car pollution 10+ years ago. Any further gains (like mandating carbon capture) will be very expensive.

    CARB has achieved impressive results with auto and INDUSTRY emission standards. It has had enormous impacts on CA industry like coal power generation, but even mom & pop bakeries have been hit.

    My point is that there’s not much more that can be cleaned from auto tailpipes, unless you go after CO2. That’ll be very expensive.

  • avatar
    maniceightball

    RF, in response to this comment:

    “MBella :

    Why?”

    $4/gallon gas is an inconvenience to everyone north of the middle-class income level. To everyone else, it’s a dibilitating money sink that eats into more crucial funds. You are clearly not as affected by this as the more impoverished, or don’t care.

    The truth is, federal mandates help everyone involved except for the bottom lines on the domestics in the short term, assuming all other factors constant. Everytime we tighten regulations, politically libertarian leaning folk cry and wail about it, but eventually come to realize that the arguments against these mandates are largely unfounded and FUD.

    And also, all this talk about free markets is nonsense. There are no free markets. They don’t work. If they did, we wouldn’t need regulations. Market regulations don’t arise from the whims of the lib’rul left, they are consequences of destructive behavior that result from people working within the constructs of a capitalist system.

  • avatar
    maniceightball

    How is this climate similar to California?

    I can’t tell if this is a joke statement or not, but if it isn’t, climate =/= weather. Global warming doesn’t mean it will be 70 degrees everywhere.

  • avatar
    f8

    “Alternatively, the decision to empower California to set national fuel economy standards will, as the automakers have warned, wreak havoc on a fragile industry, drive-up prices for consumers and, ultimately, fail.”

    Oh really? According to the poor automakers who had literally decades to catch up to the Japanese and maybe make some efficient cars? While we’re at it, let’s ask the tobacco industry about decisions to ban smoking in public places.

  • avatar
    cardeveloper

    This is an absolutely horrible policy, to appease the likes of Pelosi and company.

    Bottom line, high mileage cars are not customer preferences in times of lower gas prices. The cost to follow the new standards will be staggering to the auto company’s and create sales havoc.

    Have we not figured out yet that killing our country’s mfg base is going to have implications lasting for decades? Can we not see what our over reaching policy decisions are doing now?

  • avatar
    stuki

    “Should we grant the states the right to set automotive safety standards? Same deal.”

    ‘We’ shouldn’t be granting anything. The feds sure shouldn’t get involved in that one. Enumerated powers and the rest left for the states and people and all that….

    Other than possibly some commerce clause objections, I honestly can’t see anything wrong with a state mandating higher mileage, as long as they simultaneously follow all federal pollution mandates. I mean, it’s not like Californians driving horsepower deprived cars hurts anyone outside of California. If CA’s soda bubble aversion makes them go all Euro and expose their neighbors to all kinds of diesel conbustion nastyness, that would be another matter…

    And for all the banter about CA setting the standards for the rest of America, that relies on the car mix acceptable in CA not being too different from the one acceptable everywhere else. If CA’s rules are too far out of whack, obviously there will be sufficient demand for non CA compliant vehicles in the free states.

  • avatar
    hazard

    I don’t understand why everyone is up in arms about this. I mean, not the federal vs. states regulation issue (that’s a valid point) but about the fact that this forces 35 mpg CAFE (that’s 6.72 L / 100 km, had to convert it, I’ve a Canadian/European mindset and get lost in the mpgs).

    Let’s see the complaints:

    #1. Will be counterproductive since it will cause people to keep their cars longer.

    Uhm, well, maybe, but I don’t think if people keep their cars longer it will be because of CAFE. It’s the economic dowturn that will cause that, and the general realization by people that they no longer need to buy a new car every 2 or 4 years – especially if they have an import. On the other hand, from my first-hand experience of the durability of American (Canadian) made vehicles from GM and Chrysler, I think people will want to replace those regardless (unless the US becomes a third world country, and I don’t see that happening).

    #2. A gas tax is better.

    No. If you’re a poor person driving a gas guzzler, a gas tax – or a more expensive gas however it comes – will cost you more right off the bat. What if you can’t afford a new car, can’t get a loan, etc? This way at least you can keep you gas guzzler running until it falls apart or until you save up money for a new more efficient car. A gas tax might put you out of a car immediately.

    #3. This will be too costly for the Big 3 to implement and will make cars more expensive.

    I call BS on that one. Maybe Chrysler, but they are a basket case that should be liquidated anyway.

    GM has Opel, and Ford its European/S. American operations, and those lineups should meet the regs fine. There is an easy and cheap way to reduce CO2 emission and improve mileage: smaller engines. Less horsepower. Smaller cars. A technology with you since…well, ever. Last time I checked smaller cars with smaller engines should be cheaper that bigger ones with more powerful engines.

    Yes, large vehicles will become more expensive slightly. One reason is supply and demand. One reason is that larger cars will be hybridized. But the cost of that will go down over time. Second, the automakers will build less gas guzzlers (this is a fleet-averaged standard) so if the demand for them is so large as we are led to believe, they should go up in price simply due to supply and demand.

    But will they? The “need” of Americans for large cars is highly overrated. Americans buy large cars because that is what is offerred to them, because that is what they are used to, and because that is what is marketed to them. And it is this way because the Big 3 knew how to make big cars and how to make money on them.

    I mean to whole SUV-craze is all about image and marketing, and sold on “safety” (for soccer moms) and masculinity complexes (for men). And say the average American family does need a big car – but how many times do you see two SUVs on a driveway, or and SUV and a minivan, or a SUV/minivan and full-size sedan? I sure do see it a lot. And one car is used just for commuting or going shopping or going out. “Need” my behind. My family had an Impala and a Dodge minivan. We downsized the Impala to a Cavalier. Guess what? Noticed no difference, except that now with the Cavalier it was easier to get into tight parking spaces. We sure didn’t need two large cars.

    #4. Global warming is bunk.

    Ultimately fuel economy is not about global warming or foreign dependence, but about something much more serious: peak oil. Someone wrote on this blog how oil will still be our primary transportation means in 2119. Oh, if it were so, life would be so easy.

  • avatar
    carveman

    The hysterical Democratic green agenda will destroy what left of the D3.

  • avatar
    Jim Higgins

    Get over it already. This is just another rerun of Detroit’s whining and crying that “its too expensive”, “carmageddon will result”, “we cannot do it”, etc., etc. accompanied by copious quantities of tears. Yeah, right. Meanwhile the so called “foreign” car companies, really American, manage to meet the requirements quite nicely.

    Detroit is trying to cry wolf-again. Flush Detroit.

  • avatar
    shaker

    If you’ve been looking at the big 3 lately, you’ll see EcoBoost, hybrid electic, EV’s, etc have been touted as “right around the corner” – this was in response to $4 gas.

    Now we’ll see what the “man behind the curtain” is up to.

    If they’ve been telling us the truth, then they’re already halfway there.

    If they’ve been snowing us, well they’re in deep doo doo.

    I bought my ’97 Camaro when Chevy finally made the more powerful, “50-state” emissions compliant 3800 V6 standard instead of the 3.5 – I got a more powerful, more fuel efficient car for a few bucks more.
    I’m not saying that will be the case across the board in this scenario – but having your cake and eating it too is not out of the question here.

    Edit: This is technology that the “Big 3″ should have had in reserve since the first CAFE “scare”; if they’re not ready, well…

  • avatar
    sutski

    Change – yes we can!! ….Unless I am an American who thinks gas will stay at $1.80 and the Arabs will be nice and sell it cheaply forever…

    C’mon you lot! 35mpg is easy to obtain !! Just move engine technology forwards and help the world innovate!!

    $4 /gallon was only basic market forces pushing it up…the threat of “peak oil” hasn’t even started affecting the price yet!

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil)

    ….and $4/gallon wasn’t including any where near an 80% fuel tax like in the UK either….

    Get ready for $8-10/gallon within a couple of years IMO…that surely will fire the (currently) unchallenged minds of America to new brilliance, will help pay back the loans given to currently inefficient manufacturers and will also cut the disastrous dependence on foreign oil…

  • avatar
    dwford

    “GM has Opel, and Ford its European/S. American operations, and those lineups should meet the regs fine. There is an easy and cheap way to reduce CO2 emission and improve mileage: smaller engines. Less horsepower. Smaller cars. A technology with you since…well, ever. Last time I checked smaller cars with smaller engines should be cheaper that bigger ones with more powerful engines.”

    Yes, and those sub-B class cars don’t meet our US crash standards, don’t fit us fat ass Americans, and their diesel engines don’t meet our US emissions standards. So the manufacturers can’t just bring them over and problem solved.

    It’s east to say bring over smaller cars with smaller engines. Have you driven those cars? I am sure it will be a shock to even the most green how different they are from what we are used to.

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    I’m sorry, but why are people saying that the increased mpg mandates will increase the air quality? A SULEV Mercedes S-Class emits less pollutants than a 50+mpg Geo Metro XFi! Cars now have great new technology to reduce pollutants that make them pretty darn clean-burning despite being not so good on gas.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ dwford

    It’s east to say bring over smaller cars with smaller engines. Have you driven those cars? I am sure it will be a shock to even the most green how different they are from what we are used to.

    Is someone afraid they’re going to be forced out of their Escalade for a Pontiac Vibe? Is there not a middle path that would help the nation (and the world)? Maybe a Malibu Hybrid will do the job or a Subaru Outback, or an Opel Insignia Diesel.

    Why do people ride around in full size SUVs when they could do the job in a wagon. Why do they “work” in F-150s when they could use a Ranger?

    If there was a compromise from the American people, some of this aggravation wouldn’t be necessary.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Damn!

    This is some serious meddling in the free markets going on!

    Let the taxpayer “invest” in the American manufacturers, then cripple the investment by multiplying unnecessarily the standards to which they manufacture.

    @Pete Moran

    Americans ride around in F-150s and such – even when they don’t need their capacity – because – on a deeply psychological basis – they like the feeling of power and control they get from sitting up high. There was a great article on all the research Ford did into this as they were inventing the Explorer several years ago in the New Yorker.

    The ironic thing is, no matter how much we legislate here for smaller, more efficient cars, we can’t legislate out the deep psychological satisfaction average folks get by driving from a position higher up than that of a Malibu.

    It’s all politics:
    Insanity!

  • avatar
    dejalma

    Stuki:
    “If CA’s soda bubble aversion makes them go all Euro and expose their neighbors to all kinds of diesel conbustion nastyness, that would be another matter…”

    I live in Western Mass. One of the reasons we are on the list is to clean up the crap that was spewed from Ontario, Indiana, Ohio + Michigan. Does anyone remember seeing pictures of 1000 foot smoke stacks sending the garbage to the east where it falls on us?

    The fishing isn’t what it used to be, the number of frogs in ponds is way down. The Adirondacks Acid rain situation is well documented. The berkshires get Temp. inversions where it can look like LA in August. The biggest industry was a GE plant in Pittsfield that is a shadow of its former self. It’s not the one polluting the air any more.

    That’s why the North East is well represented.

    Here’s a link of Grand Canyon Pollution
    http://apollo.lsc.vsc.edu/classes/met130/notes/chapter18/grand_canyon.html
    which is most likely why Arizona is on the list.

    But, the issue is CO2. That’s a tougher one. Burn less, make less.

    Good luck on the neighbors bitching about CA. pollution. If what you say did happen, it would takes years to resolve.

  • avatar

    This is what you voted for, this is what you’ll get.

    As one perceptive poster noted above, Honda and Toyota aren’t close to meeting this California standard. In fact, the only manufacturers who could meet the standard right now with affordable cars are domestic: Ford and Chevy could limit their sales in CA and the Trotsky Thirteen to the Cobalt XFE and Ford Focus 2.0 and they’d be fine. Honda doesn’t make a 35mpg “regular” car. Neither does Toyota. They’d be forced to sell a hybrid-only lineup.

    Most of you are too young to remember this lesson, so take it from somebody who recalls the Seventies: Government bureaucrats HATE cars. They hate them with a passion matched only by their hatred for guns. Let them run free, as Carter did, and as Obama will, and you will see a raft of policies designed to humiliate, harass, and bankrupt people out of the freedom of individual transportation. That’s why Reagan slapped ‘em so hard it’s taken twenty years for their confidence to return.

    If you voted for Obama, and you live in one of these socialist states, you’ll be riding the bus before you know it. That’s fine with me: I have a race car that needs your fuel, and a 12mpg tow vehicle that also gets a little thirsty.

    Those who forget Jimmy Carter are doomed to re-elect him.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Does this mean that the dozen or so states get the diesel/hybrids first, or exclusively? Some vehicles that come to mind: the current Nissan Altima Hybrid, BMW td’s, and VW Jetta; upcoming Saturn Vue two-mode, Nissan Maxima diesel, rumored/postponed Acura/Honda diesels.

    If production is constrained, you might not be able to buy one without proof of state residency. Weird.

  • avatar
    martymcfly

    No big deal for Jaguar and Land Rover – all vehicles sent to North America (U.S. AND Canada) are built to to California standards.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @martymcfly: emissions, yes. Carbon footprint? That will take some work.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Global warming is here. It’s clear. Get used to it. We can’t have business as usual. We’re paying for GWB’s lack of leadership for 8 years. We all WANT cool, fast, comfortable, cheap cars. We NEED clean air and action to slow down climate change.

    I’ve been to Southern California. The pollution is ridiculous. Californians should be able to choose clean air.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    Rev Junkie:
    “A SULEV Mercedes S-Class emits less pollutants than a 50+mpg Geo Metro XFi!”

    But how many people can afford the technology in the Merc vs. the Geo?

  • avatar

    Conslaw :

    It’s not about pollutants. It’s about CO2. Unless you’re bothered by excessive CO2 levels.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    “This is a complete reversal of President Bush’s policy of censoring or ignoring global warming science,” Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress in Washington, told the Gray Lady. “With the fuel economy measures and clean energy investments in the recovery package, President Obama has done more in one week to reduce oil dependence and global warming than George Bush did in eight years.”

    Bush wasn’t the only one questioning “man-made global warming”. It’s is not a closed case.

    http://tiny.cc/fgQIg

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Robert Farago:

    akatsuki is right on this. State’s rights is not supposed to be a political issue, but it is.

    The Democrats and Republicans pretend to shy away from the states rights issue, but fight it out with their proxy American Constitution and Federalist Societies.

    States can be preempted by the Federal Government in any area where commerce is involved, but conservatives generally frown on the states being preempted unless it is absolutely necessary.

    The California fuel standards do not impose any additional burdens on automotive companies. California is using the federal testing, so no additional fuel economy testing is required.

    Conservatives (outside of California) should have no problem with a law like this. California’s elected state representatives voted for it. If Californians do not like it they can vote for new representatives.

    The states that follow California’s standards can decide not to anymore.

    That said, a gas tax would be a much better way for California to go. It would be better at accomplishing the improved fuel economy goal, and would also provide additional money for road repair and building.

    Also, a gas tax would be much more difficult to evade.

    Most importantly, given the current economic situation, while tougher CAFE encourages people to hold onto their old cars because they don’t like the new ones, a higher gas tax encourages people to buy new cars because they cannot afford the gas for their old ones.

  • avatar
    geeber

    pbr: It doesn’t have to be preference — accepting the fact that markets cannot be trusted to take care of all the folks all the time is enough.

    Yesterday I visited my Chevrolet, Ford and Honda dealers to see what is on the lots. It was Sunday, so the dealers were closed, which meant that I could poke around the lot without being hassled by a desperate sales rep.

    The choices available to customers ranged from small, relatively economical vehicles (Aveo, Fit, Focus, Civic), on to larger, roomier, more comfortable vehicles that still offered good fuel economy (Malibu, Fusion, Accord), on to very large vehicles (Suburban, Expedition).

    Seems to me that the companies are doing a good job in providing a wide variety of vehicles for potential customers.

    The real problem is that you don’t like the choices that people make. That isn’t a failure of the free market. That is you not liking what other people decide to drive.

    pbr: Recent events could reasonably lead one to this conclusion … Enron, oil ca. 2008, etc.

    Enron was a sick company without a long-term viable business plan. It therefore failed; the free market worked.

    As for the market for oil – prices rose; therefore demand fell; and prices fell, too. Seems as though the market worked for that one, too.

    The free market doesn’t always bring about a happy ending…that doesn’t mean the ending isn’t the proper one.

    PeteMoran: Which states are not in long term economic decline in the USA?

    Texas and many of the southern states.

    PeteMoran: Why do people ride around in full size SUVs when they could do the job in a wagon. Why do they “work” in F-150s when they could use a Ranger?

    It’s best to talk with tradesmen to get an idea of how they actually use their vehicles.

    I can introduce you to a contractor friend who switched from a full-size pickup to a compact pickup in the 1990s. Found that his gas bill went UP because the new vehicle’s reduced carrying capacity forced him to make many more trips for the same job.

    This is why real-world experience is vital here…

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    A couple of things to keep in mind while considering this:

    1) My understanding is that the ‘fuel economy’ used to calculate CAFE compliance is NOT the same ‘fuel economy’ on the EPA window sticker. Hence, for CAFE purposes, vehicles typically ‘achieve’ numbers 15%-20% better than the EPA numbers.

    2) Several people in these comments have set up the false dichotomy that we can either all drive GMC Yukons or Fiat 500s. This is nonsense.

    Top-of-the-line 1994 Honda Accord: 2.2L 145-hp engine, 2800 lbs., 23 mpg EPA combined (adjusted for revised standard), 0-60mph in 8.3 sec.

    Top-of-the-line 2008 Honda Accord: 3.5L 268-hp engine, 3600 lbs., 22 mpg EPA combined, 0-60 in 5.6 sec.

    It seems to me that fuel efficiency has gone WAY up over the past 15 years, but we’ve wasted all of those efficiency gains on making our cars bigger, heavier, and faster.

  • avatar
    hazard

    All this scepticism about global warming usually comes from people who are not willing to accept change. People decide that they don’t like global warming for ideological reasons, and then they look for facts (often “sponsored” facts, sponsored by Exxon and the like).

    Car-lovers don’t like global warming because it because they fear it will get them into vehicles they won’t enjoy driving.

    Libertarians don’t like it because subconciously they realize that addressing the problem will require government intervention, and since all gov’t intervention is evil, therefore the problem does not exist.

    Free-marketeers don’t like it because the market can’t fix it all by itself, therefore it does not exist.

    Social conservatives oppose it because the tree-hugging environmentalist hippies and evil gay-loving liberals believe in it, therefore it must be the devil’s work.

    Religious fundamentalists will oppose it because of some passage of their scripture…and so on. Note I’m not generalizing all of these groups as a whole – there are plenty of people within each group that do accept global warming.

    Global warming is the accepted scientific consensus. Yes, there are some people who honestly believe it is not true (I’m not talking about the ones paid to obfuscate the matter), but the overwhelming number of climate scientists agree on it. Now, if you think that thousands of scientists are in a vast conspiracy that’s out to get you, then fine…but I doubt it. Then again, some people think evolution too is a vast left-wing conspiracy. Or something.

    Could all those scientists be wrong? Sure. But if they are right, the consequences of inaction are too grave to ignore. In any case, I don’t see how less CO2 in the air is going to hurt us.

    And yes, I have driven the smaller Euro cars, and I’ve no problem with them. In fact I appreciate the handling and maneouverability. As for crash standards – well change them. They’re overkill anyway. And as for the comment about “fat ass Americans” not fitting into smaller cars, well I’m not saying everyone should drive a Ka or a Corsa. But if you can’t fit yourself into a Cobalt or a Civic, you’ve got bigger problems in life than the size of your car seat. Problems like high probability of heart disease and diabetes…and yes, the diesels, well the new diesels should meet the emission standards no problem.

    Well, at least Detroit here is no different than its foreign counterparts. The European manufacturers whined and moaned when the EU imposed its own CO2 requirements.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    PeteMoran…did I SAY Big 3 only? I didn’t think so. Maybe you should spend more time reading and thinking about what someone is saying rather than trying to one-up anyone who doesn’t share your opinion. (which I happen to agree with often)

  • avatar
    MBella

    Why is it assumed that higher CAFE will stop the sale of full size trucks. They will be around, they just won’t be shoved down everybody’s throat. They will have more aggressive cylinder deactivation systems, more gears in the transmissions, better aerodynamics.

    Somebody above was talking about the ’70s. Look what has happened since then. Engines are way more powerful than they were before. They found out how to make power even with these emission regulations.

    I also don’t see how CAFE at 27.5mpg failed, besides the exemption for light trucks. With the exception of luxury companies like BMW and Mercedes Benz, they all meet this requirement. You don’t think that it is OK to raise the standard from 27.5 to 35 after almost 20years?

  • avatar
    davejay

    It’s east to say bring over smaller cars with smaller engines. Have you driven those cars? I am sure it will be a shock to even the most green how different they are from what we are used to.

    I drive a Versa 6-speed, and I was admittedly shocked when I first drove it, because it felt so slow compared to the competition (except for the Astra.)

    When the acceleration numbers came out in the magazines, though, it was around 9.5 seconds 0-60 — which is just a bit better than the 10.0 seconds my 1985 Jetta got, and nobody complained about the speed of that car in the magazines, so I went ahead and bought the Versa. After a few weeks, I stopped noticing the lack of power from a standing start, and started noticing how speedy it was going onto freeway onramps (thanks to the low gearing.)

    The truth is, we’ve gotten used to cars that go much faster than we need them to, and are unwilling or reluctant to go back. Do we really need mid-size Accords that go 0-60 in seven seconds? No, but that’s what we’re used to.

    Smaller engines in our cars won’t be the end of the world; it will simply be the end of the glut of overly-powerful (and relatively inefficient) cars we’ve gotten used to over the years. And, a few years after the transition begins, we’ll forgot we transitioned at all.

    On the other hand, our cars no longer rust away in a few years, and no longer have the major PITA reliability/driveability issues cars had in the early 70s as emissions controls were developed — so believe me, we’ve had it far worse.

    And hey, for everyone like me who is a speed freak yet can enjoy my little Versa, there’s someone else who can hang on to their overpowered car until it’s worth a lot because “they don’t make ‘em like that any more.”

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    #3. This will be too costly for the Big 3 to implement and will make cars more expensive.

    I call BS on that one. Maybe Chrysler, but they are a basket case that should be liquidated anyway.

    I call BS too! If an Automaker produces a vehicle for sale fit for California standards, it should be able to make the same vehicle available to other markets.

    PeteMoran: Why do people ride around in full size SUVs when they could do the job in a wagon. Why do they “work” in F-150s when they could use a Ranger?

    Well IMO, it’s a “which came first:the chicken or the egg” question. Barring folks who use their vehicle for buisness (i.e. the tradesmen spoken of elsewhere) many people are buying SUV’s because you and your family stand a better chance of surviving an accident in one. If you are in a small car, and get hit by an SUV, your odds of survival go down, drastically.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Reducing American crash standards will be BAD for:
    Passenger Survivability
    Affordable insurance
    Overall Health Care Costs
    Viability of the big 2.8 (due to untold numbers of post crash death negligence lawsuits)
    CO2 emissions

    Reducing American crash standards will be GOOD for:
    Lawyers of a certain ilk
    Funeral Homes
    Silverado sales (bigger is better, right?)
    Experience during interns’ rotation through the trauma unit

    Unfortunately, there are no easy – or free – solutions and political mandates – as elections – have consequences.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    The U.S. has a presence at both polar ice caps. Talk to the people stationed there and they will tell you they are now standing on gravel where two years ago they were on five feet of glacial ice. There is no argument the polar ice is melting at the highest rate in thousands of years.

    Comes now the question: Is it caused predominately by human or solar activity?

    Spend a day in any of the largest cities outside the United States and you will be convinced it is at the hand of man. Serious Nasty.

    Some scientists, however, point out that the uneven burn of the sun trumps man’s activities by an order of magnitude.

    If you hold the view that man is inherently evil and must have the iron fist of government to keep things in order (the Marxist-Leninist view of social order), no amount of scientific proof that the sun is the higher power is convincing.

  • avatar
    geeber

    buzzliteyear: Top-of-the-line 1994 Honda Accord: 2.2L 145-hp engine, 2800 lbs., 23 mpg EPA combined (adjusted for revised standard), 0-60mph in 8.3 sec.

    Top-of-the-line 2008 Honda Accord: 3.5L 268-hp engine, 3600 lbs., 22 mpg EPA combined, 0-60 in 5.6 sec.

    It seems to me that fuel efficiency has gone WAY up over the past 15 years, but we’ve wasted all of those efficiency gains on making our cars bigger, heavier, and faster.

    In 1994 the national speed limit was 65 mph; it wasn’t repealed until December 1995. And that was the correct move.

    Today, most people drive at least 75 mph on most limited access highways. Quite a few people drive faster than that. (And we aren’t going to drive any slower. If people don’t like this – too bad.)

    Today’s cars are heavier because of more safety equipment – initially mandated by government and now demanded by customers.

    In 1994, dual air bags as standard equipment were considered state-of-the-art from a safety standpoint. Now, every car has dual air bags, plus side air bags and stronger roof panels for better rollover protection. These add weight.

    Customers also are demanding more control over noise, vibration and harshness, for what we call “refinement.”

    The demand for more refinement has led to more weight, as the way to achieve this goal – and still produce vehicles that most people can afford – is through increased stiffness of the body shell, which means additional bracing.

    I know that many posters on this site love high-strung Subaru WRXs, Mitsubishi EVOs and VW GTIs, but, surprise, surprise, most customers don’t. Check out the sales figures. People are voting with their hard-earned dollars, and they want soft and cushy Camrys and Avalons – the best Buicks currently on the market. And if you want to get people out of their SUVs, you’d better be offering them a Taurus, Camry or Avalon. They aren’t going to swap their Explorers and 4Runners for Fits and Rabbits.

    Cars have gotten bigger, faster and heavier because this is what customers wanted. I had a 1993 Civic EX sedan. It was great car, but no way I’d accept that level of refinement or performance today in even a Civic.

    hazard: All this scepticism about global warming usually comes from people who are not willing to accept change.”

    From my perspective, the more I study it, the more skeptical I become. The frantic attempts to appeal to “scientific consensus” are getting increasingly shrill, and are becoming the equivalent of, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”.

    davejay: The truth is, we’ve gotten used to cars that go much faster than we need them to, and are unwilling or reluctant to go back. Do we really need mid-size Accords that go 0-60 in seven seconds?

    I think that the paying customers can decide that on their own. Since they are paying for the vehicle with their own money, that is their business.

    I also take it that you have never attempted to merge on to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a small, underpowered car where the merging lane is going UP a hill, or attempted to pass ignoramuses camping in the left lane on a hilly limited access highway. You’d be amazed at how much that “unnecessary” power is appreciated.

  • avatar
    wsn

    I agree that a gas tax would be more logical and effective.

    But since Free Market Bush didn’t do anything about establishing such a gas tax in eight years, what’s all this fuss about criticizing Obama for stricter emission standards?

    It’s better to have the second best thing in the doing, than to have the best thing in the talking.

  • avatar

    @ wsn

    Assuming, of course, something needs doing.

  • avatar

    Why does California have to ruin it for the rest of us? I live in Florida, and Governor Crist is about to adopt California standards. Fuck, there goes my dream of a Mustang/Camaro/Corvette/Challenger unless I act fast…

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: “…actually there will be only 2 standards, Federal and California. The states have the right to choose which one they follow.”
    dwford / January 25th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    for some reason, my guess is that red states and republicans will tend to favor the ‘federal’ standard while blue states and democrats will prefer the ‘california’ standard – although i’m not really quite sure why. ha!

    re: “If I want to live in Irvine and work in Burbank, I’m gonna do it dammit! Or maybe Los Banos and commute to San Jose. Somebody else figure out how to take care of the problem.”
    Jerome10 / January 25th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    apparently, ‘somebody’ just did.

    seriously – this is great news for everybody who wants to breathe cleaner air and sustain a healthy environment. i’m all for it!

    “…changes aren’t permanent, but change is…”

  • avatar
    JTParts

    First of all, do you really think that the any of the US automakers will be able to afford to continue to produce both CA and 49 state cars? No Way. So it won’t be poor CA and the 13 other states, it’s gonna be poor all of us.

    Also I don’t think it’s at the case that CA is saying we drive this way and it’s up to you to fix it. Looks to me like CA is taking the lead here, good or bad and saying we want cars that meet this standard.

    I think it’s more likely that the rest of the states have to be dragged kicking and screaming into some sort of responsible position.

    Don’t even get me started on fuel formulations…

  • avatar
    geeber

    philipwitak: seriously – this is great news for everybody who wants to breathe cleaner air and sustain a healthy environment. i’m all for it!

    This measure is aimed a curbing carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. The air in California – and everywhere else – is already much cleaner because of the emissions controlled by the Clean Air Act and its subsequent amendments. This won’t do anything to clean up the air.

  • avatar
    wsn

    geeber said:

    The real problem is that you don’t like the choices that people make. That isn’t a failure of the free market. That is you not liking what other people decide to drive.

    You failed to acknowledge that most car buyers are voters also. And the majority voted for Mr. Obama, knowing he would likely do something like this.

    A buyer may choose to buy an SUV, just for the sake of higher survivability in a crash with another SUV. There is the forced free choice.

    But the same buyer may actually want to drive a smaller car to save money. So, to change the rule of the game, the buyer voted for Mr. Obama hoping he could do something about it. And the president is indeed fast in action.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    robert makes an excellent point when he mentions that “…the federal government [is only]…granting California a waiver.”

    hey – if any car company is not interested in obtaining access to and doing business with one of the world’s largest, most vibrant economies, nobody is going to force them to do so. free markets will adjust, right?

  • avatar
    wsn

    Robert Farago said:
    Assuming, of course, something needs doing.

    Well, Mr. Obama didn’t make the new standards himself. He simply acknowledged the democratic right of the voters of each state to choose their own. If the voters decide that nothing needs to be done, then the president is not going to force them to do it.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Lots of discussion here, and in a sense everyone is right because their views stem from core beliefs that shape the way they interpret happenings.

    But I do have to point out one misstatement:

    wsn: “Free Market Bush didn’t do anything about establishing such a gas tax in eight years”

    A president might advocate a tax increase, but the power to do so is reserved to Congress. And strangely, politicians perceive little demand among their constituents for raising the cost or other burdens of government. Just another gol-durned shortcoming of democracy! If it wasn’t for political elites and self-serving special interests, government would rarely be able to compel ordinary citizens to forget about that 18th century “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” folderol.

  • avatar
    geeber

    wsn: You failed to acknowledge that most car buyers are voters also. And the majority voted for Mr. Obama, knowing he would likely do something like this.

    I don’t recall him campaigning on this issue.

    wsn: A buyer may choose to buy an SUV, just for the sake of higher survivability in a crash with another SUV. There is the forced free choice.

    That is conjecture and wishful thinking passed off as analysis. And, last time I checked, there were plenty of vehicles MUCH larger than even the biggest SUV on our highways. Unless we are going to legislate tractor trailers and delivery trucks off the highways.

    wsn: But the same buyer may actually want to drive a smaller car to save money.

    So, he or she can go buy one. Last time I checked, there were plenty on the market.

    Or do those Focuses, Civics, Fits, Cobalts and Aveos I saw on the dealer lots this past Sunday exist only in my imagination?

    What other people buy is none of his or her business. I missed the part where this mythical buyer was sending a check to my house, offering to pay for my next vehicle…so please explain why I should listen to him or her?

    wsn: So, to change the rule of the game, the buyer voted for Mr. Obama hoping he could do something about it. And the president is indeed fast in action.

    In which case, he or she got sold a bill of goods, as I see nothing that will require car makers to build smaller vehicles that will withstand collisions with tractor trailers or delivery vehicles, or legislate those vehicles off the road.

  • avatar
    70 Chevelle SS454

    What do I care? I’ve got money, so I’ll get whatever I want.

    Democrats can play “green” with your lives all they want. I won’t be on the bus with the rest of you.

  • avatar
    NoSubstitute

    Kinda funny/sad that there’s still a contingent trying to disprove that humans are contributing to global warming and that the results will be not good. Bottom line: our new Secretary of Energy Steve Chu is levels of magnitude smarter than anyone on this or any other message board (except maybe for the Nobel prize winners in physics chat room), so I think I’ll go with his conclusions on the subject, to wit, we are and they will be.

    As to concerns about the impact on the Detroit 3 of our new President freeing up the head of the EPA to follow the unanimous recommendations of EPA staff to permit California to proceed with its emissions standards, um… based on looking out my window at San Francisco traffic in the last 5 minutes, I’d say there’s no where to go but up.

  • avatar
    PGAero

    sportsuburbangt:
    It’s 24*F in Truckee, CA, as I type this (about 11am local time). In Norden, it’s still below 20. It’s 57 in San Diego, so you got them there!

    All,
    I didn’t take the time to read all the responses, and I am not a California Air Resources Board apologist, but the only reason CA has historically had a waiver from the EPA is that CA established air quality/environmental quality regulations before the EPA existed. For this reason, the federal government has allowed CA to develop and adopt it’s own standards. Do you remember 49-state cars decades ago? As it stands, CA can (and has been able to for much of emissions-regulated history) write their own policy and other states can adopt it if they want. There is no chance of there ever being 50 different rules.

    That being said, I’d like to see (if anything) a gas tax. CAFE/CARB/whatever is a politically-motivated (and terribly inefficient) way to reduce fuel consumption. If burning fossil-fuels is bad, make people pay more for it, directly.

    I live in CA, and love the geography, climate (I had snow yesterday), and the people I’ve grown up knowing, but this stuff just gets me angry. California has a lot going for it, but it thinks it’s too great, and that will come back to bite it.

  • avatar
    geeber

    NoSubstitute: Kinda funny/sad that there’s still a contingent trying to disprove that humans are contributing to global warming and that the results will be not good.

    And here I thought looking at ALL sides of the argument and doing as much research as possible were supposed to be good things.

    NoSubstitute: As to concerns about the impact on the Detroit 3 of our new President freeing up the head of the EPA to follow the unanimous recommendations of EPA staff to permit California to proceed with its emissions standards, um… based on looking out my window at San Francisco traffic in the last 5 minutes, I’d say there’s no where to go but up.

    The California rule centers on carbon dioxide emissions. That has nothing to do with smog.

    Emissions of pollutants covered by the Clear Air Act have been declining for decades. We’ve been going “up” in regards to air quality for a long time – decades, in fact.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    @NoSubstitute

    Kinda funny/sad that there’s still a contingent trying to disprove that humans are contributing to global warming and that the results will be not good. Bottom line: our new Secretary of Energy Steve Chu is levels of magnitude smarter than anyone on this or any other message board (except maybe for the Nobel prize winners in physics chat room), so I think I’ll go with his conclusions on the subject, to wit, we are and they will be.

    Of course, Steve Chu may be much smarter than any of us; I don’t know. What I do know is that he is not the only smart person in the world who has an opinion on the matter and not all of them agree with him.

    http://tiny.cc/kVIAC

    The UN global warming conference currently underway in Poland is about to face a serious challenge from over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe who are criticizing the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. Set for release this week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report features the dissenting voices of over 650 international scientists, many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN. The report has added about 250 scientists (and growing) in 2008 to the over 400 scientists who spoke out in 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

  • avatar

    @ NoSubsitute

    Albert Einstein rented a row boat, rowed out into the middle of Lake Geneva and forgot how to row.

    Besides, Chu is a political appointee. Like all of us, he can only serve one master.

  • avatar
    M1EK


    Didja notice that most of these states are in economic decline, have high taxes and impose harsh regulation on business? And not a few have rotten political environments. Good places to avoid, and lots of people are doing just that.

    That kind of rhetoric, thrown around irresponsibly for decades, is why the best approach to fuel economy is off the table: higher gasoline taxes (much higher).

    You reap what you sowed, Republicans.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    geeber, there’s a difference between science and agnotology.

  • avatar
    geeber

    M1EK: That kind of rhetoric, thrown around irresponsibly for decades, is why the best approach to fuel economy is off the table: higher gasoline taxes (much higher).

    You reap what you sowed, Republicans.

    That rhetoric hits home because there is quite a bit of truth to it. Businesses and residents are FLEEING California as fast as they can. At least, the productive ones are.

    As someone who works in government, I can assure you that people will pay higher taxes when government can make a good case for the wise use of the resulting revenues.

    If much higher gasoline taxes were proposed in conjunction with the outright elimination of other taxes, then the hike would have a chance. But government is so addicted to revenues that it won’t do this, so most people resist the call for more taxes. We can only afford to pay so much in taxes.

    M1EK: geeber, there’s a difference between science and agnotology.

    Except that the scientists apparently don’t all agree, either. Which is why it’s good to read ALL relevant material. And attempting to label all differing views as being rooted in the deliberate publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data, is a desperate tactic.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: “This measure is aimed a curbing carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant…This won’t do anything to clean up the air.”
    geeber / January 26th, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    perhaps you are right, but with all due respect, you need to read the paragraphs quoted below. better yet, click on the link provided and peruse the entire article – you won’t regret it.

    “California currently suffers disproportionately heavier air pollution casualties than other states due to global warming…global warming currently causes greater respiratory and cardiovascular disease in California per person than in other states through its impact on air pollution…”

    “The adverse air pollution health impacts due to global warming were determined from research [conducted by Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University] which was published Feb. 12 in the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters.”

    “The paper provides evidence that people in California are harmed more than people outside of California due to carbon dioxide’s effect on air pollution…The study found that carbon dioxide increases ozone and particulate matter – unhealthful pollutants in smog – by increasing temperatures and water vapor in the atmosphere…it showed that ozone, in particular, increases the most where it is already high. This does not bode well for California, which has six of the 10 most polluted cities in the United States…for every one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase due to carbon dioxide, the U.S. death rate due to ozone and particle pollution increases by approximately 1,000 per year…more than 300 (or more than 30 percent) occur in California…California has only 12 percent of the U.S. population, the Golden State clearly suffers disproportionately more than other states due to carbon dioxide-induced global warming. Most of these additional deaths are occurring today, as global warming to date has already increased global temperatures by 0.8 degrees Celsius.”

    “The science shows that California already suffers more air pollution mortality per capita from carbon dioxide than other states. The problem will grow worse in California than in other states if stricter standards for carbon dioxide emissions are not put in place.”

    “[The EPA] needs to take another look at the evidence. A change in policy will not only benefit the health of our citizens. It will also restore our country’s faith that policy decisions on complex issues will be based on rigorous scientific inquiry.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/03/ED4HVBLRS.DTL

  • avatar
    DearS

    I think we ought to just reward the companies that sell the most fuel efficient cars. GM tools up first, then they get money. I think the mandate ought to take a little more time perhaps, but we can reward companies for having the best fuel efficiency.

  • avatar
    njoneer

    MBella :
    CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy
    The cars a manufacturer sells have to average together, in the proposed case, at 35mpg. They can still sell their full sized truck, that makes 20mpg, they would just have to sell two cars at 42.5mpg to make up for it.

    Check the math again. The emmissions regulations measure CO2 (effectively fuel) per distance, not miles per gallon.

    20mpg full size truck emits 5 gallons of gas worth of CO2 over 100 miles.

    The proposed standard allows about 3 gallons worth of CO2 per 100 miles (35mpg).

    For every customer that wants a full size truck, an automaker would need to find 2 buyers for cars that emit 2 gallons worth of CO2 per 100 miles. That is 50mpg, not 42.5!

    Can Toyota even sell twice as many Prius hybrids (45mpg) as Tundra full-size trucks (19mpg)? No! 159,000 versus 137,000 in 2008. And that is the Prius (with no direct competitors) versus the Tundra (up against the entrenched F150 and Silverado) in a bad year for pickups.

  • avatar
    geeber

    philipwitak: perhaps you are right, but with all due respect, you need to read the paragraphs quoted below. better yet, click on the link provided and peruse the entire article – you won’t regret it.

    It’s an editorial based on junk science. If that is what California is basing its case on…

  • avatar
    hazard

    Why is everyone here so enamored with a gas tax?

    The problem with new taxes is that they never go away. So you say $4 per gallon gas did more than any CAFEish standard to push fuel-efficient vehicles. OK, makes sense – but now that we’re back to less $2, is the solution really to add a tax that will take prices back to $4/gallon?

    Now, when oil prices go back to where they were when gas was $4/gallon – and they will as soon as the economy recovers – with the gas tax, we’ll then have $6 or $8/gallon gas! Do you really think the government wuold get rid of that source of revenue? And then everyone will moan about how the taxes are too high.

  • avatar

    tax something you don’t want
    incentivize things you do want

    sounds like a gas tax is a good idea here

    direct regulation by the government NEVER WORKS.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I believe that the global warmongers have acheived the creation of a new religion, and that Al Gore has becomethe High Priest of the True Believers.

    I am one sinner who refuses to repent, however. In fact, when I get home, I think I’ll burn some carbon in my back yard grill. Just because I can! And no, I’m not really planning to cook anything. Well, maybe if I’m hungry I’ll toss on a burger or a steak. From a real cow.

    Afterward, maybe I’ll fire up the oven and cook a turkey or something, then I’ll go spray some air fresheners and deodorants around the house, light some candles indoors and out, and turn on all my lights (regular bulbs, not CF’s) for the whole night, before I turn up my thermostat and pop on all the televisions, computers, and anything else I can think of.

    It’s been cold the last few weeks. Maybe by becoming a gluttonous oil and coal-burner, I can create a little pocket of global warming in my own small part of Florida, and take the chill off this month of January.

    You know, just because I can!

    Hey, let’s make this a team effort. Can I get a participant or two from Alabama, Arkansas, and/or Georgia?

  • avatar

    I’m with RF on tax rather than mandates. While we’re at it, why don’t we have a greenhouse tax on carbon, so that industry and the utilities have incentives to cut use of the stuff. We could throw in a special geopolitical tax on petroleum.

  • avatar
    M1EK


    Except that the scientists apparently don’t all agree, either.

    Agnotology. Look it up.

    Tobacco companies found some ‘scientists’ to sow false doubt for decades as well.

    Climatology settled this issue years ago.

  • avatar

    “There’s a planet to be saved; free markets be damned.”

    What fool believes there are actually free markets anyway? The reason there are so many damn SUVs on the road now is truck based vehicles have lower standards, and manufacturers marketed the hell out of ‘em to make more money. It is called working the system. The markets just follow like sheep.

    When gas went to $4, there was plenty of R&D money to spend on developing hybrids. Now there isnt, even when the taxpayer is paying for it (remember the bail out?)

    If we are going to own Detroit, why not get them to make cars that don’t pollute.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ golf4me

    did I SAY Big 3 only?

    Well I apologise. In the context of RF’s article claiming disadvantage for the Bigish3 and then your “I wish one of the CEO’s would’ve stood up in the (Bailout) hearings”, I apparently erroneously connected it to Bigish3 Only.

  • avatar
    Luther

    “While we’re at it, why don’t we have a greenhouse tax on carbon, so that industry and the utilities have incentives to cut use of the stuff.”

    Free market competitive pressure already does this…Why do you want the government to steal more from people? Taxing energy will just expand the under-class like in Europe.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Except that the scientists apparently don’t all agree, either.

    Except they do. Anthropomorphic climate change is about as settled of an issue as evolution. Deniers need to put up some respectable names or papers as evidence to the contrary or STFU. Some retired weatherman’s blog does not count.

    That said, this is a pretty poor time to institute new burdens on institutions that we’ve already committed to bailing out.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    Except they do. Anthropomorphic climate change is about as settled of an issue as evolution. Deniers need to put up some respectable names or papers as evidence to the contrary or STFU. Some retired weatherman’s blog does not count.

    No, it’s not. One more time:

    http://tiny.cc/fgQIg

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Again, where are the names and the research. All I see are usual motley of unrelated people like chemical engineers and whatnot.

    Maybe they can get some people who actually work with the research. It’s rather embarrassing when you have to count on this level of evidence.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Two points:

    (1) Why can’t we look at this globally? 13 US States follow Calif. standards now. What about the rest of the world? How long before China demands the same standards on cars there? What are the Europeans demanding? If we (the US) want to lead, then we need to do better. We need to innovate and find solutions, not excuses.

    (2) As a Calif. native growing up in SoCal I take pride that my little state had the balls to tackle emission problems AND stick to it. I remember how bad LA smog used to be in the 60′s and 70′s. These regulations work and we are all better off thanks to them.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    If we (the US) want to lead, then we need to do better. We need to innovate and find solutions, not excuses.

    There are no clever solutions around co2 limits. They’re essentially mileage limits, which means small cars.

    I remember how bad LA smog used to be in the 60’s and 70’s. These regulations work and we are all better off thanks to them.

    All regulations need to be considered individually. This has nothing to do with the pollution regs since co2 (ie carbo-fuels) is not pollution per se.

    Overall, I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal since it just means lighter weight (and small displacement to some degree), which are just characteristics of a car. Most consumers don’t need low mileage vehicles anyway.

    It’s a somewhat long term phase-in, so it won’t necessarily impact the current economic situation. But it does likely mean more bailout buck for the D2 or 3 assuming they’re still around then.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ yankinwaoz

    How long before China demands the same standards on cars there?

    Perhaps Bertel can comment. My memory is that China has fairly tight regulation in place on fuel economy standards and have recently tightened crash standards.

    As others have said, China has many of the regulations that they need, even surprisingly to most people, environmental ones but the problem has been active enforcement.

  • avatar
    CAHIBOstep

    @TexasAg03:

    The blog that you linked to belongs to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who is the co-chair of the EPW committee. He is responsible for all of the content.

    His views do not reflect the views of the full committee.

    For what it’s worth, Sen. Inhofe is the guy who said global warming is “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.”

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: “It’s an editorial based on junk science.”

    really, geeber? i don’t think i’ve ever seen ‘junk science’ that gets peer-reviewed, and then published.

    perhaps you would like to cite your source?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Anyone else see the report that clean air and longer lifespans are directly linked?

    I know, going into your golden years without the choice of 81 SUVs is akin to Marxism, I know…

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Except this debate isn’t about clean air.

  • avatar
    thoots

    So, does the general consensus here boil down to “We don’t want more-fuel-efficient vehicles?”

  • avatar
    dkulmacz

    @agenthex

    Again, where are the names and the research. All I see are usual motley of unrelated people like chemical engineers and whatnot.

    Must be a different list than the one I read on the link . . .

    * Dr. Nathan Paldor, Professor of Dynamical Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    * Russian scientist Dr. Oleg Sorochtin of the Institute of Oceanology at the Russian Academy of Sciences has authored more than 300 studies, nine books, and a 2006 paper titled “The Evolution and the Prediction of Global Climate Changes on Earth.”
    * Anton Uriarte, a professor of Physical Geography at the University of the Basque Country in Spain and author of a book on the paleoclimate
    * Atmospheric scientist Dr. Hendrik Tennekes, a scientific pioneer in the development of numerical weather prediction and former director of research at The Netherlands’ Royal National Meteorological Institute, and an internationally recognized expert in atmospheric boundary layer processes
    * Chief Meteorologist Eugenio Hackbart of the MetSul Meteorologia Weather Center in Sao Leopoldo – Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
    * Climatologist Dr. Marcel Leroux, former professor at Université Jean Moulin and director of the Laboratory of Climatology, Risks, and Environment in Lyon

    This is the top of the list, and they sound qualified in the right disciplines to me. And as I understand it, they’re not claiming unique research that contradicts GW . . . they’re refuting the fact the existing research makes a good enough case in support.

  • avatar

    thoots

    Consensus? What consensus? That said, most people feel that misrepresenting an opposing viewpoint is bad form.

    Personally, I believe the federal government should not devolve its responsibilities in this area to California. This “solution”– to a problem I’m not convinced needs a solution in the first place– stinks.

  • avatar
    HeBeGB

    A straight gas tax might be more effective, but for some guy just trying to make it from paycheck to paycheck…an extra $20 in gas just getting to/from his crappy job can be tough. And yeah, putting the burden on the manufacturer puts it back on the customer which puts it back on society in general and blah blah blah. But when you ain’t got nothin’, you ain’t worried about all kinds of interlocking relationships…you need the $20.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    dkulmacz,

    If you would notice, those are not researchers in climatology. You should try searching for their papers; you know, peer reviewed papers, aka science.

    It’s quite common for deniers to bring in peripherally related people with trumped up credentials, or just make up supporters, as in the case of the Heartland Institute, and likely true in this case.

    There are a handful of remaining scientists still sitting on the fence, but the number is dwindling, as if it can fall any lower, and it’s no surprise which way they’ve been falling. I seriously doubt any of them want ANY association with the deniers.

    The most common pockets of _popular_ (ie. not scientific, an important distinction) dissent come from petroleum geologists and meteorologists (weathermen). Make of that what you will.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    While I personally think AGW is a testable scientific hypothesis where the evidence mounts day after day, as a company we find it much easier to cut through with a simple statement; there’s no justification for wasting energy. So let’s try to put a stop to it.

    We have all the tools to do everything we need smarter and more efficiently while most likely, providing most of the choices we already have.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    If Californians want to neuter their cars let them. Just don’t go bitching and whining if my state LOWERS ours. It’s going to be hilarious watching California’s neighboring states’ dealerships get wealthier as Cali’s go broke. The rich and famous need their BMWs, Lexuses, and Mercedes and they won’t mind going out of state to get them.

  • avatar
    97escort

    Don’t underestimate Obama. He says his administration’s policy is to “reverse our dependence on imported oil” by using soil, wind and solar. (Using soil means ethanol and biodiesel.)

    If the California waiver is granted as it now appears it will, Obama has outmaneuvered the Congressional and the auto industry opposition.
    Increasing auto MPG has got to be a big part of reducing oil imports. Ethanol and biodiesel will never be enough without help.

    The big three have resisted increased mileage for years for immediate profits that have disappeared. They are now wards of the state and at the mercy of the Obama administration. Obama knows that he has little to fear and much to gain in reducing oil imports with this action. It is the constant drain from the economy to pay for imported oil that is a major factor in the current economic predicament.

    IMO this means the American car market will come to look more and more like the European and Japanese. Much smaller cars with smaller engines, diesels and plug in hybrids will increase while the old fashioned buggies head for the junk yard.

  • avatar
    wsn

    50merc said:

    A president might advocate a tax increase, but the power to do so is reserved to Congress. And strangely, politicians perceive little demand among their constituents for raising the cost or other burdens of government.

    1) They certainly didn’t have this issue with all the huge expense in Iraq. You know, that war became quite unpopular during the second term. If politicians can persuade their constituents to pay for an unpopular war, why not a gas tax?

    2) A gas tax doesn’t have to be “added” tax. It can be tax neutral, if the government returns the entire amount of gas tax in the form of reduction in social security tax.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    What this was,as mentioned by others, is an ingenious political move by Obama to sidestep congress and force automakers to produce more fuel efficient cars. The next step, likely in the next two years, will be a graduated increase in gas prices with a combination of a gas tax and increasing fuel prices from the middle east. By this time, the CAFE regs will have given automakers enough time to develop and produce fuel efficient cars. Thus, when the ignorant masses run screaming to the Honda Fit and Toyota Prius, there should be enough product available for consumers. Like it or not, this is the first step in a plan to increase the use of energy alternatives, become more fuel efficient, and fundamentally change the relationship with country has with oil and enegry. Personally, I am for it. But, he is going to need to go something about merging crash standards with Europe to allow more european cars into this country for less cost.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    What makes people buy cars that are more efficient – and therefore less polluting – is high fuel prices. Nothing else comes close as a motivator. The Japanese established their beacheads through the oil-shocks. CAFE and the like has driven the market to evolve in certian ways, but it has not changed habits and such anywhere near as much as the price of hydrocarbons.

    If the government wants to have an impact on oil prices, I think less is more in regards to government “action.” We can all think of new taxes, higher taxes, carbon taxes, blah-blah. But the fact of the matter is the United States Government, in what could be described as some perverse bi-polar disorder, distorts fuel prices for the entire world with its military activities and politics in the Middle East. Oil enters every calculated decision the USA has made in that part of the world, some overtly. And I don’t mean since 9/11, either. When you look at the history you see:

    1953: Coup in Iran via CIA malfeasance with British help to insure BP owned the fields to keep the goo flowing.
    1956: Effectively eliminating the influence of old colonial powers Britain and France in the eastern Med during the Suez crisis, pleasing our drug dealers.
    1973: Air-shipping Israel damn near a whole brigade of Army junk so they could seize the initiative in the Yom Kippur war, pissing off our drug dealers and precipitating the embargo.
    1979: Screwing up big-time in the implosion of the Shah (see 1953 coup) with half-ass commando ops to save hostages, precipitating second oil-shock
    1986: Flagging Kuwaiti tankers with Old Glory, insuring a diplomatic cover (once the Iranians made a stupid move, which they did) to sink the entire Iranian navy and effectively guarantee the smooth flow of goo through the Straights of Hormuz, keeping oil cheap.
    1991: First Gulf War to again, protect our Kuwait and Saudi drug dealers, (after one of our dealers turned on the others) and insure cheap, reliable access to the oil.

    Needless to say, the subsequent eighteen years since then have been filled with all kinds of shenanigans by our sovereign government in the Middle East. If Uncle Sam really wanted to insure higher oil prices, we would extricate ourselves not just from Iraq, but militarily from that region. No more 5th Fleet in Qatar. No more F-16′s with AESA radars and Patriot batteries for Dubai. No more Strike Eagles and M-1 tanks for the Saudis…etc.

    Within a couple years, Iranians will have their third-rate nuke and oil will be north of $150/bbl barring significant “regime changes” within those societies. High gas prices solved, and Uncle Sam saves lots of blood and treasure in the process. Gas taxes have not even begun to cover the bills we’ve paid to insure access to the goo, at any price.

  • avatar
    thoots

    RF:
    Consensus? What consensus? That said, most people feel that misrepresenting an opposing viewpoint is bad form.

    Personally, I believe the federal government should not devolve its responsibilities in this area to California. This “solution”– to a problem I’m not convinced needs a solution in the first place– stinks.

    Yeahbut…..

    Not really trying to misrepresent anything — just trying to put it into some kind of clearer perspective.

    Is not the proposed “solution” essentially “mandating more fuel-efficient vehicles?” And aren’t most of the folks in here against such mandation? Oh, sure, I get the whole anti-government side of the story, but I think the anti-government part of it rather overwhelms the “mandating what?” side of the story. Which is simply “more fuel-efficient vehicles.” Isn’t it?

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Camot Cycle> I don’t know, as gas prices go up, I have more & more reason to go get the 250cc dual sport I always wanted — and motorcycles typically put out 20x+ the co2 a car does.

  • avatar

    I’ve never understood why people even argue about whether we should work to produce clean vehicles. It’s obvious that the “free market” is too short-sighted and fickle to leave the management our health and environment to. From a political perspective, states rights are a typically conservative political issue, but increased regulation of pollution and business are a typically liberal issue, so this one comes out rather party-neutral, though obviously the dems get their way at the end of it.

    In any case, I have complete faith that our companies can engineer all their cars to meet the most stringent standards so all cars can be sold in all 50 states. To say otherwise is silliness, the idea that there’ll be 50 models of every car is asinine. Any company with any modicum of competence will just engineer to the top standard and get on with the business of selling cars. It isn’t hard unless you’re stupid, and if you’re stupid you deserve to go out of business.

    It’s odd that people fight so hard for their right to pollute. Whether global warming exists or not I don’t want to drive a high-emissions vehicle for the same reason I don’t piss in my kitchen – I don’t want to live in a dirty place. Filthy air full of particulates and smog is bad, I don’t care who you are. There’s no reason to fight for the right to pollute or defend the interests of a corporation that would just as soon kill you as fix a safety issue in your car.

  • avatar
    netrun

    Um, last I heard, the Detroit 3 sold a whopping 4 or 5 cars in California last year. If you average out the fuel economy on those sales and then calculate a penalty, you’ll be able to buy a coffee at Fourbucks with the change from a $100 bill.

    So, why all the hubbub, bub? Seriously. This will hurt the imports dis-proportionally to the Detroit 3. For those of us who would like to see the Detroit 3 survive and thrive, isn’t that a good thing? I certainly think so.

    In this way aren’t we, in fact, getting Japan and Korea to spend more investment dollars so that we get clean air? That sounds like a good thing to me!

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Jack Baruth: This is what you voted for, this is what you’ll get. Honda doesn’t make a 35mpg “regular” car. Neither does Toyota. They’d be forced to sell a hybrid-only lineup.

    I invite you to visit the Honda and Toyota UK websites where you can see the mileages of cars very similar in size and features to the ones that we drive here in America that get 40+ MPG RIGHT NOW. That was the Civic 5-door that I looked at just now. While you are at it stop by the webpages of VW, Opel, Ford, Peugeot, and Renault to see what people who pay nearly $10 per gallon drive and what kind of gas mileage they demand. The difference between their small cars and our’s in the USA? Not friggin’ much – and that makes GM’s Daewoo products look all the worse. Take a trip down to your local saturn dealership and look at the Astra. Everything I’ve read says that the US federalized version is not any different than the European version. Our Ford Focus is very, very similar to the one that Europe gets as well.

    The Europeans demand good pollution controls and safety just like we do. The difference is that in order to get 40+ mpg in a compact car the Europeans will tolerate a 15 second 0-100 kph (62 mph) run. I think MOST of us could learn to live with acceration like that too. I certainly have spent plenty of time in sub-2.0L vehicles. I once owned a 900cc Autobianchi and regularly drove it 75 mph+. And yes even with mid-70s tech it got very good mileage relative to American vehicles of that era.

    In fact if the Detroit 2.8 would get off their lazy asses they would see that lobbying for a standardized pollution and safety standard for Europe and America would enable them to Federalize the products they sell in Europe ASAP and they would instantly have plenty of quality small vehicles to sell to Americans who wanted them.

    Of course they and the UAW don’t REALLY want true free markets b/c they would instantly be competiting with every make and model currently sold in Europe (at least the ones that could pass our safety/pollution testing minimums. Don’t forget that lowly Daewoo can sell cars here (pass testing), lowly Yugo could do it in it’s day, and so can Skoda, Renault and a long list of other brands we can see on the web but not buy here.

    I’m not convinced that CO is an important gas to limit but I can say that all pollution needs to be better regulated in this country. Our population continues to rise, our rates of consumption of everything continues to rise (while the lifespan for much of the consumer rubbish we buy these days goes down ever faster), and we are ever more efficient at mining/harvesting/consuming the earth’s resources.

    Once upon a time some consumer goods would last decades. Now people just toss them in the landfill and replace with another piece of rubbish b/c it’s more economical.

    Meanwhile we are denial about the issues we’ll face with all of these problems right around the corner.

    No, as our country continues to mature and we consume everything ever faster we need more control (planning) over how we do it.

    Once upon a time people had land. It didn’t matter that your neighbor had a junkyard and was pouring industrial waste into the ground. Now we are much more crowded and our neighbors’ actions directly affect our own health.

    The industrial age is only 150 years old and we have some believe used up most of the oil, most of the minerals (rare minerals as found in your favorite gadgets), and polluted the earth like never before. How long can we continue to do this? Another 150 years? I SERIOUSLY doubt it. Could the environment absorb the waste even if the raw materials did not run out?

    You might be 15 minutes from dying and being buried but I have several decades left and my children have a lifetime ahead of them. I have no desire to use up the world leaving nothing for anyone after me. It’s the me-first mentality which has helped upset our economy to the detriment of us all this past year.

    Do we need a socialized/communist government to set us on the right path? No. And I don’t think Barack Obama is a commie either. He’s trying hard to right the cart in the first month of his presidency and that may not be possible but I think he wants to get help where it is needed and see the fruits of his party’s efforts during his presidency. Still I think some decisions may get rushed without enough consideration for alternatives or side-effects. I’ll let time show us his follies or his successes. Prob not going to be any worse than the last guy.

    Want another example of poor American planning? The wars and our federal debt. I lay this at the feet of both parties. Can we really continue to spend like we have for the past decade without expecting the value of the dollar to plummet as the debt rises? Can we live in a country where we export our dollars while importing everything else sold in our stores? That’s a question that I don’t have an answer to. From my point of view there has to be an end to it all somewhere. Wars = debt = higher taxes. But the current and previous presidents lowered taxes…

    Sort of like the UAW striking when a company is facing bankruptcy. Counterintuitive to me. Blood out of a turnip et al…

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    States rights – I’m all for them. Let the CA voters decide what they want to happen in CA. Let the other states that follow in CA’s footsteps work for them via the voters wishes.

    As for anyone’s frustration with CA leading the way or what anyone else drives forcing you to choose – deal with it. That’s life.

    Given the choice I’d prob bicycle to work but because of the kind of traffic (fast and large) I’ll never be able to safely make that choice. Heck I have been considering selling my motorcycle for the same reason. It’s no match for a big cell-phone talking idiot SUV driver. Consequently I’ve got to at least drive a small car with seat belts and airbags. My preferred transport methods have been rendered obsolete by those of my fellow citizens. As for CA setting the standard – great! Maybe all of us downwind from CA will be healthier. Maybe the car makers will be forced to be more creative in designing the air pollution controls of their products. Maybe they will be motivated to add EVs to their product lineup wherever the current level of tech makes them viable (great second cars in most moderate temp markets). It’s like my gadgets – every year or two they gadgets I own are obsolete b/c suddenly cassettes are no more, VHS is no more, analog TV is no more, DVDs will get replaced by HD versions of DVDs, my CRT TV is an antique even though it is only a few years old, etc. So what is the difference if my car is suddenly obsolete? No, I don’t like it either but we NEED some progress on pollution controls.

    Fly into some big city, travel through many of our national parks, and look at the health issues our children have that are attributed to transport pollution. Alot of modern Amerian cities have a dark cloud of dust and pollution hanging over them even today.

    ONE car might be magnatudes cleaner than those of our childhood (or like the two I have in my garage) but when there are millions of them running around our country (or world) it adds up. For the record I’m not worried about old cars and trucks. Most don’t drive enough miles each year to make any difference. Let age and attrituion wash them out of the daily driver fleet.

    So what had been the difference between a CA-spec car and a 49-state car? Engine controls? Big deal. NOT a big deal to engineer or repair. Just grab parts from the CA parts bin during assembly. Besides how many of you guys really wrench on your cars yourself anyhow. Do you really even know the difference between them? For the record none of my cars have been in a shop for a repair in over 20 years except for tires and muffler installation.

    geeber: I see nothing that will require car makers to build smaller vehicles that will withstand collisions with tractor trailers or delivery vehicles, or legislate those vehicles off the road.

    And another approach would be to mandate that the large vehicles such as commercial trucks and SUVs are made safer for smaller vehicles with lower bumpers, softer crumple zones, and in the case of large trucks – guards that keep small cars out from under trailers. They do this in Europe. Also MPG benefits from this. There are creative solutions available.

    geeber: Today, most people drive at least 75 mph on most limited access highways. Quite a few people drive faster than that.

    Yep, I have done triple digits mph in cars with engines ranging from 1.6L to 2.0L for hundreds of miles. A person need not have a heavy Detroit iron with a V-8 to do this either. In fact having tried that with some heavier domestic vehicles I prefer something more nimble for high speed travel.

    Customers also are demanding more control over noise, vibration and harshness, for what we call “refinement.”

    I agree. Again a person need not drive a big heavy vehicle to get this. This is what we typically see in this country b/c automakers want to up sell us into larger vehicles. There are more profits to be made on said larger vehicles BUT I have been in many Civic-sized vehicles that were quite “refined”. There isn’t much of a market for those vehicles here and part of the upselling that goes on is cheaping out on the small cars. Alot of potential refinement is left out. Better wind noise control, better rubber mounts, some quiet pads, and quiet coatings for inside body cavities goes a long way and weighs very little meaning a 45 mpg compact can be alot better than what we typically find in America today.

    The demand for more refinement has led to more weight, hrough increased stiffness of the body shell, which means additional bracing.

    I agree with that. Also people won’t put up with the vibrations my 1981 Mustang had that caused the dash to bounce at when the car was driven at high speed with an out of round tire. I won’t either. Again good =/= heavy necessarily.

    ren’t going to swap their Explorers and 4Runners for Fits and Rabbits.

    They would if gas went to $4 per gallon + and stayed there. Some folks wouldn’t no matter what but for them their V-8 vehicle is a very important part of their image/preferences. I saw alot of people eager to reduce their transportation costs last summer and a smaller vehicle option was suddenly palatable.

    Cars have gotten bigger, faster and heavier because this is what customers wanted.

    Because gas has been cheap just like in the 60s. Once gas went high and stayed there Americans changed. We reminiced alot about our big cars of course and went back to them when we could. Europeans might as well as long as parking fuel prices weren’t problems. We rationalize our wants with our needs. At the same time my own taste in cars have slowly evolved towards more desire for quality (less NVH with more clever features) as I have gotten older. No way I’d put up with my ’66 Mustang or even my ’81 Mustang now if I didn’t need to but I can afford to drive something better if I want (continuing to cheap out though).

    PGAero: I live in CA, and love the geography, climate (I had snow yesterday), and the people I’ve grown up knowing, but this stuff just gets me angry. California has a lot going for it, but it thinks it’s too great, and that will come back to bite it.

    Yep. Let folks who make less money cope. Live closer to work, learn new skills, get a better job, find a partner or roommate to share the living costs, have fewer children, put off the purchase of luxury items. It’s life and what a free market brings.

    Quick math tells me I pay about $150 in gas taxes at 38 cents per gallon (TN), 500 gallons of fuel per year. Okay – if that went to 75 cents I’m paying $375. That’s $30 per month??? If I can’t afford it I’m shopping for a better car next time or driving less or hopefully developing some friendships so I can carpool and lower my cost of getting to work. Heck, I could even buy a scooter instead.

    look, I’m not for higher taxes just to give my money away. If our gov’t/country is going broke and we can’t keep the lights on then I’ll pay my part but I’m not eager to give this party or the last extra money to be frivolous with. I’d rather keep the gov’t poor and do more with less. Maybe we would be less eager to go to war or spent money like the DC politicians were royalty.

    If we need to fund a war we can start selling war bonds again.

    I also take it that you have never attempted to merge on to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a small, underpowered car where the merging lane is going UP a hill, or attempted to pass ignoramuses camping in the left lane on a hilly limited access highway. You’d be amazed at how much that “unnecessary” power is appreciated.

    I have. I have merged onto Italian autostradas where the left lane is occupied by huge buses and trucks trundling along at 60 mph while the left lane is occupied by German sedans running 130 mph. I did this for three years in all sorts of cars from 40 HP Beetles to ~100 HP Fiats and Opels. This “need” to have 300 horsepower on tap is really a “want”.

    Maybe this is one reason Europeans like diesels. Lots of torque, small engine, great mileage. Not saying they have all the answers in Europe but that we are ignoring some good ideas we could apply in America. They certainly have alot of ideas about how to live in cities with alot of people and maximizing farming land. I think the one big mistake we Americans make time and time again is the one where we are convinced that we have all the best ideas about everything. We do have alot of good ideas and alot of our other ideas could be improved by looking around a little to see what other folks are doing. And for the record the Europeans could learn alot of stuff from us too.

  • avatar
    geeber

    M1EK: Agnotology. Look it up.

    I know what it is. Not applicable.

    Philipwitak: really, geeber? i don’t think i’ve ever seen ‘junk science’ that gets peer-reviewed, and then published.

    Lots of junk science out there regarding climate change, the (imaginary) dangers of gun ownership, things that supposedly cause cancer, etc.

    joeaverage: A person need not have a heavy Detroit iron with a V-8 to do this either. In fact having tried that with some heavier domestic vehicles I prefer something more nimble for high speed travel.

    As someone who traveled the Autobahn in a VW Polo at speeds hitting 90-100 mph, I’ll take a bigger vehicle, thank you very much. The extra room alone is worth it.

    Not a bad car for, say, Manhattan or even downtown Los Angeles or Philadelphia, but I’d never trade my Accord sedan for a Polo (if it ever is sold here). Unless I would move to downtown Philadelphia, and I have no intention of doing that.

    joeaverage: This is what we typically see in this country b/c automakers want to up sell us into larger vehicles. There are more profits to be made on said larger vehicles BUT I have been in many Civic-sized vehicles that were quite “refined”. There isn’t much of a market for those vehicles here and part of the upselling that goes on is cheaping out on the small cars.

    Those features cost money, and Americans have not been willing to pay for them in a small vehicle. When I was in Germany, I looked over an Opel Astra on the showroom floor. Beautiful car, but the sticker price, when converted into dollars, was far higher than what Americans have historically been willing to pay for a vehicle of that size (and that was even taking into account the taxes added to the price).

    joeaverage: They would if gas went to $4 per gallon + and stayed there. Some folks wouldn’t no matter what but for them their V-8 vehicle is a very important part of their image/preferences. I saw alot of people eager to reduce their transportation costs last summer and a smaller vehicle option was suddenly palatable.

    A recent survey showed that a high percentage of small-car buyers were actually dissatisfied with their new purchase. Here are parts of the article…

    As Detroit struggles with a disappointing year-end, market research firm Mintel has uncovered another problem for automakers: consumer dissatisfaction with small cars.

    In a new consumer study, Mintel found that only half of small car-buying respondents (51%) say they feel “extremely happy” with their small car purchases.

    This pales when considering that 80% of all respondents report feeling just as happy with their vehicle purchases.

    “Our survey revealed a surprisingly high number of small car drivers who aren’t fully satisfied by their vehicles, suggesting that today’s small cars may not have the amenities people want….

    …Analyst Mark Guarino believes making luxury features such as surround sound stereo and heated seats standard in small cars could help lure drivers to the market.

    “The transition from expensive, gas-hogging SUV to cheaper, fuel-efficient compact will feel like less of a sacrifice if the smaller car offers similar luxury features,” he says. “Automakers need these innovative strategies to show consumers they are committed to change.”

    Only problem is that those features add weight…which was the complaint in the post I originally responded to. People want air conditioning, power everything, top-notch stereos, sunroofs and deluxe interiors. The great majority of customers do not want razor-sharp handling or the feeling of being “one with the road.”

    These features add weight. But historically Americans have not liked extremely small or stripped cars, and have not liked cars that are “high strung” or “sporty.”

    The best-selling passenger car in the United States is the Toyota LeSabre, oops, I mean Toyota Camry, not the VW Jetta or Mitsubishi EVO.

    joeaverage: I have. I have merged onto Italian autostradas where the left lane is occupied by huge buses and trucks trundling along at 60 mph while the left lane is occupied by German sedans running 130 mph. I did this for three years in all sorts of cars from 40 HP Beetles to ~100 HP Fiats and Opels. This “need” to have 300 horsepower on tap is really a “want”.

    If they are paying for the vehicle, they are in the best position to decide what they want.

    Along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the slow lane is occupied by buses, trucks and vehicles traveling faster than 60 mph. Merging at a slower speed would be a safety hazard. It is not much fun – not to mention not too safe – to merge in an underpowered vehicle on to the eastbound side of the Turnpike at the Bedford interchange, where the entrance ramp runs uphill. I certainly wouldn’t mind 300 horsepower.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    HeBeGB: A straight gas tax might be more effective, but for some guy just trying to make it from paycheck to paycheck…an extra $20 in gas just getting to/from his crappy job can be tough.

    Well, are we a “free market” or not? I agree a gas tax is prob the best idea. Tax those who use the infrastructure. That must include commercial interests though too. No loopholes. Let the end consumer pay these taxes through slightly higher prices. No need to let heavy traffic use up the roads while the private vehicle drivers pay for them.

    If the theoretical dude is hurtin’ so bad for some gas money b/c of taxes maybe he can lay off spending it on something (consumer distractions like computers or MP3 players) in favor of some more gas to make it to his job. Maybe he can work a second job until he has gotten a promotion at one of his jobs to make up the difference.

    Maybe he can get an education so he can get better jobs. Maybe he can get a reliable roomate or put off expenses a little longer. Time for a scooter or bicycle instead? Not as “cool” as a Camaro or Mustang but must society keep it’s taxes low so the lowest income folks are able to purchase an image accessory? Needs vs wants…

    Disclaimer: I consider my Navy years and my college years to have been years that my wife and I were working poor like manby other people. The Navy never paid me more than $15K and our fulltime jobs during our college years never paid us more than about $8 per hour either.

    The working poor I’ve known are still living pretty well and a there are plenty of frivolous expenses in modern life that a person can cutout. What does pretty well mean? I mean cellphone plans, custom ringtones, subscription TV, pizza and beer, HVAC, video games, etc.

    Not like poor in 1960 where a person had a radio, a bathroom down the hall, a payphone in the hallway and the most basic lifestyle. Wait – that was my military years in a nutshell…

    Too many times I hear people complaining about not having enough money when they are spending it on frivolous stuff like the latest video game console. My economics prof called “opportunity cost”. My Dad called it “priorities”.

    These are simple things that I fear our corporate leaders (looking at you Detroit) and political leaders alike have forgotten or maybe never knew if they were from wealthy backgrounds. That’s the problem with letting the elite run our country – corporate or gov’t leadership. Maybe Dave Ramsey needs to run our treasury…

    Back to the broke bachelor. There are always second jobs to be had. Once upon a time we bought our first house working a pair of $8 an hour jobs in a small TN town, going to college and mowing yards on the side. Meanwhile we were making a new car payment and paying child care. Hell, if we can do that so can others.

    Is there really such thing as POOR in this country anymore or are there people who perpetually make poor choices?

    I think the argument that people make against this tax or that one b/c of a stereotypical poor single working mothers who can’t make ends meet needs to be retired. I don’t want to sound heartless but everybody has choices in life.

    Work hard, get an education, spend wisely, DON’T HAVE KIDS if you can’t afford them and aren’t settled domestically, move to places where a better job and lifestyle can be had. Find safer towns where you can live downtown near your job and walk. Losing the automobile from your lifetime budget would yield HUGE savings. Learn to get along with the people around you, make friends, and make good choices.

    Maybe the hardships some people’s families faced once upon a time is what motivated generations to do better than their parents. Maybe we are making it too easy to be 19 years old without any personal ambition???

    We can all go to college if we want to (fed loans or the US military GI Bill), choose when we want to have children, choose what we want to drive (expensive or frugal), free to live where we want to, most of us can spend a few years in the military saving up some cash or finding a career path, etc etc etc.

    I don’t want to see the country treading water b/c we have to wait for lowest common denominator to come along too.

    The American Dream still exists but you get there by careful choices. The American Dream doesn’t mean everybody gets a McMansion and two $40K SUVs either. For some of us it is a modest home full of happiness with paid bills and a nice dinner cooking on the stove. The Norman Rockwell dream… VBG!

    A person just needs a little education – at least high school, teach yourself some stuff like how to use a computer/manners/fix something, learning to fit in with the crowd you want to earn a living with (can’t look like “A’ if the rest of the office/customers look like ‘B’ – got to be able to function/speak/dress/manners/etc), etc etc etc

    Maybe the old statement “Go West Young Man” needs to be revised to “Go Somewhere Else Young Man”. We do need to conquer modern life’s teenage distractions and work hard…

    A big dose of that and America could fix alot of it’s problems. I’m not the wise one behind these ideas – I’m just parroting that which I have collected so far in my lifetime.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    geeber: Those features cost money, and Americans have not been willing to pay for them in a small vehicle. When I was in Germany, I looked over an Opel Astra on the showroom floor. Beautiful car, but the sticker price, when converted into dollars, was far higher than what Americans have historically been willing to pay for a vehicle of that size (and that was even taking into account the taxes added to the price).

    Wonder how much of the European prices includes tax. I suspect there is some built in or otherwise we couldn’t buy the Astra here at anything below the Euro-converted prices. Asking b/c I don’t know. I agree though – alot of Americans not ready to pay premium prices for a small car. Some folks would rather have a lower quality larger vehicle for the same price. Gas is still considered a small part of ownership costs. For me though I still remember the $25K+ price of gasoline over the ownership of a car. More for a large SUV. I’d rather spend that somewhere else by driving frugally. Used car and good gas mileage makes me most happy. Not the same yardstick for everyone of course.

    I’d rather have a Mini than an Aveo. I would not rather have a Buick Century vs a Mini if the prices were the same but that’s just me.

    A recent survey showed that a high percentage of small-car buyers were actually dissatisfied with their new purchase.

    I wonder how many of those people surveyed were folks making knee-jerk reactionary small car purchases?

    The ownership experience is certainly going to be related to your expectations in a small car.

    There are people out there who follow the herd without considering the actually interior size of a small car, what a small displacement engine with short-gearing is like on the interstate, how big trucks seem when driving a small car, etc.

    I have also heard declarations that a car is a “POS” substituted for “this car does not meet my expectations” b/c that person has a different set of qualifications. Of course I hear POS and I start wondering about it’s quality and durability b/c those are my first qualifications for a vehicles value.

    My m-inlaw came to dislike her Saturn car way back when b/c on a long uphill highway stretch on her morning commute the tranny would shift down into some lower gear that left the engine revving at 3500 rpm for several minutes. I took a year but she was tired of that car.

    She never considered the buzzy engine at purchase time. I on the other hand figured that out when I was sixteen (a decade before) that I didn’t like automatic transmissions or three speed manuals for that reason.

    She also refused to slow down so the car would stay in high gear and would not even come close to driving a stick so she could choose which gear the car would make use of at any given time. All she wanted was silent power and gas mileage was optional so now she drives a large Saturn SUV Outlook and raves about it’s capacity to carry seven people despite not really needing that very often. Her choice individually I suppose but if everyone makes those kinds of choices we get $4 a gallon gas (assuming the greeedy men behind the curtain aren’t artificially trading the futures up). That’s when our collective choices gets on my budget’s nerves.

    She is one of my imaginary focus group participants. VBG!

    For small cars to come around in big numbers again here I think there will have to be a big leap in sustained gasoline prices and an self-educational process where people learn what it is like to live with a small car again and what they need to do to make themselves most satisfied with living them. Yeah I could just say “get used to them”… Again freedom of choice.

    I look forward to better economy standards for a selfish reason: more small cars like mine on the road and for a hopefully cleaner atmosphere to breathe. We surely have plenty of haze around here when the wind is still.


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