By on November 17, 2006

chrysler_pt-cruiser_05_1024x76822.jpg Americans never demanded whale blubber. They simply wanted to light their homes. When a better means to the same end came along– a cheaper, safer and more effective energy delivery system (that didn’t require long, dangerous voyages and a Hellish rendering process)- they said ‘pardon me, be right back,’ and never returned. By the same token, Americans don’t demand imported oil or inefficient cars. They want a certain standard of performance. The two concepts just happened to be joined at the hip– at the moment. But that needn’t be so.

Many critics of America’s vehicular efficiency call for a gas tax to “force” the free market to create more efficient cars and trucks. The truth is a hefty gas tax will never pass. Besides, our federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are a perfectly adequate instrument to stimulate a relatively painless increase in our automotive efficiency. If this system was properly implemented, every car, van and truck in America would get better gas mileage. We know this because we can already see its effects: hybrids, eight speed transmissions, composite materials, Canada goose-like drag coefficients. This process could easily be accelerated simply by raising the CAFE standards. 

Could automotive engineers meet the challenge of more demanding regulations? Consider Formula One. Year after year, the sport’s regulating body attempts to slow things down using restrictive legislation. Year after year, F1 teams create cars that perform at the brink of human endurance. To say ingenuity can’t lead to more fuel-efficient cars, trucks, vans and sports cars is to say science is played out and we know all there is to know. The principle that CAFE necessity is the mother of invention remains fundamentally sound. Ah, but there is a caveat; raising CAFE standards is not enough. The rules are fundamentally flawed. 

First, the legislation should be amended to stop assigning higher fuel economy ratings to flexible-fuel vehicles. For example, CAFE regs rate an E85-compatible 5.3-liter V8 Chevy Tahoe at 33mpg. The vehicle’s “gas only” EPA rating is 15/19mpg. The SUV struggles to achieve 10mpg on E85– which is more or less completely unavailable to 90% of the US population. Oh, and that’s one of the reasons why GM can advertise the fact that so many of their vehicles get “over 30mpg.” The CAFE regulation’s E85 calculations are ridiculous on so many levels it hurts.

Second, the EPA mpg figures should reflect actual real world driving. A Toyota Prius does not get 60mpg in city driving or 51mpg on the highway, and should not receive CAFE credits for doing so in the theoretical realm. While new EPA regulations will supposedly lower mileage estimates on hybrids by roughly 30%, and reduce a lot of other overly-optimistic estimates, it’s been clear for quite some time that the EPA should be using real world data. What’s more, the agency should create one simple statistical average for both city and highway driving.

Third, the loophole whereby passenger vehicles get called trucks or light trucks– removing some of the worst CAFE offenders from manufacturers’ car fleets and subjecting them to lower truck-related mpg standards– must be cinched. Classifying the PT Cruiser as a truck because it has a removable rear seat is just wrong. Classifying a crossover a truck because it has greater cargo-carrying capacity than passenger-carrying volume is also unacceptable. Common sense– rather than weights and measures– should be applied. If we’re really serious about improving overall fuel efficiency, it’s time for pickup trucks to be classified as passenger vehicles, regardless of their weight or commercial use. 

Fourthly, the whole system of CAFE “credits” should be eliminated. Specifically, when a manufacturers’ car or light truck fleet’s average fuel economy exceeds the required standard, they earn credits that can be applied to any three consecutive model years prior to (“carry back”) or subsequent to (“carry forward”) the model year in which the credits are earned. Why do we need to dangle a carrot in front of automobile manufacturers?  On the stick side, the penalties for non-compliance must be raised to the point where companies like BMW can’t simply shrug them off as a cost of doing business.

Lastly, again, CAFE standards should be raised. A manufacturer’s passenger car fleet is currently required to average 27.5mpg; light trucks must average 21.6 (rising to 22.2 mpg for 2007). I suggest a relatively modest increase of 2% a year for the next ten years.

Repealing the laws of supply and demand is challenging.  If cars use less gas, supply rises, prices drop and the airline and trucking industries gobble up what good CAFE achieved. Everyone needs to be in the same boat, because consumption is – forgive me – a whale of a problem.  Transportation is responsible for nearly 70% of the world’s oil use.  The captains of that industry should be charged with changing course.

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133 Comments on “The CAFE Klatsch Must Die...”


  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    I like your thinking. However, I’m way ahead of the game having put my money where my mouth was some 18 months ago in buying a Prius. I am going to drive the car until it dies, which (knowing that it is a Toyota) I’m planning on 300,000 miles unless some neandethal slams into it over the next 12-13 years.

    About the time gas went to $3.20 a gallon in 2005 and $3.00 a gallon in 2006, a lot of people thought, well, Glenn is pretty smart, and told me so. But only one friend went out and got a Toyota Hybrid (and THAT was a Highlander SUV despite the fact that the co-worker lives within town and never goes 4×4’ing).

    Now that gas is “only” $2.40 a gallon I’m getting comments like the other day when I drove our conventional car into work (in order to have the snow tires/wheels put on after work) “oh, you don’t have your CUTE LITTLE car today.”

    “Sigh” I think people don’t want to fathom the fact that the interior of my car is virtually as commodious as a TAHOE (obviously excepting luggage area) and much more comfortable to get in and out of, as well.

    Preconceived notions are about has difficult to break for most people as bad habits like smoking or drug use. I’m nearly 50 and I have adapted to a Prius. What’s with you younger people? Can’t you fathom that capturing 30% of your kinetic energy for use later is a wise idea? Don’t you fathom the idea that a properly engineered hybrid uses HALF of the fuel of a conventional car? Our Sonata V6 uses literally twice the fuel compared to our Prius – thus, we have been using the Prius 20,000 miles a year and carpool, only use the other car 6000 miles a year now. Both cars carry the same loads, have virtually the same performance and are functionally doing the same work.

    It’s good stewardship, it’s smart, it is not harming anyone (contrary to the anti-hybridistas the batteries are going to be recycled – the Prius contains 20 kg of rare earths in the battery and electric motors – Toyota puts a bounty on the batteries for example).

    Sorry to sound pessimistic, but I do think ALL of our grand-children and great-grandchildren are going to curse our very names and memories for wasting so much.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Americans don’t demand imported oil or inefficient cars. They want a certain standard of performance.

    Define a certain amount of performance, please. I read somewhere that the average American uses up 24 times as much energy than the average European. I can’t imagine that’s actually the case (or maybe they counted Eastern Europe in that equasion) but it’s clear that Americans use more energy, which eventually will cost everybody on this planet.

    Worst part is that they don’t use that energy for extra performance, but to buy rediculously large trucks and SUV’s with poor ride quality, poor interiors etc. (Or to light their houses up on christmas with so many lights you can see it from Pluto).

    Now if they went and buy a Ferrari/Aston/Lambo that gets bad mileage… I could understand that.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    So I’m driving home yesterday stuck behind a pickup festooned with yellow ribbons bumper stickers saying “Army wife”, “God bless Army troops” and “Bring back our troops alive.” A part of me feels compassion for a woman who is anxious about her husband returning from Iraq. But a less charitable part of me thinks: “Gee, honey, maybe if you traded in that Ram/Hemi for a Focus or Civic, we wouldn’t need to send troops to die in the Middle East.”

    Michael, I agree with the contention that the current CAFE is ineffective at lowering gas consumption. But band-aiding CAFE and blaming automakers won’t fix the issue. We will only reduce fuel consumption when laws work with the marketplace. And that means higher taxes at the pump.

    We’ve already seen that $3 gas doesn’t cause a recession, so raising gas taxes by a buck a gallon is doable. It would reduce oil imports and spur development of alternatives like E85, B20 and even hydrogen and electric. This is good for the US economy and good for car nuts like us.

    But it only happens when Congress shows some guts, which is not likely in our lifetimes. Oh, well. Do what you have to do to keep your kids out of the coming draft, I guess, or you’ll be sporting a Ram/Hemi with yellow ribbons too.

  • avatar
    Michael Martineck

    JJ,
    By performance I mean whatever standard a person wants to set. Some people really do need to tow 10,000 pounds or cart five kids in the morning, some simply want go 0-60 in 5.3 seconds. Being one of those, I’d like to hold on to the right. The inherent fairness of CAFE is that those vehicles are free to play while we raise the level of the whole field.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I like to help the environment, too. Whenever I can, I use my SUV to cut off hybrids in traffic forcing them to slam on the brakes, which helps recharge their batteries. This seems to piss them off, but hey, I’m trying to do my part…

  • avatar
    ash78

    Terrific article, good information. I absolutely think CAFE standards will go up when Toyota, Honda, VW, Merc, and BMW (am I forgetting any?) bring out their new Diesels in 2007-2008. Those manufacturers will see a surge in their avg economy, so I’m sure the politicos will see that as “best practices” and raise the bar accordingly–effectively saying to everyone else, “These guys did it, why can’t you?”

    A couple questions: is CAFE truly a weighted average based on sales? Production numbers? And how about we add standard deviation to the mix, thus penalizing companies with great averages and a few horrendous offenders? Call me a statistical purist, but averages don’t mean a whole lot unless you have some data on the distribution about the mean.

    Semi-off-topic: Americans indeed waste a lot of energy, but much of it is no fault of our own. Europeans’ appliances (including dishwashers, etc) basically all have “off” switches, while ours are in constant standby mode. We’re wasteful, sure, but conservationism is pushed to the fringe as something our parents/grandparents did because they simply couldn’t afford otherwise.

  • avatar
    1984

    The median price for gasoline adjusted for inflation is about $2.50 a gallon since 1918.

    Somehow fuel price now it’s a huge deal because people do not have any disposable income anymore. So when fluctuations happen everyone is stretched so thin financially they blame gasoline. The problem is not gasoline; the problem is the $5 cup of coffee, your I-Pod, your XM-Radio, and your V-cast cell phone.

    Perhaps try eliminating sh*t you do not need in your life so when gasoline goes up 25 cents your world does not shatter and crumble.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I am also in favor of raising gas taxes at the pump.. it will raise a ton of money – which means other taxes can be REDUCED… It uses simple economics to reduce consumption…

    I like the idea of cafe standards, but they are a mess now as Mr. Martineck has noted. AND you do not need an entire bureaucracy to count to one (or two).

    As SherbornSean noted, 3.50 a gallon did not plunge us into a recession. People here in Philly did not stop jackrabbiting stop lights or going over 75, both of which increase fuel consumption.

    No one seemed to care really, except for grousing about the cost.

    Seems a simple idea, huh? Unfortunatley it will never happen. I wish the hell it would. Perhaps there will be fewer cars on the road as people seek other modes of commuting, less accidents.

    More open roads so we, the hobbyist car enthusiast can actually go out for an enjoyable ride once in a while without being hounded by armies of SUV’s filled with one person going out to buy a single item at a time.

    Sigh.

  • avatar
    ash78

    jerseydevil

    Only problem I have with increasing taxes is the fact that it quickly becomes entitlement for the politicians. Fuel prices come back down and they’ll try to find some way to make up the difference (or just raise the tax). However, if they found some way to put the “tax” into a fund for alternative fuel exploration funding by the private sector, I’d be more inclined to support it.

    Look at the high cost of fuel in Europe (~50% taxes, give or take). The theory of increased fuel tax is nice, but apparently nobody has gotten it to really help with reducing tolls, improving roads, or many of the other promises that have been made.

  • avatar
    1984

    Gasoline already incurs a near 100% tax from the state and feds.

    And you want more?

    I doubt any of our government staff members really have the desire to be executed Joseph Stalin style.

  • avatar
    Michael Martineck

    1984
    You make a great point, though disposable income has risen across the board, for Americans, for the past 20 years. But Buying Power, now that’s a different story. It’s tougher to track, but it looks like the last five years were not that great. Which makes your point, to a point. I think people are more concerned with gas now because of the overtones. Hubbard’s Peak, war in the middle east and growing evidence that burning gas may be helping to increase the temperature of the planet are starting to give oil a dirty name.

  • avatar
    noley

    CAFE has been a failure from the get-go. The averaging component has made it a joke and ineffective for its intended purpose. (Our tax dollars and elected officials at work!).

    What we probably need is a multi-facted approach. Something like…

    Set fuel mileage standards for all vehicles under a certain curb weight, say 6,000 pounds, not gross weight. Have a city minimum of 20 and a highway minumum of 30 for starters. Then ratchet that up until we see something like 28/40. Or even better. This wouild apply to cars, vans, pick-up, SUVs, the works.

    This would have the effect of reducing vehicle size and weight which also helps roads and bridges last longer, and reduces emissions, both good things. If you want to buy something that uses more gas, that’s OK. You pay you rmoney and make your choice, but it would cost more to buy, register, insure, etc. Not the one-time guzzler tax we have now, but an annual hit. Then give annual tax credits for buyer of cars that exceed the standards, not the short term ones now available. That provides a carrot to encourage using less fuel.

    Next: Add a gas tax. Much as I didn’t like it, $3.00/gallon did not cause the end of life as we know it. Get it up around $4 and watch the SUVs disappear. If you want to drive one, fine, but you pay for the choice. And you still get hit with an additional annual tax on weight, fuel consumption, etc.

    Anyone who wants to buy a 10-15 mpg vehicle for towing, hauling oversized families around, or because they want to get to 60 mph in under 5 seconds is welcome to do so, but they have to pay for the privilege.

    Would this rattle a lot of cages and piss people off? Will it affect lifestyles? You bet. But the time has come for Americans to take responsibility for their choices and actions. I go to Europe once or twice a year and every time I go I look at how people live there and note that they don’t seem to be terribly inconvenienced by driving (primarily) 3, 4 and 6 cylinder cars, not having 5,000-lb SUVs and pick-up trucks that can hold 6 people and a ton of whatever.

    Of course this will never happen, but if we could even move a little ways in this direction it would start to make a difference. E85, biodiesel, electric, fuel cells, all have potential to help this kind of transtion, and if the taxes I note are put toward developing those technologies even gearheads like us win and still have fun cars.

  • avatar
    Tommy Jefferson

    The socialist mindset ingrained in the United States is utterly vile.

    CAFE should be repealled completely. Instead of using force and threats of violence by the government to dictate behavior, the voluntary free market should determine vehicle fuel economy.

    Doesn’t anyone believe in Liberty and Freedom anymore? Has the American mind become so poisoned by Marxism that people cannot even conceive of a government that limits threats of violence?

    If people want 60mpg vehicles, the market will provide them. If people want light rail. The market will provide it.

    The earth is finite. Thus, every subset of the earth is finite, including the amount of petroleum that exists in it. As the supply of oil decreases due to depletion in the coming decades, the rise in price will spur increased fuel economy, no threats of time in a federal penetentiary needed.

  • avatar
    1984

    If you’re an American… complaining about “American Excess”… and you are at work getting paid while you are doing this…. I think that pretty much defines you as a hypocrite.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
    – Walt Whitman

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Raising CAFÉ standards and closing the loop holes is a good start. We also need to close the tax laws that allow a business even if it’s a business of one to write off a Toyota Sequoia or an H2 fully on your taxes.

    I’ll take a completely different tact on conserving energy. The computer industry can help us save a lot of oil. How you say? Telecommuting. Fiber to the home so you can have a direct connection to work assets along with a high quality web cam for face time and conferences. Even better would be some form of VR. Think of all that commuting every metropolitan area has that could be eliminated. Of course you may need to go into the office on occasion or once a week but just imagine the savings in fuel and time. This only works for the white collar workforce but then there are a lot of us out there.

  • avatar
    NeonCat93

    As a poor person and a libertarian, the idea of adding even more tax to what we pay is utterly repugnant to me. The government already takes and squanders so much money. I guess we could call it an exploratory tax, to help cover our costs in Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Venezuela…

    Gasoline, I suspect, has even more inelastic demand than, say, cigarettes. People need a certain amount. They can reduce but they can’t go below a certain level. Do I wish Americans drove more fuel efficient cars? Sure. But if they choose not to, I am not going to insist that Big Nanny force them to. And maybe a little hike in price didn’t cause a recession… last time. Next time, who knows? If people have to spend more on gas, they can’t spend that money on something else. It ripples through the entire economy with unforeseen results.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Any economist will tell you that trying to influence supply to affect demand will not work. And to tell you the truth with the sheer number of lobbyists and the new democrat minded direction in Congress coming CAFE will get worse (one of the drawbacks to their agenda). They are going to bank on E85 as their stance to help reduce our oil independence (unfortunatly raise our volume consumption by 25%). In fact the Big 3 have been thinking that supply is the only part of the equation with their years of Build it and they will buy it mentality with their passenger cars affected by CAFE. Oops…didn’t work as they woke up and realized people want gas guzzling suvs and they built millions of them – it is far easier to sell a violating truck that people want rather than a car that noone wants.

    Demand is the most influential side of the equation to change mindsets. It is the most logical way to change a suppliers habits too. If the market for gas guzzlers drop they have no hope in selling b/c right now there are buyers but they come in ebbs and flows depending on the gas prices which fluctuate wildly.

    I do agree that the EPA ratings need to be changed and simplified. Real world mileage ratings should be on any sticker of any vehicle regardless of Commerical (H2 owners were appalled at 8mpg average but GM was exempt from listing mileage on the sticker). This upset a lot of owners. List E85 Mileage on the sticker too to show how much worse gas mileage you will get with it.

    Here’s some other ideas for reducing our consumption and size of our vehicles: Award companies with tax benefits that allow telecommuters (have it staggered from a credit for a full time employee to a 2 days out of 5 day work week). Give tax breaks (albeit small ones) to those who buy a car that gets over 30 “real” mpg combined. Double/triple the gas guzzler tax for any vehicle that gets under 25mpg (this should be easier to pass rather than a national gas tax where everyone gets hit – regardless of their gas miser/guzzler status). Toll costs / property taxes – make the SUV / trucks pay more in toll road fees as it’s a heavier vehicle logically causing more strain on the road (big rigs get penalized by weight).

  • avatar
    1984

    Steve_S

    It’s true, I have to get out and drive to an inferior computer to do a job that I could easily do at home. Not to mention what it must cost to maintain, heat and illuminate the building I love to sit in soooo much…

    Not commuting would save more fuel than any other option.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Great article, and I can’t find fault with any of your arguments (1st time for everything…). There’s no doubt that a high gas tax increase would just end up buying votes and not saving the world or even changing it much. To wit, the tobacco “settlements”.

    Cafe standards are a good idea if properly* applied. Your analogy to Formula-1 technology advancements is spot-on.

    To try to use libertarian arguments against any government intervention with transportation standards is to completely ignore reality. Don’t they license us to drive these things? (Not that they do a great job there. but that’s another discussion).

    * Thanks lobbyists.

  • avatar
    MMillar

    CAFE reg’s for Light trucks have recently been updated. There are now 6 classifications for light trucks that the OEM must use, these classifications are based on the size of the truck. (wheel base x track width) Due to the new classifications the OEM will no longer be incentivized to classify a PT cruiser as a truck. They used to do that to increase the overall CAFE numbers for their trucks. Now each truck will be in its own classification and will have to meet that class target MPG.

    For example: The class that a 2005 LWB F150 is in has a current targeted mpg of 16.5. That will rise to 21.3 in 2010 and the PT Cruiser class will rise to 28.4 by 2010. This will help to fix some (not all) of the issues you discuss in the article.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    I think there is no better way than to put the tax at the source. Tax the gas, or, better yet, tax oil – the second it gets out of mother earth, or lands onto american soil. This way, you’re guaranteed to have simple and natural incentive for EVERYONE in the consumption chain to reduce consumption.

    If you set that tax correctly, you can proportionally cut most other taxes, and everone will still have the same amount of money – only they will be directly impacted by their own inefficiency. Months after we’ll see no income tax for the lower-to-middle class, lower sales tax, etc., but 10$/gallon gasoline, you’ll start seeing electric cars and people on bicycles on the street, all the time. And check this out, it’ll curb illegal immigration and unauthorized employment, too, by reducing the incentive to “work for cash”. Two rabbits in one shot. And don’t even get me started on tax evasion.

    You can even introduce this tax progressively over a period of a few years, so that you can stop and re-think if you mess something up, or need to adjust things.

    End result? 5-10 years, and you’ll have a happy America, corn and algae farmers distilling seas of alcohol, electric companies buying thousands of acres of Arizoina desert to use for solar panels, positive trade balance, healthy folks, less lawyers, and trees, birds, and flowers all around. OH MY GOD WHAT A FRIGGIN NIGHTMARE!!!

    No, we’ll just keep ‘er steady, max out on our environmental and economical credit card, “forgive” all our debts, plunge into depression and blame someone. Now, that’s american!

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    Seems the “save the world form the evil Americans” crowd is out in force today.

    My attitude is “leave me alone with your tax happy, save the world, greenie garbage.” You can implement that stuff after I am dead and make other people suffer your will then. I personally drive my vehicle in a way that exceeds the EPA estimate by about 25%, my net trash production (after recycling) is not even 1/2 a grocery bag per week, loosely packed, and I do this stuff voluntarily and do not appreciate the socialist tripe about forcing me to capitulate to the whims of yet another whiney group or worse yet politicians.

    This meddling into people’s lives has to stop. We already have sacrificed enough freedoms that were once part of being an American. I have lived in Europe many years and couldn’t wait to get back to the USA and out of the control-happy sheepish society there. Fortunately I live in a part of the USA where, if you come at me with your rules, I’ll probably come at you with a weapon.

  • avatar
    rjsasko

    What so many people seem to forget is the real reason why so many have opted for full-size trucks and SUV’s. They have actual ROOM in them. In the name of ever-increasing fuel efficiency the automakers have shortened vehicles to increase aerodynamic efficiency. Keep your G-d D—-d hands off of the few vehicles that are left for TALL drivers! Have a height requirement to purchase them if you must but otherwise leave them alone!

    Imagine a world where one rarely if ever can catch a ride with someone else. “What kind of car do you drive?” “I’ll meet you there.” Where a cab ride is done lying down. When getting into a modern car requires KY and getting out requires the Jaws of Life. And the Post Traumatic Trip back pain requires codeine.

    When the foot of headroom that used to be in cars is engineered back in you folks are welcome to talk about fuel economy and so forth. Until then find something else to screw up.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Amen to the telecomuting idea. With netmeeting, video confrencing, cell phones, etc. why do we need to go to an office every day?

    I also feel that we should let the market run its course with oil. Why artificially raise the price of oil now? People complain about tax cuts to the rich, why is it fair to put a tax on something everyone uses? Isn’t that a tax on the poor? Instead the government should focus on regulating harmful emissions.

  • avatar
    miked

    jerseydevil:”I am also in favor of raising gas taxes at the pump.. it will raise a ton of money – which means other taxes can be REDUCED… It uses simple economics to reduce consumption… ”

    HAH! Do you think that the government will actually reduce a tax? Never! Adding more gas taxes will just give the government more money to squander. Just like all the “save the children” taxes they add on the ballots in November. It just adds more money to the coffers, there’s never a reduction in another type of tax.

    Now back to cars: CARB is what screws us. They spend all of their time regulating NOx which is why we don’t have efficient diesels. Granted NOx is smog producing, but the bigger evil is CO2. Europe, on the other hand, regulates CO2 and, as we all know, they have diesels in everything. I’ve only spend a few days in a European city (Paris), but I wasn’t choked out by smog or pollution, the diesels burning the low sulfer diesel they have over there actually smelled good (at least to a piston head).

    Here’s what bothers me about the regulating of NOx – it causes us to burn more fuel! CO2 comes all from burning fuel (NOx comes from the atmosphere in the cylinder), so if you burn less fuel, you make less CO2. Rather than having crazy amount of pollution control devices, we need to have super efficient engines and then the CO2 will come down. Then we can add NOx reducers (simple things like EGR don’t hurt mileage as much as they help NOx) to help bring the smog down.

    For me, I think the better metric would be to regulate real world fuel mileage rather than tail pipe emissions. Right now the EPA measures “gas mileage” not by dividing miles driven by gallons of fuel burnt but rather by measuring tail pipe emissions and calculating how much fuel was burnt (that’s one reason why hybrids get such high numbers). Change EPA regulations to actually measure gas mileage and then put limits on gas mileage maybe by curb weight or something, and lots of problems will go away.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    to WaaaaHoooo:

    Yep. Leave me alone, with your health-concerned cleanie-goodie way of life. If I wanna drug myself to death, that’s my own right!

    Just don’t come whining when gas gets back to 4$ a gallon, and the rest of the world just shrugs and moves on. You can’t rape the willing.

  • avatar

    I’m all for a tax on oil. The total cost of oil is far higher than its price suggests. A tax would merely come closer to passing on the true cost of the stuff.

    In contrast, CAFE is a joke. It’s much harder and much less effective to control supply rather than demand. Ditto the various incentives for alt fuels and alt powertrains.

    A tax on oil would be far simpler, far more efficient, and far more effective.

    Results of my site’s real-world fuel economy survey:
    http://www.truedelta.com/fuel_economy.php

    As for giving the government more money to squander, I haven’t noticed that spending has much to do with revenue anyway. The current Republication administration with (until January) a Republican congress has cut taxes yet spent, spent, spent.

  • avatar
    JSForbes

    It should be a cap-&-trade program. Decide on a number of permits, auction those permits to the auto manufacturers, and let them trade between themselves. Efficient, competent manufacturers will be able to sell their permits to less efficient , less competent producers. This creates a big incentive (more so than a simple command based strategy like CAFE) to invest in R&D.

  • avatar
    rprellwitz

    noley:
    “Anyone who wants to buy a 10-15 mpg vehicle for towing, hauling oversized families around, ….” “Would this rattle a lot of cages and piss people off? Will it affect lifestyles? You bet. ”
    You stepped into an area way beyond vehicles and fuel efficiency. How do you define “oversized” and why do you think it is ok to penalize people for the their family size?

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Raising CAFE requirements by 2% per year will achieve very, very modest goals, in terms of cutting our rate of increase of energy consumption.

    Raising the gas tax significantly would do far more to cut oil consumption, cut funding to terrorists and tyrannical regimes, reduce CO2 emissions, etc, and the effect would be very prompt.

    We could practically halve the fuel consumption used by the daily commute if everybody joined a car-pool or added one more member and a gas tax will encourage that. CAFE enhancements won’t do that. Raising the gas tax will. $5/gallon gas will help people get into the idea of planning trips carefully and will probably help reduce unsightly fat. CAFE requirements won’t do that.

    Waaahooo can stop whining and blustering. Those of us who favor increasing fuel taxes are merely recommending that the price of fuel be brought into line with what it really costs. It should not only pay for roads (and it doesn’t even cover that) but it should be responsible for a huge part of our defense budget (who’d give a rip about Iraq if it sat on an oceaon of gravel instead of an ocean of oil).

    And it’s society’s respnosibility to care for itself and plan for the future. Markets don’t plan for the future. You might behave quite virtuously but, in the aggregate, we’re sucking up a lot of oil, spewing out a lot of CO2 and putting our own future at risk in several ways.

    A high gas tax jumpstarts a lot of work on developing the energy technology of the 21st Century instead of exploiting the resources of the 20th.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    Good posting and useful discussion. Some kind of an oil, carbon or gas tax increase would make the most sense, but is it realistic from a political standpoint? I doubt it. And isn’t politics the art of the possible?

    In that event, Michael’s CAFE reforms make a lot of sense. Of course, they are hardly rocket science — and weren’t done years ago because of . . . politics.

    I wouldn’t blame that on guv’mnt, though. The real problem is that our electoral process has become dysfunctional, e.g., the overpowering role of big money. The auto industry is a player here.

    A great irony is that if the automakers really wanted some type of gas tax increase, they could plausibly strong arm their way to getting it through their significant power in the electoral process. But I don’t think they really do want to go down that road — it’s merely a rhetorical ploy to avoid increasing CAFE.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I don’t buy the “we need large vehicles” argument for one real reason:

    I drove a decent and capable Ford/VW minivan (Sharan/Galaxie) that holds 7 passengers in comfort and does just fine on a turbodiesel four-banger (at least, under 75mph). More interior room than any small or midsize SUV I’ve ever been inside, and capable of nearly 40mpg highway.

    If the market is demanding better and more efficient vehicles, then how are we doing it? It seems to me like a push-demand pissing contest between the manufacturers, to be quite honest. Powerpowerpower! The same technology that can get us 300hp from a 3.5 naturally aspirated V6 should be able to get us 150hp/tq from an engine much smaller.

    If the customers’ “feedback” to the manufacturers is simply what vehicle you buy every 2-8 years, then that’s pretty sad. What other business gets so little feedback from users? I’ve personally taken to writing emails to them to basically say “You lost a sale on me because X, Y, Z wasn’t available” (and use a realistic example). There will always be room for hi-po and heavy duty vehicles, but at least give us more efficient choices and DON’T stick them down in the entry level. Small and efficient does not mean you don’t have discriminating tastes on quality.

  • avatar
    1984

    Government using taxes to manipulate a free market for theoretic socialist gain… Great idea! I wonder what could go wrong with that?!

    WTF is wrong with you people?

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Tax on oil. Political suicide. Although such an idea is intended to ‘nudge’ people to smaller, more effieicent cars, what about the folks who already have small, effieicent vehicles? Do you think the only ones who were complaining when gas was $3.50/gal were Yukon-driving soccer moms? What are you going to ‘nudge’ them into driving, motorcycles?

    Revising CAFE standards is a good first step in preventing automakers from taking advantage of loopholes that allow them to manufacture cars with substandard fuel economy ratings, but artificially inflating the price of fuel is a bad idea. Have we forgotten how everything was affected by the price increase? Businesses had to raise their prices to offset the increased spending. Consumers purchased less because not only did they have less money to spend after paying to heat their homes and fill up the family van, but because the price of anything that involved gas in any way shape or form increased as well. This economy cannot sustain a drastic increase in fuel prices. Just keep in mind that artificially raising the cost of gasoline isn’t just about getting people out of SUV’s you don’t think they should be driving.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    After reading William C. Montgomery’s comment, I felt that an addition to the lexicon might be in order: “Meanderthal”!

  • avatar
    JSForbes

    “Government using taxes to manipulate a free market for theoretic socialist gain… Great idea! I wonder what could go wrong with that?!

    WTF is wrong with you people?”

    That would be a problem if the market took all costs (internal and external) into account. Since it doesn’t…

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Screw you, I demand whale blubber. Nothing better on toast.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Seriously though, the problem for you folks concerned about fuel economy is that we live in a democracy, and most people do not care about fuel economy. You can then dismiss people as stupid or ignorant, but in fact half of them are smarter than you. (Well if you are reading this particular message board, maybe 80% are smarter than you, yuk-yuk).

    What people say when they want to sound politically correct is worthless; what the DO when buying a vehicle reveals their true preferences. Apparently these ‘cowardly’ politicians can look at Auto News and see that the vast majority of their constituents in fact continue to buy gas guzzlers.

    I recall recently my sister (a doctor) whining about how we didn’t have national policies in place to reduce oil imports. Mind you, we were sitting in her new hulking Chevy Tahoe at the time, which is the largest vehicle I’ve driven in years. It’s called “revealed preference”, catch it!

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    I like Alex Rashev’s idea. I’m not anti-American because I own a Prius and because I see that we Americans are highly wasteful, any more than I’m anti-European when I write that it took them an extra 15 plus years to put catalytic convertors on their cars compared to America.

    Pointing out facts is merely a facet of discernment.

    Here’s a recap of a logical means of curbing our oil crack-habit. The United States Constitution actually provides for import tariffs and Federal Excise Tax (i.e. a sales tax) as the legal means of taxation to support the Federal Government, which is supposed to exist to protect the U.S. citizen (not enslave us – don’t EVEN get me started).

    So, yes, let’s add an import oil tax. No tax on U.S. source oil. This would not slow down the oil-sands of Alberta, we still would need oil. May as well get some of the 60% we import from our neighbours and friends, plus it is less likely to be turned off by loony-toons governments or terrorist attacks on ships such as the Exxon Valdiz shipping it from the middle east.

    This would very strongly encourage U.S. alternatives, such as Butanol (www.butanol.com), the process of making sulfur-free oil from garbage, offal and sewage (www.changingworldtech.com), wind generators, algae.

    By the way, utilizing ANY ethanol in gasoline cars is a total waste. EVERY single car I’ve ever had lost at least 10% MPG on E10 except one car, which “only” lost 7% – over 25 plus years of experimenting and testing on my own vehicles.

    It makes MUCH MORE SENSE to utilize the stock to make ethanol for E85 vehicle ONLY, or to make Butanol.

    Gasoline should be gasoline. E85 should be E85. E10 is a total waste.

    Think of it like this. The “air” we breathe is 21% oxygen.

    Putting 10% ethanol into gasoline (E10) means an additional 3% of oxygen is going into the engine in liquid form.

    Modern cars since about 1980 have oxygen sensors in the exhaust manifold, which feed information to a computer which regulates the enrichment or enleanment of the mixture, which is supposed to be about 14.7 to 1 air to fuel ratio in order for the 3-way catalysts to work.

    You add 3% oxygen in liquid form to this, and you can see that the computer will enrich the mixture since it “sees” how the mixture has enleaned.

    More fuel contains more ethanol, so it enriches in a loop.

    Plus, ethanol contains less energy than gasoline. We ‘expect’ a certain level of performance from gasoline – when we get E10, the performance is less, therefore we push harder on the go-pedal.

    Better to use ethanol in E85 flex-fuel vehicles, and accept that there will be a 50-60% reduction in MPG compared to gasoline – recalling, that it is NOT gasoline as a fuel but a separate fuel.

    Better this, than wasting the ethanol and fooling ourselves into thinking we’re “doing something” when in fact, this ethanol craze is only going to increase our oil imports if we waste it in gasoline cars. But naturally, this is the course set by non-engineer politicians pushed to conclusions by companies such as Archer-Daniels-Midland who just happen to give big political contributions all over Washington, right?

    Just my humble opinion.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    CAFE laws are pretty much useless. Gas taxes work much better.

    Gax tax makes people change *all* behaviors. Drive less, move closer to work, maintain vehicles better, drive more smoothly. CAFE only changes vehicles, and not much.

    The problem is that if people want to drive the “big iron” they’ll find a way. You’ll see the big vehicles driven many more years. You’ll see people buy “work” trucks for personal use (already common). I’ve seen proposals such as “make people prove they need a big truck. . .”. This would not work – do you want to divert limited police resources snooping on people?

    I’ve seen people claim gas taxes are politically impossible. You are right – they are. But why? Because they work! Americans love wasting gas – they will never vote for a law to impact this.

    CAFE is the opposite of gas tax: pretty much useless (or counter productive, exisiting CAFE helped the current SUV boom) but popular. Why? Because it lets voters “do” something whilst blaming the automakers (why can’t they make a 80 mpg Chevy Tahoe?!) without having to change their behavior.

    So gas taxes are effective buy impossible, and CAFE is ineffective but possible. My choice is neither. If gas becomes scarce the price will go up.

    I drive small 4-cylinder car and think many truck and SUV purchases are dumb, I just don’t see any effective possible method.

  • avatar
    johnnycam

    JSForbes – you are so right – aren’t cars about freedom?

    Capitalism – the only moral and practical system, does not include CAFE regulations etc. And capitalism is the reason we have such great cars, and thay are affordable, and they are cheap to run. Get a life and get to work and stop tinkering with laws to “improve” our lives. Engineering, science and venture capitalists will make cars even better in 10, 20, and 30 years and beyond.

    And Prius owners who intend to keep their car for 12 to 13 years who read TTAC? Are there also websites devoted to toaster ovens? Its ok I guess – I am sure there are 90 year olds who read Penthouse – ahh dreamers.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    Glenn, running ethanol doesn’t change oxygen sensor readings, so at part-throttle, ECU will actually compensate for different fuel. Where you loose your economy is warm-up and full-throttle (or always, in open-loop carb cars), since ethanol has different octane rating, slower combustion speed, and stoichiometric A/F ratio, which ECU does not compensate for since it runs in an open loop mode. Either way, it’s a waste, though.

    IMO there should be alcohol-only cars. Ethanol REQUIRES higher compression ratio, or turbocharging, if you hope to extract the full power out of it. Running it in conventional vehicles is a waste of otherwise very good fuel.

    E85 in trucks makes no sense. It would do a lot better in turbocharged cars, since those can compensate by raising boost and hence actual compression, and prevent major power and fuel economy loss.

    BTW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_fuel

  • avatar
    dimitris

    Government using taxes to manipulate a free market for theoretic socialist gain… Great idea! I wonder what could go wrong with that?!

    WTF is wrong with you people?

    Yup, like government using taxes to secure the supply lines for a business (oil) that benefits fine folks like the al-Sauds, while charging import duties on efficiently-produced Brazilian ethanol.

    WTF is wrong with you people?

  • avatar
    Luther

    Reading these posts is like reading a script from a Monty Python movie.

    I think it is time I move to Dubai.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    CAFE laws are pretty much useless. Gas taxes work much better.

    Gax tax makes people change *all* behaviors. Drive less, move closer to work, maintain vehicles better, drive more smoothly. CAFE only changes vehicles, and not much.

    Into control much?

    I’ll move closer to work if I decide to, not you or big govt.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    Hey, you live in a country that has more policemen per person than almost any other country in the world, you have some of the highest taxes out there while seeing little return, and you complain about control when somebody wants to tax your gas instead of your income. Heck, they’re offering you control RIGHT THERE. Instead of having a fixed amount of money taken away from you, there’s now an option – you can use less gas and have extra cash, or you can use more and pay for it. Oh no, freedom of choice! Pass me the kool-aid.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    johnnycam:

    Cars about freedom? I thought I was delusional.

    Capitalism a moral system? I am afraid I choose another god.

    I always keep my cars for 12-14 years. I read TTAC daily. Get over it.

    I like hybrid and other efficient cars cars because they allow me to drive more on the same amount of money. And I love to drive. But I also like to have money left over to do other things with. And I would realy rather not have to wage wars to provide me with my pleasures.

    Venture capitalistsm make things better for all of us? Unbridled capitalism?

    You mean like Enron?

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Um, they tax our income too. Are you planning to cancel income tax if you raise gas tax? And would that be after I am made to move close to work and drive more smoothly or before?

    We do not have the highest taxes in the US and we’d like to keep it that way. (though they’re already too high).

    Maybe you’ve had too much Kool-aid already.

  • avatar
    mulescent

    It seems to me that many of the previous posters missed one of the main points of the article. The free market people are absolutely right that people who want big SUVs to drive are not going to buy small hybrid cars. However, good engineering can make those big SUVs much more fuel-efficient. The cost? R+D dollars.

    Now that gas is back below $3, there isn’t really a short-term incentive for automakers to cough up the cash to make their products more fuel-efficient. Thats the problem with a totally market-driven policy in our economy – it only serves short-term interests. Therefore, we need to implement laws (or taxes) that will effectively encourage innovation aimed at improving efficiency in the long run. We don’t need “unamerican” laws that prevent people from having what they want. It would be silly and unnecessary to outlaw SUVs, big cars or fast cars. We just need to figure out a way to engineer those cars to be efficient.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    The idea is, you tax the everliving hell out of gas, and you lower other taxes. Basically, in the end, government will have the same income, but will use a different way of collecting it. And for you, it means less sales tax on the items you buy, and less income tax on the money you earn. So if you are driving the same thing that an AVERAGE american is driving, you’re in an exactly the same monetary position. If you drive a Prius, great, you had your taxes reduced. An H2, bad, you just had your taxes raised.

    Think of it as a luxury tax.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Put a Constitiutional, legal, and sufficient tax, on imported good and a Constitutional, legal, and sufficient Federal Excise (sales) tax on everything (except mortgages, rents, food, drink) and you would find that there would be no need for any Federal Income tax. Trust me, it is true.

    There could be a period of several years while one type of taxation ramped up and the other ramped down.

    The catch is – we need a new group in Washington. Couldn’t be the current idiots OR the upcoming idiots.

    Albert Einstein once said “one definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over, and expect a diffferent result.”

    We need sanity in our national governance, and we are not going to get it by electing Democrats or Republicans, any more than I am going to get a decent car by swapping between GM, Ford and DCX after being disgruntled with yet another POS from each of them consecutively.

    So I bought a Toyota. And voted Constitution Party (still called U.S. Taxpayer Party in Michigan).

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    I happen to buy a lot of gas. I would not like that. Gas is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

    If we are to tax the crap out of something it should be Chinese goods. Now that may help the economy.

  • avatar
    1984

    Glenn A,

    There is nothing wrong with ethanol. The reason it E85 gets bad mileage is because it’s used in a gasoline / E85 flex-fuel vehicle. The only way to extract power and economy out of 114 octane E85 is to raise engine compression to at least 11.5:1 or to use massive amounts of turbocharger / supercharger boost.

    If the engine was specific to E85 and not flexible to gasoline, E85 would be as or more efficient than gasoline.

    Renewable energy is not a waste of time.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    CAFE laws are pretty much useless. Gas taxes work much better.

    Gax tax makes people change *all* behaviors. Drive less, move closer to work, maintain vehicles better, drive more smoothly. CAFE only changes vehicles, and not much.

    Let’s look deeper into this. By moving closer to work, this increases demand on the housing market near metropolitan areas, driving up prices. So now, in order to save at the pump, they pay with their mortgage or rent. To reduce their mortgage, they have to pay at the pump. This makes it a no-win situation.

    Cars are already idiot-proofed when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Tire pressure monitors, vehicle diagnostics that remind drivers when it’s time for oil changes and filter replacements, and all other things that ensure a vehicle can maintain it’s fuel effieincy are in place. If a driver can’t maintain their vehicle with this stuff in place, doubling the cost of gasoline won’t help the situation any better.

    Hiking up the cost of gasoline is a quick fix attempt that doesn’t work. Folks will see that when a huge jump in gasoline triggers a recession.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    jazbo123: If we are to tax the crap out of something it should be Chinese goods.

    wal mart would go out of business the next day.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    I believe ethanol has significantly less energy per gallon than gasoline.

    75,700 Btu/gallon (ethanol)

    HHV = 125,000 Btu/gallon (gasoline)

    It can take 50,000 BTU/Gal to produce ethanol

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Has there been any research to indicate that if a larger number of high MPG vehicles are sold it will actually impact the consumption of fuel? I know it may seem self-evident, but judging just from my own behavior, I’m not sure it is.

    When gas prices are cheap, I drive a lot. When they go up, I seriously reconsider whether I need to drive here or there, maximize my efficiency by combining errands and am much more likely to take public transportation. It seems to me that high MPG vehicles, far from decreasing energy independence, simply allow us to drive more while still paying the same cost. I don’t know if that’s a net benefit.

    The benefit of a gas tax is that it would protect alt-fuel industries from the fluctuations of the market. Here in Colorado the alt-fuel industry was chugging along until about 1981-82 when the Saudis suddenly turned the tap on “full” and fuel prices dropped. This made alt-fuel ventures too costly to compete and they failed. A gas tax could stabilize the retail price of fuel long enough for alt-fuel production to get off the ground and become profitable.

    But the down side of a gas tax is that it is terribly regressive. The lawyer making $250/hr can take it in stride. The 7-11 clerk making $8/hr is going to get hit hard.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    One of the godfathers of libertarian economics dies (Friedman), and we get an article recommending more government interference in individuals’ lives. I note many of the commentators are of the opinion that people are stupid, and we should increase regulations or taxes to protect them from themselves.

    CAFE standards do require the employment of vast numbers of white collar workers both in and out of government, so that is ok. But increasing the complexity of regulations is not the solution, it will just mean more finagling and lobbying. But I don’t even agree with the EPA needing to do gas mileage estimates anyway.

    Of course, gas taxes in many states are going towards building mass transit systems rather than roads anyway. New book out on our transportation policies you could take a look at: Ted Balaker and Sam Staley’s The Road More Traveled: Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It. The book strongly implies that govenments’ enthusiasms for creating gridlock to force people into taking mass transit is not working and is a 19th century solution to 21st century problems. Please, can’t we have just a little bit less government for once?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Martin,
    You make a good point. My advocacy of a gas tax has the unfortunate side effect that the poor who drive gas guzzlers will be adversely impacted.

    One solution would be to use the revenues from the gas tax to make the income tax more progressive, i.e. to further reduce the tax burden on the lowest earners.

    Another solution I’ve seen proposed would be an annual tax on cars based on their mileage ratings and age. This way, a new Hummer would pay say $1,000 a year, while a 10 year old Civic would pay nothing. This would favor the poor, but wouldn’t impact behavior, which is key.

    If gas were $5 per gallon, I’d take the train to work and reduce my annual mileage from 12,000 (400 gallons) to 2,100 (70 gallons).

    If American drivers as a whole reduced their mileage by a third, we would seriously impact global warming, oil imports, the trade deficit, and even, ironoically, reduce the cost of gas.

    I’m sure I’ll be flamed as a socialist for these thoughts.

  • avatar
    Michael Martineck

    A couple of interesting points have been made.

    Kevin, revealed preference implies equitable choices. If you look at, say, the base pickup trucks from GM, Ford and Dodge you’ll see that their mileage is almost exactly the same. Three out of the top ten selling vehicles in America don’t offer an alternative level of efficiency. Where preferences can be demonstrated, like in the small car market, I think consumers are already showing a demand for higher mileage vehicles.

    Martin, there is a strong argument for downward price forces, if efficiency lowers demand. I don’t think gas demand is infinite, for most consumers. We drive what we drive. If gas were really cheap, we might drive more, but not enough to negate the effect of overall, nation-wide efficiency improvements.

  • avatar
    ash78

    SherbornSean
    Another solution I’ve seen proposed would be an annual tax on cars based on their mileage ratings and age. This way, a new Hummer would pay say $1,000 a year, while a 10 year old Civic would pay nothing. This would favor the poor, but wouldn’t impact behavior, which is key.

    The ad-valorem tax in many states is already like this (though based on value, not age/mileage, despite the correlation). I pay about $200/yr on my 9-y-o VW, while my in-laws’ new E-class is upwards of $750/yr to register. However, with no annual inspections, there are a LOT of inefficient and dirty beaters on the road with no penalty.

  • avatar

    The answer to fuel economy is not MORE regulation. It’s LESS.

    Here’s how I got there (with apologies to Glenn Beck)…

    In the 1970’s I saw gasoline go from around 50¢/gal. to over a dollar. There were long lines at the pumps, rationing, and much hysteria throughout the land. Suddenly, big land yachts were passé, and Small was Beautiful.™ My dad sold my mom’s Mercury Marquis and bought her a VW bug. Higher fuel prices created a market for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. The government had nothing to do with that demand. In fact, the government did more harm than good, by passing legislation that artificially supported American manufacturers so they could still compete with Japan, Inc.

    If we did away with fuel regulations like the CAFE standards, what would happen? Capitalism would take over. Fuel prices would possibly rise in the short term, but eventually, those that need big cars and trucks would buy them, and those that could live with smaller vehicles would buy them as well. If you could afford to fill up a luxobarge and wanted one, you would. If you couldn’t…you wouldn’t. It’s really that simple.

    I’m all for better fuel efficiency in vehicles. Hell, if Jeep offered the 2007 Wrangler in a Diesel flavor, I’d be first in line. They don’t – domestically – because of the CAFE regulations and the ever-increasing demands of the anti-polution crowd. Ironic, because as the Diesel CRD is more fuel-efficient than the equivalent gasoline-powered SUV, I’d be polluting less with every mile I drive.

    The last person you want to have telling an industry what to do is a politician. The Law of Unintended Consequences was practically invented by the pols. For further proof at the government’s effectiveness in regulating industry, compare and contrast your typical VA Hospital with a privately-run facility.

    Want to solve the energy crisis? Great! Throw out the regulations and let free markets and capitalism do what they do best.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Alcohol only cars with high compression were used in Brazil about 15-20 years ago but they are now moving to E85 cars instead, yet run E85 in them.

    Yep, alcohol has a very high octane which can be best used in very high compression engines or with high levels of boost. But there is absolutely NO getting around the fact that there is less energy per gallon compared to gasoline. Some small amount of the difference is made up with high compression, yes.

    The point I’m trying to make is – is it better to run E85 cars on ethanol, since we ARE going to have this stuff produced for good or for ill; and thus every gallon and a half of E85 used means a reduction of about a gallon of gasoline used nationally

    – OR –

    do we p!ss the ethanol content away on a national basis and entirely waste most or all of it, by running it in cars intended for gasoline, by mixing 10% ethanol (E10)?

    Clearly, common sense says we do the former, which is obviously why we are doing the latter.

    I’m not anti-renewable fuels AT ALL. I just like WASTING anything.

    Likewise, someone said “can anyone prove fuel sales would decrease with higher MPG cars?” or something to that effect.

    Sure. Go here then click “enter the site” and you’ll see a rolling number of gallons of gasoline saved in the U.S. by the fact that the Toyota Prius exists.

    http://toyota.com/vehicles/minisite/hsd/index.html?s_van=GM_TN_HSD

  • avatar
    johnnycam

    jerseydevil,

    Enron has nothing to do with capitalism and everything to do with illegal and immoral activity if everything you read about it is true and I have my doubts.

    Capitalism, based on a rational code of morality is ultimately the only way that cars are going to stick around AND get better and cheaper. The great thing about capitalism is that it encourages and produces a Prius, a Mustang GT, and a Lincoln Navigator – to each his own.

    I repeat: CAFE and other laws and taxes only shift around the deck chairs on a listing boat – human productivity is what has improved our lives (and our cars) in the past and it is the ONLY mechanism for doing so in the future. Put away your sticks and leave the carrots.

  • avatar
    johnnycam

    1984 – you are so right – I gave the credit to JSForbes

    “WTF is wrong with you people?”

    How do we improve the world and the human condition? Sit around and discuss more laws! – NOT – its never worked and never will.

  • avatar
    linnta08

    Wouldn’t a gas tax to decrease oil consumption and decrease other taxes be self-defeating? If we decrease fuel consumption, the tax revenue associated will also decrease, driving taxes on fuel or income up further. More tax on fuel = less consumption = vicious cycle?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    johnnycam:

    it doesnt always work, as u noted.

    I STILL want more gas taxes at the pump. ALOT more.

    Its simple and effective.

    Most people don’t need cars anyway, they need transportation.

    like light and whale oil.

  • avatar
    noley

    One of the best comments in this thread is Steve’s comments about telecommuting. I’ve thought this for years–and have worked remotely since 1995. And although I’m self-employed (mostly marketing communications), essentially telecommute to work with my clients spread across the country. The closest is 3 hours away. Half aren’t even in my time zone, and some colleagues I work with aren’t even on this continent. IM, Email, phone all work great. When I have to go someplace I drive or fly.

    It does require people to work differently, but the technology already exists and is easy to implement. Fact is, when planned correctly, 1/3 to 1/2 of the white collar workforce could be telecommuting on any given day. That’d sure make a dent in oil consumption and pollution while saving lots of productive time, help roads and even cars last longer. Nothing wrong with working, but for many jobs there is precious little reason to GO to work.

  • avatar
    powerglide

    I thought most well-read enthusiasts were freedom-loving individuals, if not individualists.

    I thought the whole Coercive Utopian push, all those people like Joan Claybrook who’d make the speed limit 21 and the drinking age 55, all the wholly discredited Statist, Collectivist theories ran outside our Valentine One-monitored boundaries.

    Yet of all the posts above, only three or four oppose keeping or increasing CAFE standards.

    Why is it any of the government’s business what the average fuel economy is ?

    Yes, there are certain externalities, like pollution, possibly (possibly !) including CO2, which can be legitimately if accurately taxed, in a revenue-neutral fashion. But the simple act of consuming a liter of fuel, in a vehicle owned by one of us, is our business.

    If someone, say in charge of EPA or NHTSA, government agencies of dubious constitutionality anyway, is pointing a gun at an automaker, what is our responsiblity as free Americans, as good citizens ?

    Is it to beg them to put it away ?

    Is it to take away the gun with our vote ?

    Most of us posting today seem to want to urge them on to more and more confiscations !

    It is one thing to call the police about a neighbor’s unleashed pit bull.

    It is another to have the police force a neighbor to make you a grilled-cheese sandwich.

  • avatar
    linnta08

    Yes, somebody please tell my boss that I should be surfing the internet at home, rather than using the company’s bandwidth for it.

  • avatar
    johnnycam

    jerseydevil,

    Yes – the Soviet 5 year plans were simple and supposed to be effective. Thank you for the suggestions comrade.

    And thank you for clearing up the confusion about what people want – every dictator believes he knows what people “really” want. And its never the freedom to live and trade by one’s own mind and values. They always know better.

    Gosh, I hope the many devotees of big government in this forum move on to solve the rest of the world’s problems. It would be a shame to waste all these great ideas. I can hardly wait for Utopia! We will all be zipping around in pneumatic plastic tubes, because that is what we all really want. Yippee.

  • avatar
    linnta08

    Seriously, though, if we want the market to drive this reform, wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage the government to offer incentives to automakers and consumers for driving more efficient cars?

    Everything I understand about behavioral conditioning suggests that positive reinforcement is more productive than punishment.

    Incentives are also a much more appealing prospect to voters than taxes, in turn being more appealing to politicians.

    Give people a choice, but give them some encouragement to make the right one.

  • avatar
    Luther

    It is literally shocking to me that Americans are so eager to wear Gov’t chains. Like willing slaves. Getting Gov’t involved in energy/transportation is like getting Jeffrey Dahmer to babysit your children.

  • avatar
    cykickspy

    I read in an article that GM is going to manufacture a plug in hybrid vehicle. Wonder how much gas mileage it’ll get?
    I want one now… I would never have to buy gas again!
    GOODBYE GASOLINE… HELLO ELECTRICITY
    good on the enviroment for sure!

    http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/gm-will-reveal-plug-in-hybrid-vehicle/

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Glenn A, you seem to be missing the point in your zeal to convert the world to your (er, unnatural) level of love for the Prius. The site is not in any way telling me how the Prius is saving our plant . . . it’s nothing more than self-serving PR for Toyota, and fodder for self-righteous Prius owners. I wager that if every vehicle produced and sold in the US had the fuel efficiency of an M1 Abrams tank, our net fuel consumption would go down. No rational person would drive anywhere if it cost them $50 just to go a mile down the road. If this problem were as simple and straightforward as that, it’d be solved already. Please . . . enough with the preaching about your Prius already.

    The divide here is between those who think people should be ‘controlled’, and those who think they should not. While ‘not’ is philosophically the correct answer, I think reality shows that this ideal just can’t work. I’m sorry, but people need to be controlled in many ways. It’s sad, but we just cannot count on people to do what’s right. They will at best do what’s right for them. You may want to argue that in the aggregate this will end up approximating ‘the right thing’, but I say that in many (most?) cases this is not true.

    This is my belief . . . in the past, Communism was such an awful force that it simply dwarfed the competition. Nothing seemed bad in comparison to Communist dictatorships. Now that Communism finally appears to be near dead, we are finally able to make some realistic judgements on what’s left. In the great Pareto of life, we’re now able to see the ‘next worst thing’. I think that much to the chagrin of many, we’ll find that unbridled Capitalism will turn out to be the ‘next worst thing’ after Communism. The sentiment of “I’ll drive as big a pig as I want, hands off my gas prices, costs’ll go up when we finally run out” is a perfect illustration of that. It’s a purely Capitalist statement. It’s definitely not going to lead society to ‘do the right thing’ in the aggregate, though.

    CAFE rules are basically a bad idea, and it’s a cop-out to use them . . . they’re only implemented because it’s politically easier to regulate a few companies than control the masses. Have CAFE rules reduced our oil usage? No. Have the Big Tobacco settlements reduced smoking? Don’t think so. Has the ‘war on drugs’ stopped their use? Uh-uh. Did suing Napster put file sharing out of business? Nope. All these tried to control the supply side, and none of them worked.

    You watch . . . if you raise CAFE standards and make the penalties for non-compliance higher, you’ll see that Toyota becomes the gas-guzzler king of the US. Why? Because there will still be plenty of people who want to buy gas guzzlers, and Toyota will be the only company that can afford to take the hit and sell to them. Not to say they’ll abandon the Prius or Corolla . . . just that they’ll boost sales of gas-sucking trucks and SUVs and big Lexi because they can, whereas other companies will not be able to afford to pay the fines.

    If you want to stop people from using so much gas, then make it VERY expensive . . . plain and simple. Hurts poor people? Too bad . . . don’t want poor people warming the earth any more than the rich. Causes the cost of food and other ‘stuff’ to go up? What do you think, kicking an addiction is easy and pain free? Hah! It’s NOT. It’s gonna HURT. If you think otherwise, you’re crazy. If you think we can all just magically start driving a Prius and be warm, and happy, and have no energy issue . . . again, you’re crazy. Stop driving trucks to deliver fresh produce. Stop flying jumbo jets to deliver ‘just in time’ electronic components to factories. Stop heating and cooling 3000 sq-ft McMansions all year long. That’s what it’s going to take, and we don’t have the stomach for it. We’ll keep on with our current way of life — either clutching our big ol’ trucks and shouting “I’m free”, or our nifty Prius and preaching “I’m concerned” — until we die and leave a sh*thole world for our kids, or until we inherit one ourselves.

    It’s all just a matter of time.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Likewise, someone said “can anyone prove fuel sales would decrease with higher MPG cars?” or something to that effect.

    Sure. Go here then click “enter the site” and you’ll see a rolling number of gallons of gasoline saved in the U.S. by the fact that the Toyota Prius exists.

    http://toyota.com/vehicles/minisite/hsd/index.html?s_van=GM_TN_HSD

    So…a site run by Toyota is objective evidence of the benefit that Toyota vehicles have to the country? Hmmm..why am I a little skeptical of that?

    But my question remains: Does a high MPG vehicle save fuel – or does it simple let us drive more miles on the same amount of fuel?

  • avatar
    John Williams

    “Gee, honey, maybe if you traded in that Ram/Hemi for a Focus or Civic, we wouldn’t need to send troops to die in the Middle East.”

    Wife: “Get thee to the sofa.”

    *Husband spends weeks on sofa. Then finds wife cheating with another man. Who rides a Harley.*

    But seriously, with ethanol, biodiesel and coal-derived fuels, shouldn’t we be more focused on making ourselves self-sufficient instead of stopping by Prince Abdullah’s for a few barrels of sweet crude?

  • avatar
    ash78

    What’s the theory where the task expands to fill the time allotted?

    I believe the same for cars. We’ll always be seeking equilibrium, so a cheaper fuel source will just mean we crank up the car to drive 1/2 block down the street, or drive instead of fly to go on vacations. Newer tdi engines are already taking advantage of the torque at the expense of fuel economy. Hybrids are doing the same (eg Accord, Lexus).

    Personally, I’m more constrained mentally by not wanting a long commute, and mechanically by wanting to limit my car’s time in grueling stop-and-go traffic. Fuel price is third for me, at least at any price I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar

    My 84 CRX got 40+ MPG no matter how hard I drove it.

    With a carb.

    If everybody would stop suing everybody else, maybe manufacturers could build lighter cars that weren’t required to stop a freight train in a side impact.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    Alex:

    If you set that tax correctly, you can proportionally cut most other taxes, and everone will still have the same amount of money – only they will be directly impacted by their own inefficiency. Months after we’ll see no income tax for the lower-to-middle class, lower sales tax, etc., but 10$/gallon gasoline, you’ll start seeing electric cars and people on bicycles on the street, all the time. And check this out, it’ll curb illegal immigration and unauthorized employment, too, by reducing the incentive to “work for cash”. Two rabbits in one shot. And don’t even get me started on tax evasion.

    $10/gal gasoline will give you riots from the poorest sections of America, anger and consternation from the middle classers and tens of thousands of truckers who will strike due to the fact that $10 gas (or more correctly, $12 diesel) pretty much kills their livelihoods. Politicians know that the idea will render their political careers nonexistent, which is why they’ll most likely NOT broach it.

    One unintended consequence could be the rise of a political figure or party that decides to reintroduce the idea of price controls on gas and diesel. I’m sure you lived through the seventies, so I’ll let you figure that one out.

    Just don’t come whining when gas gets back to 4$ a gallon, and the rest of the world just shrugs and moves on. You can’t rape the willing.

    Time for Mr. Farago to do a bit more “herd culling”.

  • avatar
    1984

    Glenn A drives a Prius?

    O RLY?

  • avatar
    1984

    Ar-Pharazon

    Dude, I totally saw your post for once before deletion! WooHooo!

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Ar-Pharazon wrote:

    “If you want to stop people from using so much gas, then make it VERY expensive . . . plain and simple. Hurts poor people? Too bad . . . don’t want poor people warming the earth any more than the rich. Causes the cost of food and other ’stuff’ to go up? What do you think, kicking an addiction is easy and pain free? Hah! It’s NOT. It’s gonna HURT. If you think otherwise, you’re crazy. If you think we can all just magically start driving a Prius and be warm, and happy, and have no energy issue . . . again, you’re crazy. Stop driving trucks to deliver fresh produce. Stop flying jumbo jets to deliver ‘just in time’ electronic components to factories. Stop heating and cooling 3000 sq-ft McMansions all year long. That’s what it’s going to take, and we don’t have the stomach for it. We’ll keep on with our current way of life — either clutching our big ol’ trucks and shouting “I’m free”, or our nifty Prius and preaching “I’m concerned” — until we die and leave a sh*thole world for our kids, or until we inherit one ourselves.

    It’s all just a matter of time.”

    Wow, and you called my appreciation for my 45-50 mpg family car “er-unnatural” and yet are ready to roll over and give up on improving the world for our grandkids and great grandkids?

    Now that’s unnatural, in my opinion.

    Oh yeah, I just read that Honda are definitely going to lease hydrogen fuel cell cars in the summer of 2008, only 18-20 short months away.

    My wife’s turn is next for a new car. Hopefully, we could fuel the FCX at home and use it as our prime car/commuter (we carpool, my wife and I) and use the Prius as our trip car. Assuming we can fuel the FCX at home (otherwise we won’t be able to drive it – no hydrogen available at filling stations for oh, about a 1500 mile radius).

    Yeah, I’m ready to put my money where my mouth is again.

    I’ll be waiting on the abusive statements calling me crazy when I do, just like with the gas-hybrid.

  • avatar
    cykickspy

    GM gas hybrid plugs into regular outlet at home

    http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/gm-will-reveal-plug-in-hybrid-vehicle/

  • avatar
    ktm

    1984, increasing the compression ratio (and keeping everything else the same) of an engine has diminishing returns. By the time you are up to 9:1, the power return per point of compression increase is around 2%. Turbo/super charging is the only real alternative to taking advantage of the higher octane.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    You want gasoline prices to reflect the “true cost” of fuel? It should be the true cost of DRIVING, and the answer is to END taxes–ALL of ’em.
    Gasoline costs $3/gal with the state and fed taxes? Then charge $1.50 for it. Make all the roads toll roads, and charge by weight. No tax credit for 6000lb vehicles for businesses. When it costs $2/MILE to get anywhere, people might start to act differently. Because income and fuel taxes are somewhat hidden and just accepted as a way of life, the illusion of cheap transportation continues to F- us. Eliminating the taxes wasted on supporting our plutocracy would leave enough in our pockets to make the $2/mile drives as needed. It’s just that when we see the money coming out of our pockets directly, the psychological impact is greater.
    While we’re at it, no more farm subsidies–so no more dumping grain in the ocean. Bigger food supply=cheaper food supply.

    One more thing, someone asked why it was ok to penalize someone for having a large family. Why? Because you consume more. You wanna consume more, go ahead and pay more. If you wanna make lots of babies, be prepared to pay for more food, more clothing, bigger cars, and more gas. Why should I subsidize your children by not receiving the tax credit afforded to families?

    And while I’m at it, a couple days ago someone said that no one but police should have guns–except people would be allowed one hunting rifle and one shotgun. The rationale was that shooting deaths would decrease. Yes, maybe they would. And beatings, stabbings, chokings would very much increase. And I challenge any cop in a patrol car to arrive at and neutralize the situation in the 0.2 seconds it takes for the knife to make it from the mugger’s hand to my belly.

    Keep The Man away from me.

  • avatar
    KingElvis

    1000 blessings upon Michael Martineck…may his children go to prep school, his wife stay thin and his real estate taxes fall into the sea.

    THANK YOU for a refreshing dose of reason in a debate that too often falls into pathos and exageration e.g. “CAFE is like Krystalnacht!”

    I have been beating on this topic for at least five years as a kind of lone voice in the gearhead wilderness.

    Some good news? GW Bush is actually the best thing to happen in CAFE in 20 years. (Gomer Pyle voice:) SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

    At the end of March 2006 NHTSA issued a new ruling that will raise the ‘light truck’ CAFE standard to approximately 24mpg by 2011. One caveat: they are going to use a new method to rate vehicles by size (“footprint” equal to wheelbase times track width).

    It’s not as bad it might sound, because the makers wanted to use weight as an index instead. The size metric will encourage use of aluminum and composite materials in Suburban sized vehicles.

    Actually another positve thing is that darling car of the Liberal cognoscienti, Subaru will actually have to increase gas mileage for the first time in decades.

    Most Subarus are actually designated as “light trucks” despite compact to mid size dimensions – thank “flat loading floors” and “higher ride height” (even one 4 dr sedan is a ‘truck’ because, basically – it’s jacked up). Now they will be forced to get gas mileage more in line with “passenger cars” of the same size.

    Even better, the recently retired NHTSA head, ‘Stormin’ Norman Mineta has also included 3/4 ton (above 8500lbs GVWR) passenger vans and Suburban type vehicles in the mix – these weren’t even rated before.

    These steps go a long way toward ending so called “unintended consequences” in the system: like the creation of the ‘luxury truck’ – a sort of oxymoron when you think about it. But the glass is only 2/3 full.

    I agree to simply creat one standard for any non-commercial vehicle – say 27.5mpg average for everthing. I do think it’s more important to end “light truck” special dispensation than boost “passenger car” ratings. It’s important that we make so called market conservatives into honest men by making the auto market more rational.

  • avatar
    1984

    I thought about buying a hybrid vehicle but it just was not for me.

    I decided that time and energy required a day to shame other individuals and whole societies for their excessive non-hybrid vehicular purchases would just be tiresome.

    Also the habit of referring to myself in the third person would be a tough thing to stop doing.

  • avatar
    1984

    KTM!

    Well you would need something along the lines of 11 and 13:1 to get any real bang out of ethanol.

    Gasoline engines usually have between 8 and 10:1 comp anyhow. I agree a turbo would be most efferent none the less. I just would hate to see ethanol get a bad rap because of E85 inefficient flex-fuel engines.

  • avatar
    ret

    “I just would hate to see ethanol get a bad rap because of E85 inefficient flex-fuel engines.”

    What is so hard to understand about lower energy density? It take sthe same amount of energy to move a given vehicle a certain distance at a certain speed regardless of the fuel being used, the compresion ratio of the engine or the air induction system.

    Ethanol has 75% of the potential chemical energy of gasoline so you need 30% more ethanol than gasoline to accomplish the same amount of work.

    Ethanol sucks and only continues to exist because of massive subsidies to mid-west corn farmers.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Its called faith-based Thermodynamics caused by watching television and reading newspapers instead of cracking open a physics/chemistry book. I guess it is just too difficult for most people.

  • avatar
    peckwell

    Great start to an enormous discussion we need to have at the “national” level – not that we will. No politician worth re-electing would dare broach the subject.

    But the guts of the question “Why do we need CAFE” is the most troubling. We need CAFE for one reason: it provides Washington cover to raise the fuel efficiency of our transportation industry without directly raising taxes on the constituency – de facto incremental conservation without the pain of being tossed from office. And that’s a crock. We, as citizens, need to tell the government to do more, and do it now.

    I’m a car-guy as much as the next guy, but I’m absolutely fed-up with the goddamn Middle East (including Israel) and their never-ending lunacy. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING we can do to free us from their insanity, I say it’s high time that we did it. And it starts with curtailing our consumption of the light, sweet stuff.

    What if we were to re-direct 10% of the money we’re giving to Iraq (not the funds for the troops, but the support money for the Iraqi government) and channel it into R&D (which would be as high as $30 BILLION as of this year – actually less, but still gobs of cash) for alternative fuel and hydrogen infrastructure expansion? Enough of this talk about “there’s no infrastructure” – LET’S BUILD IT. It’s chump change compared to these other outlays.

    Sorry, a little off-track here, but the gist is this: the time is nigh to end our dependence. CAFE is too slow, too political, and we need the gumption to tell Washington to DO IT. NOW.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Ummm, where are we going to get the Hydrogen? How much energy is needed to produce it?

    Never mind… Im out of this.

  • avatar
    1984

    ret, crack open a engine book Luther,

    I understand energy density but it is not linear in the world of IC engines.

    A gasoline internal combustion engine can only convert 20% of the energy into force to propel a car.

    Raising dynamic engine compression increases the amount of power produced by the same volume of fuel/air. Gasoline can only withstand up to about 10:1 compression before pre-ignition (engine destroying detonation).

    Ethanol will withstand higher compression ratios before inducing detonation. Potentially you can extract a higher percentage of the total 75K BTU before detonation.

    So

    Extract 25K BTU’s out of 75K Ethanol or 125K Gasoline. The result is the same.

  • avatar

    http://www.epa.gov/otaq/cert/mpg/fetrends/420s06003.htm

    “MY2006 light-duty vehicles are estimated to average 21.0 miles per gallon (mpg). This average is the same as last year and in the middle of the 20.6 to 21.4 mpg range that has occurred for the past fifteen years, and five percent below the 1987 to 1988 peak of 22.1 mpg.”

  • avatar
    CliffG

    For all you contributors excited about enlarging CAFE, maybe monitoring our mileage and taxing such, or just greatly increasing our gas taxes (all of which expand the power of the government), one last comment from the Nobel Prize winner himself, the now late Milton Friedman:

    Government today controls something like 40% of the resources of the country. A decent government controls like 10% or 15%. The virtue is that government is so inefficient, it waste great bulk of those resources. If it used those resources efficiently, it could do great damage.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    “MY2006 light-duty vehicles are estimated to average 21.0 miles per gallon (mpg). This average is the same as last year and in the middle of the 20.6 to 21.4 mpg range that has occurred for the past fifteen years, and five percent below the 1987 to 1988 peak of 22.1 mpg.” – Contributed by Praxis

    And the chart below is interestnig. We’ve traded potential fuel economy improvement for power and weight. The chart lists average weight as 4069lbs in 1975, 3220lbs in 1987 (a remarkable drop) and 4142lbs today (they’re fatter than in 1975!!).

    Averag HP was 139 in 1975, 118 in 1987 and 219 today.

    Zero-to-Sixty has gone from 14.1 sec in 1975 to 13.1 sec in 1987 to 9.4 sec today.

    If we had held down the size of the vehicles, overall US fleet economy would be much better than it is today.

    “In the long run, there is no monopoly” – Milton Friedman

    “In the long run, we are all dead” – J.M.Keynes.

  • avatar

    I like this article a lot. But I’m not sure the time hasn’t come when a gas tax–or better, a carbon tax–will be politically palatable. One of Car and Driver’s columnists has called for it, and so, very recently, has Gregory Mankiw, the former head of Bush II’s Council of Economic Advisors. I’d favor both boosting CAFE and instituting a carbon tax.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    cykickspy: GOODBYE GASOLINE… HELLO ELECTRICITY
    good on the enviroment for sure!

    That depends on where your electricity comes from.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Glenn A — I never thought you were crazy, just a bit too zealous and over-communicative about it.

    As Luther points out . . . where are you going to get the hydrogen? It doesn’t magically appear in your tank. It takes energy to produce. This is most likely (statistically, at least) to come from a coal-powered plant. Is that better than a high-mileage gas-powered car? Maybe because the coal is ours and not imported, but environmentally I don’t know. It’s not a slam-dunk, though, surely. That was always the problem I had with electric cars . .. and I think hydrogen is worse, because you’re introducing yet another intermediate step. First find some environmentally positive way to produce loads of hydrogen, then start thinking about making H2 fuel cell cars and an infrastructure to deliver it.

    Hybrids may be a great idea, but they’re expensive. Don’t for a minute think that Toyota isn’t subsidizing you in your Prius. They’ve got so much corporate goodwill from those things that they’d probably give them away for free and be happy. What does a hybrid lack that’s normally on a gas-powered car? Nothing. What extra does it have? Batteries, motors, high-voltage electronics, more computing power . . . all that costs money. Hybrids are and will always be more expensive than standard IC engine cars.

    You can force the CAFE so high that the only alternative for auto makers is to offer hybrids exclusively, sure . . . but then watch the average price of every car go up by thousands of dollars. You price a big part of the population out of the auto market .. . though of course that’d save oil, too. Maybe that’s the answer. Forget about a gas tax. . . just make cars so darn expensive that no one but the super rich can afford them. That’s the only way hybrids will save us.

    What worries me, and I haven’t seen mentioned here, is the strong possibility that we won’t see smoothly escalating gas prices going through $4 to $10 or so . . . instead, we’ll see a shortage that quickly evolves into rationing and then unavailability before the price even has a chance to climb too awful much. $5 gas sucks, but no gas at any price is a real killer. At that point, your Prius is as worthless as my Fusion, and we’d both probably be better off with a nice E85 Ranger.

  • avatar
    Jim H

    I need to rethink my opinion of The Truth About Cars…I’ve never seen an article of such depth with very little to no use of unneeded sarcasm and long-winded, inappropriate analogies! I love it! Keep up the great work!

  • avatar
    NamDuong

    we should all have lexus ls600h’s. :)

  • avatar
    Mervich

    This seems to have turned out to be a bit of touchy subject!

    Many of you are missing key points…or maybe some of are completely oblivious.

    Firstly, our form of government is democratic in name only. The original framers of our Constitution may have intended for it to be “for the people and by the people”, but in reality, today, it is for big money and by big money. Big money in this case is the oil companies. Don’t kid yourself, THEY are calling the shots to benefit their bottom line. Why in the hell do you think we are embroiled in a war, sacrificing American lives everyday? Oil. Do you really think the oil companies will allow anyone from the President down to endanger their bottom line? Not a chance!

    Secondly, hefty gasoline taxes may sound like a solution, but don’t forget all the goods that are transported by ground, rail and air. A big(ger) gasoline or oil tax will increase the price of nearly everything we use or consume on a daily basis…little things like, oh, FOOD. An added tax will have a huge ripple effect on just about everything, excepting sex! Can you say, “spiraling inflation”?

    Third, you must really visit a quaint nearby country with huge gasoline taxes…namely, Canada. During the Summer, pump prices there hovered around $1.20 per liter…that’s $4.54 a US gallon or more than $4.00 per gallon adjusted for the currency exchange rate. There is no shortage or decrease of pickup trucks and SUVs in Canada…I mean the BIG, gas guzzling variety. It’s like the price of cigarettes in Canada, $10 bucks a pack…but the smokers are paying for them and the government is pleased as punch because the money is just flowing in, yet like in the US, government services to the average citizen are being trimmed on a regular basis.

    Raising gasoline or oil taxes will simply cost YOU a lot more while giving the government more money to waste. And furthermore, once they get used to the extra income, there ain’t no way in hell the tax will be rolled back, refunded or whatever. No more than you would want to voluntarily give-up a big chunk of your income.

    A wise man once told me, “We live by the ‘golden rule’…he who has the gold, makes the rules.”

    Addendum:

    CAFE standards are designed to benefit the automotive manufacturers. Hence the foolishness like the E-85 Tahoe reported by Mr. Martineck that is CAFE rated at 33 mpg when in reality “the SUV struggles to achieve 10 mpg” allowing the General to spotlight yet another vehicle that exceeds 30 mpg. EPA ratings are the same…nothing based in reality.

    The solution (that will never happen because our government is for big money and by big money) is actually simple. Real life, federally enforced, specific criteria that forces automakers to make fuel efficient vehicles…legislation that forces manufacturers to do things like dump cast iron blocks and develop new technologies as in the lightweight, fuel efficient, yet high performance magnesium/aluminum engines from BMW (i.e., the 335i coupe is conservatively rated at 300 hp/300 lb-ft, 0-60 in 5.1, fuel economy 29 mpg…now, that, my friends, is engineering).

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Vehicles don’t use fuel; people use fuel. Fuel use = efficiency * miles. CAFE has been a failure at addressing efficiency and has absolutely no effect at all on miles driven.

    A fuel tax address the root problem and allows people and businesses the most freedom possible as to how to conserve fuel (i.e.: not pay taxes). People could drive less, drive a more efficient vehicle, or some combination of the two. A fuel tax also puts the pain close to the source of the problem; CAFE allows the vehicle users to let other people worry about the problem.

    An increased fuel tax with simultaneous decrease in payroll tax could be revenue netural (i.e.: doesn’t increase the total tax revenue of government). Why are we discouraging people from working with a tax on working? Payroll tax could come at the bottom of the earnings scale if people are worried that a fuel tax will hurt the poor the hardest.

    A fuel tax could be ramped up over a long time, allowing everyone to plan appropriately. Inefficient vehicles bought today will have a poor resale value in 5 or 10 years when fuel is much more expensive, so even a long ramp-up period would have immediate affects.

  • avatar

    “A horse! A horse! my kingdom for a horse!”

    The crunch will come, then we’ll know that we should have been a little more careful with our available, cheap energy.

    Gasoline/diesel are incredibly efficient ways of transporting potentially motive force. It’s just that we are abusing the privilege with our preference for inefficient drivetrains. And that’s a fact.

    So it comes down to a question of whether we are willing to have standards enforced (through regulation, taxes, pricing) that lengthen the window where this efficient energy source is available to the majority of us. That will give us a smoother transition period.
    Or else we just wait until everything hits the wall, at speed. That’s a not so smooth transition.

    King Richard III wanted a horse. None were to be had. He was willing to pay for one with his kingdom.

    We’re discussing whether we should parse out the price of a kingdom over time, or whether we should blithely go ahead and wait for that decisive moment when we don’t have a choice. I’m for the first course.

    That said, I have driven some almost inexusable gas hogs in my time as a driver, so I’m aware that my behaviour has to change. Which is why large cars are off the map in my future.

    One poster above mentioned our grandchildren and great grandchildren. We should think of everything else that is derived from petroleum. Things we take for granted, but that we’ll sorely miss. How will you insulate electronics without plastics, for instance? (“We’ll come up with an alternative” is a pretty stupid answer).

    Plastics, medicine, explosives, composites …
    They won’t be available because we burned it all up.
    And you can’t get plastics from natural gas.

    There are those who claim that in view of this, oil should be priced at USD 4000-5000/barrel today. Because we’ll really miss the other oil derived products in the future.
    But there will be no horse to be had then, at any price.

    Meanwhile, lobbyists and dishonest politicians keep tweaking the standards, creating pretend statistics. Kind of stupid.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Well, I STILL beleive that we need more taxes on gasoline at the pump. LOTS more. If you like, we can reduce other tax loads so that low income people are not impacted. Thats pretty easy to do.

    No other country on earth has such low fuel prices, they seem to be getting along just fine. As a matter of fact, lots of them have car-free old cities that are quite charming. Imagine that here! HA! A place where Johnnycam cannot drive! Must be in a commie place, like Europe. With commie ideas, like cars should not run everything everwhere and GET OUT OF MY WAY!

    Seems to me how we spend money is at least as interesting as how it is collected. I have always felt that you can get more money two ways, get more, or SPEND LESS. I try to do both.

    But I have not spoken about spending money, only collecting it. How it is done has been a favorite topic for a long time in this country. Interesting that some here seem to feel that they are the first to feel the way they do.

    Also, insulting people (me for instance) is never warrented. It is polorizing. We need discussion about these things, not firebombing. Thanks.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    No other country on earth? Think again. Mexico, Argentina, Guatemela, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Venezuela all have fuel prices lower than the U.S.

    Shifting the taxes around in an attempt to alter society’s behavior is a road to nowhere, especially if you have this narrowly-focused goal of getting people out of SUV’s. Chugging up the cost of gasoline affects everything that gas touches. So now that the increase of gasoline drives up the price of everything else. A reduction in income tax will not offset the increased costs.

    You want a reduction in traffic? Build out your mass transit systems. Instead of these hackneyed plans of trying to shuffle people closer to the very cities they’re trying to escape, or tax them to the point where the money comes and goes faster than the planes Chuck Yeager used to fly, give folks a real alternative instead of criticizing their American attitudes.

    And enough of this insane talk of $5000/barrel oil. That just negates the whole justification for using plastic materials in anything, which is supposed to be inexpensive compared to other materials, correct? What are these economists trying to do, shove people back to using metal?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    quasimondo:

    No other country on earth? Think again. Mexico, Argentina, Guatemela, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Venezuela all have fuel prices lower than the U.S.

    I suppose i should have said, any country that i would want to live in.

    All the goods and services in these other countries that i would want to live in seem to move fine with gas at 6 bucks a gallon. The world will not end.

    A reduction is income tax is one suggestion. A reduction in tax burden would be easy tho, however its arranged. Tax credits, whatever. We do alot of this sort of thing now.

    I want a reduction i traffic because I like driving. The fewer cars being used for commuting and running errands, the more open spaces or me to play in. Also, in the Northeast where i live, congestion is beyond rediculous.

    Something needs too be done, i am making a suggestion as how to deal with it.

  • avatar

    @Quasimodo – I’m pretty pleased that plastics are cheap right now. The point in my comment was that there are economists who are already looking at the alternative cost in the future of doing what cheap oil derived products are letting us do now. And their claim is that we are eating the seed corn – and any farmer knows that is stupid.

    Let’s see what human ingenuity can come up with. The fact that we’re being forced to look for efficient solutions can’t hurt. (The entries on F1 developments being a case in point). I’m actually more impressed by a lean drivetrain and efficient aerodynamics letting me move at speed than I am by an overpowered brick on wheels …

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    Jerseydevil et al, what is stopping you people from just leaving the terrible old USA and going to a tax happy hellhole elsewhere where you can pay taxes out the wazzoo and live in your quaint carless cities (blackened with diesel soot), all the while helping save the planet and leaving us “meanderthals” to wither and die in our environmental stupidity because we really can’t get along without your stalinist controls?

    Could it be hypocracy?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    WaaaaHoooo:
    i heard alot of that when i opposed the vietnam war.

    boring

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    WaaaaHoooo

    i might actually, most of my family has already returned to italy

  • avatar
    johnnycam

    WaaaaHoooo

    You are incorrect – they are not hypocrites – much worse. They are people who want to run and control YOUR life and mine and everyone else’s. These primitives would fit right in any pre-indutrial society. The scary thing is that we are trapped with their ideas in our society. Philosophy is the answer. These people are dangerous.

  • avatar
    seldomawake

    Just a thought:

    The principle that CAFE necessity is the mother of invention remains fundamentally sound.

    Yes. However, nothing limits invention to engineering. Marketing and Legal can be inventive too.

  • avatar
    kablamo

    Mervich your Canadian example is flat-out wrong. Cig’s don’t cost 10$ (and if they do it’s 10$ CANADIAN, an amount that may seem large only because the CAD dollar has appreciated so much against the USD over the last 3 yrs as oil prices increased). Gas is more expensive yes, but it was never over 1.10$ per Liter for any length of time (other than, for example, when Katrina hit…needless to say it wasn’t just a Canadian problem). Average gas prices here end up being about 20 to 25% higher than in the USA, all things considered. And a lot of people drive smaller cars – compacts are bestsellers here instead of midsize cars; and life goes on just fine, with universal health care for kicks.

    I’m not sure that CAFE is so bad (as opposed to, for example, nothing), but people need limitations. I think the mindset of “let the market work itself out” is a load. The problem is everyone thinks that when things are “normal”, but all of a sudden something happens (hurricane, war, refinery explosion/pipeline who knows what, day trader interest in oil futures) and all of a sudden you hear cries for government intervention, attempts at lawsuits for price gouging, windfall taxes, and a multitude of other crackpot schemes felt necessary – why? Because forgetting how free market economics work most of the time also forgets that in some cases, free markets can also be absolutely brutal to consumers.

    Another thing that seems to get forgotten is the fundamental notion that your liberty ends where the next person’s begins. Unrestricted and excessively wasteful use of, for example, large SUV’s, is a safety hazard to people who can only afford (or choose) smaller cars. Does that mean a tax on gas? I happen to think that’s a great idea, but won’t hold my breath. A slightly more realistic option might be to tax registrations of SUV’s according to curb weight and engine displacement. Not as efficient (to reduce fuel consumption), but may be less of a hot-button issue and probably much simpler logistically.

    While it may be fundamentally wrong to legislate what people can and can’t do, I don’t see any problems with legislating initiatives that create incentives or disincentives which result in the greater good (ie reducing pollution, reliance on foreign energy sources, reducing hazards). Like the very first poster, I have no doubt that in a few generations, SUV’s will be viewed as an example of scourge and our society’s wrecklessness. While there’s nothing wrong with the concept of an “S-U-V”, how and to what extent we use them says a lot (I believe) about the insulated, cajoled and spoiled state some of us live in.

    SUV’s (cars in general in fact) are only necessary to maintain a certain standard of living – it happens to be one of the highest in the world. Given demographic and political factors (increasing population within limited space, finite ressources, rise of foreign powers, etc) how long can this standard of living effectively be maitained? -Not as long as if we properly managed these inescapable constraints.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    kablamo:

    Mervich your Canadian example is flat-out wrong. Cig’s don’t cost 10$ (and if they do it’s 10$ CANADIAN, an amount that may seem large only because the CAD dollar has appreciated so much against the USD over the last 3 yrs as oil prices increased). Gas is more expensive yes, but it was never over 1.10$ per Liter for any length of time…

    I spend a lot of time during the year in Canada, mostly in Manitoba and Ontario. Cigs are $10 per pack there and applying the current exchange rate, that would be $8.72 USD per pack verses what, $2.50 a pack in the US(?)…although, I cited the price of cigarettes as an example of the result of grossly over-taxing a product to supposedly discourage its use. The Canadian example demonstrates that it simply does not work. A visit to Quebec City will reveal that even the children are strolling the streets with cigarette in hand! I certainly wasn’t suggesting US citizens order up a carton of Canadian cigs…therefore the US value really has nothing to do with it.

    I don’t know where you live in Canada, but during the Summer of 2006, nearly a full year after Katrina, gasoline prices hovered around the $1.20 per liter mark. In regard to Katrina, Canada produces as much or more oil than the US…one would think Katrina’s knocking out refineries on the US gulf coast would have very little effect on Canadian gasoline prices. Also, it is important to note that most gasoline taxes in Canada are based, not per liter, but on the dollar amount sold…therefore your government has a parliamentarian orgasm whenever the price of oil goes up.

    The value of the Canadian Dollar hasn’t necessarily increased over the last 2 to 3 years, the value of the US Dollar has tumbled down the toilet so badly during the period that Canadian currency is now close to par with the USD. Give George Bush another couple of years and the CAD will have a greater value, comparatively speaking.

    In so far as small, economical cars in Canada, I can count on one hand the number of hybrid vehicles I have personally seen there this year. Full sized, 4WD pickups and SUVs (many of them, the older models that guzzle even more petrol) are more the order…especially in the prairie provinces. I have found Canadians tend more to factor the increased price of hybrid technology against the amount of potential gasoline savings and mostly find the hybrid technology to be unjustifiable. Another factor is that your government grossly over-taxes any product not made in Canada in the name of protecting Canadian jobs…to my knowledge, there are no hybrids manufactured in Canada.

    Also, if I were you, I really wouldn’t even mention Canada’s universal health care…or lack thereof.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Not every idea is one worth considering simply because some European country is doing it.

  • avatar
    kablamo

    I’m in Ontario in the Quebec-Windsor corridor (largest concentration of population in the country). Ontario excluding the North is about a third of the population of Canada… living here I’m pretty confident of my numbers, although I can’t vouch for all parts. For sure if you are in the more rural areas, trucks rule. Gas is more expensive when you get farther from the centers, but that is true anywhere. I’ve been to every major urban area in the country and I am quite certain of my numbers.

    The one thing I forgot to say earlier is that cigarette taxes were brought back up the last few years in Ontario, to discourage smoking. It does work, especially for young people and to a lesser extent lower income earners. The only problem is that it increases illegal sales of the good, a problem I doubt would occur with gasoline (if someone can set up a black market refinery and keep it under wraps, they must be a genius). Most taxes (including cigarettes, booze and gasoline) usually have a more than 50% provincial component, which means you can’t compare what you see in Quebec to Ontario to Manitoba.

    In any case, this takes us farther away from the topic, and really doesn’t proove anything about CAFE.

    This is obviously a pretty sensitive subject with many different opinions… as pessimistic as it sounds if a community of enthusiasts (TTAC) can’t come to anykind of agreement, I really don’t see much hope for the government. It’s nice to give our opinions and thoughts here, in all likelikhood nothing will happen.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    I’ll repeat what I said above – CAFE laws won’t work – which is why we might get more of them. Gas taxes will work, which is why we will never see them.

    Remember the first rule: Americans will burn lots of gas. All “enery policy” must follow this.

    Someone made a statement about how Canada has higher gas prices buy “plenty of giant trucks and SUV’s”: you are basing this on a few personal observations. In fact Canadians burn about 70% as much as gas as US per capita (actually I just went to Canada – my observation was that I saw much less “big iron”).

    I am basing this off of:
    http://www.energy.ca.gov/gasoline/statistics/gasoline_consumption_country.php
    https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ca.html

    If oil does start to run out gas prices will skyrocket, and people will have to change. If not then no problem.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    We have veered-off the original subject matter here. I apologise for that.

    My point in this discussion is, as posted earlier:

    “…hefty gasoline taxes may sound like a solution, but don’t forget all the goods that are transported by ground, rail and air. A big(ger) gasoline or oil tax will increase the price of nearly everything we use or consume on a daily basis…little things like, oh, FOOD. An added (gasoline) tax will have a huge ripple effect on just about everything…can you say, “spiraling inflation”?”

    “Raising gasoline or oil taxes will simply cost YOU a lot more while giving the government more (of YOUR) money to waste.”

    Those who would be in favor of large gasoline/oil tax increases appear to be almost sadomasoquistic…”I’m bad! I should be punished severely for owning a vehicle I enjoy driving! Shame on me!”

    “The solution…is actually simple. Real life, federally enforced, specific criteria that forces automakers to make fuel efficient vehicles…legislation that forces manufacturers to do things like dump cast iron blocks and develop new technologies as in the lightweight, fuel efficient, yet high performance magnesium/aluminum engines from BMW (i.e., the 335i coupe is conservatively rated at 300 hp/300 lb-ft, 0-60 in 5.1, fuel economy 29 mpg…now, that, my friends, is engineering).”

  • avatar
    WaaaaHoooo

    Along the lines of giving a thing to fight for to the aging Vietnam war protesters (who are itching to relive their past glory 35 years later ala Al Bundy) and all those whose goal is to basically pester society with every ridiculous control they can dream up, why dont we tax the heck out of everything else that has a presumed environmental cost.

    Flatulence is environmentally harmful: a Can O’ Beans Tax!

    Higher human population is environmentally harmful: a Birth Tax!

    Cellphone towers pollute the skyline: a Minute Tax!

    Showering burdens the sewer system: a Bath Tax!

    Point is, you can justify a claim to lay a tax on anything to control the behavior you fear in others. To do so is stupid and invites abuse by special interests, a group to which enviro-whacks belong. Like I said before … I live very very environmentally consciously by choice, but I passionately oppose any attempt to impose my desired lifestyle on anyone else: to do otherwise is an affront to freedom. Those who wish to limit the freedom of others have no moral right to claim it for themselves, and I guess that is okay to many of you, but not to me, and I am aggressive about protecting mine, and yours.

    About the “tax-neutral” concepts … been there, done that. Germany (I lived there 7 years in socialist hyper-controlled hell) tried this concept. The greenies slowly raised the gas tax (Öko-steuer) over the course of many years, and claimed to reduce other taxes accordingly. What happened is the other taxes were cut a little, and then a few years later the taxes were raised again. Net tax gain, and to boot the worst economy in western europe. Again though, if you love that stuff, there is your escape valve, but please remember that quite a number of the rest of us don’t wish to acknowledge your self-declared preemminence in the way we should run our lives, and we just want to be left alone. What is is about your inferiority complex that makes that such a difficult thing for you to comprehend?

    BTW – one of my favorite envirowhack-taxes in Germany is the “roof tax”. You got it, some counties or states have determined that roofs on homes block water absorption into the ground, so they started taxing the square meterage of the roofs on an annual basis. I could not believe it when I heard it. But hey, there is no limit to the extent that taxes can be levied to control “wrong behavior.” Please take note that virtually every country that taxes the heck outta gas also taxes the heck out of everything else, even worse than here in the USA.

  • avatar
    Glenn

    Someone commented about how expensive hybrids are, etc. I’ve read it all over the past few years. I’ve also read that Toyota are going to introduce hybrid versions of virtually all of their cars, that they are going to cut the price differential in half (to about $1900 US) and that the next-gen Prius will be a 100 mpg car (whether this is real-world gasoline MPG, or a plug-in capable Prius with different, larger batteries I don’t know but we’ll all find out within about 2-3 years).

    Actually, CAFE was a bad idea simply because it did not do what the planners of the rules intended, which was to reduce oil consumption (and more specifically, after the oil crisis of 1973, oil imports).

    CAFE ended up more like squeezing a balloon filled with water, you simply cannot make it smaller; you squeeze one place and the balloon gets bigger elsewhere.

    The government should have (and still could) utilize a mass and performance formula.

    Look at Kei cars of Japan. A certain maximum mass, size, power and engine displacement maximum of 660cc.

    Now, can I play “what if”? I’d love to see other people’s takes on this.

    Perhaps 3 taxation bands, meaning purchase price FET ranging in 3 bands (and likewise, each state free to set 3 taxation bands on license plate renewals to their heart’s content). Require a coeficient of drag of .25 (exceeding the current best) for all vehicles. Limiting maximum mass AND maximum power for a power-to-weight ratio enabling approximately 0-60 in the 9 to 12 second range for every vehicle would enable reasonable performance, with higher performance being allowable in sporting cars by way of weight reductions below the maximum allowed per class of vehicle.

    Band A could be the most efficient cars, with lowest taxation, increased taxation for total of vehicle.

    Car Type 1. Cars with 1, 2 or 3 seats, up to, say, 660cc and up to 65hp (or up to 75hp if hybrid – whether hydraulic or electric, or fuel cell). Or, all electric cars up to 100hp. Maximum full fuel tank mass of up to 800 kg. (Somewhat like Kei cars).

    Car Type 2. Cars with 4 or 5 seats, up to, say, 1000cc and up to 100hp (or up to 115hp if hybrid – whether hyd or elec or f.c.). Or, all electric cars up to 135hp. Max. full fuel tank mass of up to 1000 kg.

    Car Type 3. Cars with 6, 7 or 8 seats, up to, say, 1500cc and up to 150hp (or up to 180hp if hybrid, or up to 225hp if electric) max. full fuel tank mass of up to 1200 kg.

    Thus, an A3 7-seater microvan would be taxed more at purchase and at license tag renewal time than an A1 sports roadster, or A2 family hatch, but for a larger family it would still be cheaper to get an A3 microvan than two A2 hatches to haul the same number of people at the same time. Kapich?
    Band C cars would be very expensive, and the costs of them would be passed on to all of us for business-use (otherwise, loopholes galore, just as now).

    Band B could be cars with more displacement, mass and fuel consumption – and obviously a higher taxation at purchase and license time.

    Car Type 1. Cars with 1, 2 or 3 seats. Up to 1200cc and 130 hp (or up to 150hp if hybrid, or up to 200hp if electric), max. full fuel tank mass of 1000kg.

    Car Type 2. Cars with 4 or 5 seats. Up to 1500cc and up to 150hp (or up to 180hp if hybrid, or up to 225hp if electric) max. full fuel tank mass of up to 1200 kg.

    Car Type 3. Cars with 6, 7 or 8 seats. Up to 2000cc and up to 175hp (or up to 210hp if hybrid, or up to 250hp if electric) max. full fuel tank mass of up to 1500 kg.

    Band C could be cars, vans, trucks and vehicles with up to 3/4 ton non-passenger capacity.

    Veh. Type 1. Veh’s. with 1, 2 or 3 seats. Up to 2000cc and up to 175hp (or up to 210hp if hybrid, or up to 250hp if electric), max. full fuel tank mass of up to 1500 kg.

    Veh. Type 2. Veh’s. with 4, 5, 6 or 7 seats. Up to 2500cc and up to 225hp (or up to 250hp if hybrid, or up to 300hp if electric), max. full fuel tank mass of up to 1800 kg.

    Veh. Type 3. Veh’s. with 8 or more seats. Up to 3000cc and up to 250hp (or up to 280hp if hybrid, or up to 330hp if electric), max. full fuel tank mass of up to 2000 kg.

    Thus, a Porsche “999” could be a 2+2 car, Band C2, and have a pancake six of 2500cc, hybrid assist and maximum of 250hp (plus a boat-load of torque), a 6 speed sequential shift manual or automatic with paddle shift or automatic mode, aluminum body and weight in at 1400 kg (well under the maximum allowable Band C2 weight of 1800kg) and would mean that sporting cars would NOT be dead – but just way more efficient in their use of dwindling resources.

    Look at the Japanese Kei cars for inspiration – placing restrictions on designers only brings out their genius!

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Glenn

    You start out saying tha CAFE did not work – how it was like squeezing a balloon. I agree.

    But then you propose to make a “better” law that is very very complex. This will not work.

    first of all it will never get enacted. We live in a democracy, and the SUV and big-truck driving citizens vote.

    second whatever *did* get enacted would have loop-holes, and lots of them. Some working man who has to routinely haul very heavy cargos really needs a heavy duty pickup. People will simply buy these.

    Again the first law: Americans love to burn gas! Americans love low-mpg vehicles – we’d drive farm combines and Zamonis’s to work if we had to. Anything to use gas.

  • avatar
    Luther

    http://www.cera.com/aspx/cda/public1/news/pressReleases/pressReleaseDetails.aspx?CID=8444

  • avatar
    ChartreuseGoose

    Now back to cars: CARB is what screws us. They spend all of their time regulating NOx which is why we don’t have efficient diesels. Granted NOx is smog producing, but the bigger evil is CO2

    Spectacularly wrong. NOx is actually a greenhouse gas a hundred times as potent as CO2. It should be controlled, as stringently as possible.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    The best idea here is Waaahoo’s proposed flatulence tax. Truly breathtaking policy wonkery!

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Mr Martineck:
    The reason CAFE standards are so ineffective, inefficient and loophole ridden is because that’s all that’s politically possible. CAFE is just like the IRS Code – an ineffecient mess of loopholes and special interest breaks.

    You even concede the point early by saying, “The truth is a hefty gas tax will never pass.” An effective CAFE standard would be, in effect, a huge tax (or an outright ban) on gas guzzling vehicles.

    Some effective CAFE could make it through legislatively under the radar. But, if it’s effective, it’ll be repealed. As long as Americans CAN drive large, powerful cars/SUV’s/Trucks, they will.

    Things will change only if the global price of oil rises relative to American incomes. Even then, getting Americans out of large, powerful vehicles will be as tough as getting them to put efficient light bulbs in their homes. To some extent, cars, like lighting, are more about style and performance than ecomony.

  • avatar
    Glenn

    So, everybody more or less thinks we Americans cannot learn to curb our insatiable appetites for oil and huge oversized vehicles.

    Looking at how the sales of Stupid Ugly Vehicles has perked back up a mere couple of months after extremly high gas prices, I have to agree, sadly.

    But then a friend of mine said to me just before the last election “I used to have hope about our country until I found out one fact.” “What fact, Dave?” “The most popular television program is XXXXXXX.”

    I had to ask about what this was, but apparently, it involves stupid people parading their not-at-all-private and very stupid lives in front of millions of others, airing their dirty laundry and – had they any realization – making absolute fools of themselves.

    Therefore, who are the greater fools? The tens of millions watching who think this is entertainment, or those providing the fodder to watch? It hurts my head to fathom it, so I won’t even try to answer that.

    Guess we collectively deserve what is going to happen to our nation, our lives, our culture, our children and our grand-children once (not if) the oil runs out or becomes too expensive to utilize. Don’t say as an excuse for others “well, we couldn’t have made any difference or any changes” because you’ll just be lying to yourself and others.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    Proponents of a deregulatory utopia are often silent on one key issue: Regulations are a response to a perceived social need that an industry refuses to adequately address. For example, the air-pollution and safety standards of the 1960s and 1970s arose out of the widespread belief that automakers were not doing nearly enough to voluntarily improve vehicle performance in these areas.

    We would not be having the current discussion about CAFE standards if the Big 2.5 had pursued different priorities over the last decade.

    I reject the idea that automakers are passive victims of market forces. If you look back in automotive history, automakers have often cultivated — or even created out of whole cloth — consumer desire for bigger, glitzier, more powerful vehicles.

    Automakers could just as easily have tried to cultivate greater consumer desire for fuel-efficient vehicles. Consider Ford. When Bill assumed the throne, he could have decided to put his environmentalist values to work and redirect the company’s product-planning efforts. In fact, he apparently started to, but a rebellion occurred within Ford and he backed off.

    Ironically, Ford would not be on the verge of bankruptcy today if Bill had stayed true to his own values. By the same token, Honda and Toyota have become such powerhouses precisely because they have never fully embraced Detroit’s single-minded obsession with bigger, glitzier, more powerful vehicles.

    It would be inaccurate to tar me with the “tree hugger” label. I’m not arguing that Ford should have gotten out of the big SUV market, nor put all of their eggs into small cars. I’m merely suggesting that they should have exercised the same common sense displayed by Honda and Toyota.

    Ford still could. Its big trucks are so over-built that there are numerous ways to squeeze more fuel-efficiency out of them. Like how about more attention to aerodynamics for the forthcoming F-350 instead of what’s on tap, which goes in the opposite direction? This is not rocket science. Their designers know what to do, but the execs apparently won’t let them.

    If they drag their feet long enough the government will step in. Again. And auto execs will have no one but themselves to blame. Again.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Stephen T:

    1. I don’t oppose all regulation, I just don’t think stricter CAFE can save any fuel – heck the first round of CAFE contributed to the truck/SUV boom.

    Just to examples to support this: 1. In 2004 John Kerry came out for SUV’s – saying that is is alright to drive “big SUV’s” but that somehow they should be made more efficient. 2. Now that the Dem’s control congress the head of the transpo and energy committee is Dingell (sp?) from Michigan. Big-3 proffits rely on low-mpg cars – don’t expect anything more than window dressing.

    2. You say that desire for big vehicles is caused by automakers. Check out this quote

    http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html

    “In the history of the automotive industry, few things have been quite as unexpected as the rise of the S.U.V. Detroit is a town of engineers, and engineers like to believe that there is some connection between the success of a vehicle and its technical merits. ”

    (I am an engineer and have to agree).

    3. You say that big-3 financial problems are due to selling big trucks and SUV’s. Actually by any objective business measure these are the most successful lines of vehicles on the planet. The big-3 would be long gone if they had *not* had these products to offset huge legacy costs.

    4. You say that Ford can (and should) increase the mpg of their trucks not “over building”. As an engineer I agree – do people really need this level of over-kill? But in fact this is what the market demands – why is Toyota copying big-3 and making a much larger “over built” Tundra? The old Tundra (or even Tacoma) is plenty good for many – but over-built sells. BTW GM gets pretty good fuel economy out of their full size pickups (it is crappy, but not way-crappy. I don’t think the new Tundra will beat or even equal the Silverado mpg).

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    thx:

    1. You may very well be right. It just so happens that our political discourse seems to revolve almost entirely around CAFE (for good or ill).

    2. I don’t see this as an either/or proposition. I’m merely rejecting the contention by some that the Big 2.5’s dependence upon big SUVs/trucks represented the only rational response to shifting buyer desires.

    3. The issue isn’t that Detroit offered big SUVs per se — it is that they bet the farm on them. That strategy was not sustainable for a variety of factors, e.g., it was only a matter of time before oil prices rose again. A reasonable risk analysis would have resulted in a more balanced product mix.

    As for legacy costs, I don’t think those are a good excuse for Detroit’s myopic behavior. Pioneers of new market niches will tend to generate higher profit margins than those who are reactive. Alas, the Big 2.5 tended to focus its innovative energies on big SUVs. Meanwhile, the imports got a head start on carving up the lucrative crossover market.

    4. One can look at the Tundra in a number of different ways. For example, one might argue that Toyota didn’t do a very good job in marketing the “mid-sized” Tundra’s (mediocre) efficiency advantages . . . and that its market potential would have increased along with gas prices. At any rate, sometimes it takes a while for a category buster to gain popularity. Recall that the original VW Beetle was not a hot commodity in its early years.

    I’ll stick my neck out and predict that Toyota’s late entrance into the big truck market could turn out to be its first major mistake. It’s a good thing that Toyota has deep pockets, because that automaker may have trouble recovering its enormous investment.

  • avatar
    ret

    “Extract 25K BTU’s out of 75K Ethanol or 125K Gasoline. The result is the same.”

    Yes… Exactly the same…

    Except for the corrovise effects of ethanol, the greatly increased structural strain on engine internals, the massive amounts of turbo lag that will occur with a highly pressurized system…

    Show me an ethanol powered engine that is economical to produce and will last 200k miles without major repair work and I’ll concede. Then we can move on to the next argument about the energy balance of Ethanol production.


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