A little education, as they say, can be a dangerous thing. Using some rudimentary game theory from my days of studying political science, I’d become fairly convinced that the CAFE target for 2025 would be set at 62 MPG for the simple reason that CARB wanted that number, isn’t elected and could pull out of negotiations if it didn’t get it. After all, the White House and automakers wanted a uniform national standard above all else… wouldn’t they give up a few MPG in order to preserve their main goal? Well, after talking with a few people familiar with the negotiations last week, I soon realized that things weren’t that simple (thanks a lot, bachelor’s degree). I was told that a compromise would be reached at between 50 and 60 MPG; CARB might not have other business with the Feds, but their Governor did and Jerry Brown wasn’t likely to back a play for 62 MPG. And sure enough, the Detroit News
reports that the White House has opened negotiations with Detroit by backing a 56.2 MPG 2025 standard.
According to the DetN’s report
The 56.2 mpg figure and EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas emissions limits equivalent likely is an opening bargaining point. The final proposal could change as automakers and the White House hold more meetings to try to again reach agreement.
The administration plans to formally propose new standards in September and finalize them by July 2012.
It estimated last fall that hiking fuel efficiency to 56 mpg by 2025 would boost the average vehicle cost by $2,100 to $2,600. But the administration said the rule would save car owners $5,500 to $7,000 over the vehicle’s lifetime in fuel costs, and owners would recoup the additional up-front cost within 2.5 to 3.5 years.
But don’t get too caught up in calculating those numbers just yet, as it seems that at least a few of the auto industry’s allies were expecting something a little lower than that. As the DetN reports
But the proposal caught some Michigan members of Congress off guard, and was higher than some automakers expected.
On Tuesday morning, two White House aides — former auto czar Ron Bloom and Gary Guzy, deputy director of the White House Office of Environmental Quality — met on Capitol Hill with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit; Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, to discuss fuel efficiency efforts.
The three had heard rumors that the administration would back 55 mpg by 2025. Despite questions, the White House aides didn’t disclose the 56.2 mpg proposal for 2025. But Levin said automakers had been given a figure at the Wednesday meetings.
“There was a scenario that was placed on the table which frankly shocked me and was very different from what we were told was not in the cards — even in terms of discussions — just hours before,” Levin said.
In a statement Friday, Levin said he was surprised “to learn that the administration had decided to lay down a scenario for regulation of vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions after telling us just the day before that no ‘decision’ had been made relative to those issues.”
He questioned the administration’s forthrightness.
Though none of the lobbyists I spoke would give out a specific number, they all said that a number was close and that it was essentially agreed upon. At least, as one Beltway insider put it, “the big number, the one that we’ll all stand up, hold hands and commit to” was very nearly a done deal. And the complex regulations that turn one politically totemic number into reams and reams of rules, guidelines, schedules and formulae? “Only about six people in the country actually understand that part,” admitted one long-time industry lobbyist, “and I’m not one of them.” Though negotiation over the CAFE “number” have probably been narrowed down to a 3-4 MPG window for some time now, the actual regulations, with all of the inevitable loopholes and “gaming” opportunities won’t be done until next summer. Besides, there’s a baked-in opportunity to rethink the entire deal, politically totemic “number” and all, in 2018.
CAFE may seem like a huge fight, but this time around it seems that industry and regulators are working together in nearly unprecedented harmony.