Fuel Prices Are Allegedly Cooling Off

With the last several months delivering record-breaking fuel prices, as society endures what has undoubtedly been the largest spike in energy cost and inflation since the 1970s, everyone has been hoping to catch a break this summer. Some have even gotten theirs. While things are still looking exceptionally bleak in the long term, the United States appears to be enjoying a modest reprieve.

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Gas War: Republican States Sue EPA Over Californian Standards

Last week, a group of Republican attorneys general decided to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to reinstate the waiver allowing California to set its own limitations on exhaust gasses and zero-emission vehicle mandates that would exceed federal standards.

The agency approved the waiver after it had been eliminated as part of the Trump administration’s fuel rollback on the grounds that it would create a schism within the industry by forcing automakers to produce vehicles that catered to the Californian market at the expense of products that might be appreciated in other parts of the country. However, Joe Biden’s EPA sees things differently and has aligned itself with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in giving the state more leeway to govern itself in regard to emissions policing.

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Porsche Investing in Synthetic 'eFuels'

Despite Porsche transitioning to all-electric vehicles with the rest of Volkswagen Group, the brand believes that its customers will still want to drive around vintage gasoline models even after the European Union has banned them into oblivion. This is especially important for the iconic 911, which the company has repeatedly hinted would be one of the last models in its lineup to ditch internal combustion.

With countless racing series already devoted to classic examples of the car, Porsche wants to ensure there’s a solution for motorists who want to do more than pet theirs in a silent garage should the government introduce even stricter standards for automobiles than what’s already coming down the pike. So it’s revisiting alternative fuels — specifically a carbon-neutral alternative to gasoline that would work in traditional engines — from Chilean e-fuel producer Highly Innovative Fuels, with whom it’s already investing.

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Gas War: EPA Reinstates California's Ability to Set Emission Limits, EV Mandates

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has opted to reinstate California’s ability to set tailpipe rules and zero-emission vehicle mandates that are more rigid than federal standards. After quarreling for years over the Trump administration’s decision to roll back Obama-era fueling standards deemed untenable, the Golden State now has the ability to once again make harder for its citizens by forcing them to purchase the kind of vehicles it feels they should be driving — rather than leaving it up to the individual that’s actually buying the car.

Though it might not matter at this point. While California effectively served as a defensive shield against proposed fueling rollbacks while Trump was in office, the Biden administration strategy is broadly in line with its agenda of making gasoline unappetizing to consumers to ensure a speedy transition to electric vehicles. California doesn’t even want people to have access to gas-powered lawn care equipment. The state has effectively served as a test case for Build Back Better since before the phrase passed through the lips of a single politician.

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Alright, Let's Talk About Fuel Prices and How We Got Here

Fuel prices have, like most other things, become totally ridiculous. In the United States, the average rate for a gallon of gasoline has eclipsed $4.00 for the first time in a decade. Though what’s probably the most alarming is how quickly it happened. Plenty of Americans could still find fuel for under $2.00 a gallon in April of 2020, meaning we’ve seen prices effectively double within two years in the United States. Meanwhile, European nations more accustomed to lofty fuel bills have been sounding the warning bells (especially in regard to diesel) for months.

Despite the issue existing long before Russia invaded Ukraine, the war has become the de facto explanation among politicians for why you had to swap to less-fancy dog food and off-brand soda to keep the truck gassed up. This is also influencing the government’s response to how to handle the present fuel crisis, which looks as if it’ll be getting worse before it gets better. But let’s take a look at how we got here before we dive into what’s being done (or not done) about it.

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Summer Gas Shortage Likely for Dumbest Reason

As if you needed more doom and gloom to kick off this week, the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) lobby has confessed that its fleet will go into the next few months operating well below capacity. That means there’s a very good chance that some parts of the country could see gas shortages over the summer. While we’re praying that this doesn’t come with with the deluge of less-than-desirable automobiles that followed the infamous 1973 oil crisis, a similar spike in fuel price is likely as gasoline becomes sporadically difficult to find.

With the United States technically still energy independent, the culprit is not a foreign oil embargo but our own inability to plan ahead. North America was already operating with a deficit of qualified tanker drivers ahead of the pandemic. Lockdowns suppressed demand as everyone was forced to remain immobile, suppressing demand that ultimately encouraged widespread layoffs and early retirement. Now there aren’t enough drivers as demand stabilizes.

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California Wins the Gas War, Fickle Automotive Coalition Realigns Position

The Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation (CSAR) is officially withdrawing from a lawsuit between California and federal authorities over the coastal state’s ability to establish its own emissions standards. California leadership had vowed to ignore the Trump administration’s proposed rollback and began making binding side deals with automakers (specifically BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Honda) committed to adhering to the aggressive limits established under President Obama. Unfortunately, this ran the risk of undermining the revised national standards penned shortly after the United States became energy independent. It also set up the CSAR to embrace any entity that had views conflicting with California Air Resources Board.

Federal concerns were that the Golden State setting its own targets would butt heads with the relaxed national benchmarks and ultimately divide the U.S. market and may even influence the types of vehicles that were manufactured for all of North America. But the issue became moot once President Biden broke the record for executive orders by signing 22 in his first week. Predictably, the brunt of these were designed to instantly undo any actions taken throughout the duration of the Trump administration and included one directing the Department of Transportation and EPA to reconsider the 2019 decision to remove California’s authority to limit tailpipe emissions by April and revise the fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles by summer.

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Gas War: Justice Department Drops Antitrust Probe Against Automakers Siding With California

The United States Department of Justice has ended its investigation into Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW over a presumed antitrust violation stemming from a deal they made with California to adhere to regional emission rules. Their agreement technically circumvents the current administration’s plan to freeze national emissions and fuel economy standards — established while President Obama was still in office — at 2021 levels through 2026. Under the California deal, the automakers promised to comply with pollution and gas mileage requirements that are more stringent than the federal standards suggested in the rollback proposal.

But the probe also looked like retaliation from the Trump administration against automakers publicly siding with the state causing the most trouble in the gas war. Under the deal, the automakers promised to comply with pollution and economy requirements that are tougher than proposed federal standards. Despite the corporate promise being as empty as an Oscar speech, it was still an affront to the current administration’s efforts to tamp down lofty efficiency targets put in place just days before it came into power.

While the Justice Department hasn’t explicitly said why it closed the investigation, it’s presumed that it simply didn’t find anything that it felt violated antitrust laws. California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday that he wasn’t surprised by the decision, stating that the “trumped-up charges were always a sham, a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to prevent more automakers from joining California and agreeing to stronger emissions standards.”

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Gas War: Antitrust Probe Opened Into Automakers Endorsing California Emissions Pact

The Justice Department has opened an antitrust probe into four automakers that formed a pact with California to compromise on tailpipe emissions, effectively circumventing federal regulators, last July.

Over the summer, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen Group announced a joint agreement with the California Air Resources Board to adhere to fueling standards slightly lower than Obama-era rules but still significantly higher than the Trump administration’s proposal from 2018. The Justice Department is seeking to determine whether or not that qualifies as a violation of federal competition laws.

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Ram Sets Price for 2020 EcoDiesel Pickups

Fresh off giving Chevy a good drubbing in the American sales race, Ram has announced pricing for its new batch of EcoDiesel half-ton pickup trucks.

We’ll save you a click and tell you above the fold that the cheapest way to get into a new Ram EcoDiesel is by way of two-wheel drive Tradesman wearing Quad Cab clothes. That truck stickers for $36,890 plus destination. There’s more to it than that, of course, so you’ll want to hit the jump to learn why Ram feels the need to offer not one but two different EcoDiesels in their showrooms at the same time.

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Four Automakers Make a Deal With California Regarding Vehicle Emissions

While we’ve dinged the media for erroneously reporting that automakers were unilaterally “backing” California in the fuel-economy fracas that’s currently taking place within American politics, it appears four of them actually are starting to choose a side. However, this again requires a bunch of clarification. Despite not adhering fully to the state’s ideal emissions scenario, Ford Motor Co., BMW Group, Volkswagen Group, and Honda Motor Co. released a joint announcement stating they have reached a voluntary agreement with the state of California to adopt compromised vehicle emissions rules.

Since there’s nothing binding in the joint agreement and automakers make (and break) promises all the time, the deal is largely meaningless. Doubly so, since the fuel-economy rollbacks have yet to be finalized. But this does illustrate how a handful of manufacturers are willing to accommodate others in order to get a nationwide solution. It also shows a softening of California’s previously ironclad environmental stance, which is much more interesting.

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Piston Slap: Sans Souci or Inquietant Diagnostic?
TTAC Commentator Majda writes:

Sajeev,

I recently bought a 2002 Miata, manual transmission, in silver. The prior owners appear to have been followers of the sans souci school of maintenance, so I have been wrenching on it quite a bit. It has only one problem I can’t solve: a persistent P0301 code, showing a misfire in Cylinder 1. The actual experience of driving the car is fine — I don’t feel a miss or a drop in power. That light, though… it isn’t constant. It doesn’t come on instantly; if I clear it, I might get a few minutes of light-free driving, or an hour, or a day. But after that, the CEL goes blinky-blinky.

Logic suggests that the misfire can only come from spark, air, or fuel, so I went at each as follows:

  • Spark: I’ve replaced the spark plugs (NGKs), plug wires (ditto) and boots. I swapped ignition coils to see if the code would move; it didn’t. The ignition wiring harness has some broken protective tape, but I don’t see any broken wiring.
  • Air: I’ve replaced the air filter and checked for vacuum leaks.
  • Fuel: I replaced the fuel filter, and, to make sure I didn’t have a fuel injector problem, I swapped the injectors between cylinder 1 and cylinder 4. I spilled a bunch of fuel, but the code stayed put.

I’ve been busy fixing other issues (leaking valve cover gasket, cracked radiator, soft top made of cheesecloth) on this Miata, but the P0301 has me stumped. I checked compression, and it’s good across all four cylinders. Forums mostly argue in favor of ignition problems, but I feel like I’ve covered that area.

The big question is this: Do you think new driving shoes will fix the problem?

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Lawmakers Demand MPG Details, States File Lawsuit Against EPA

America’s gas war is heating after 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to redefine U.S. vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency rules through 2025.

In April, EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the existing standards for model year 2022 to 2025 vehicles should be revised. The suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, alleges the EPA acted unpredictably, failed to follow its own regulations, and was in direct violation of the Clean Air Act. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claimed the “Trump administration conducted a phony study” to justify altering emission rules to appease automakers and the oil industry.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui of California and Paul Tonko of New York are demanding the EPA hand over all documents related to the study that resulted in the proposed changes to fuel economy standards.

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Appeals Court Says Trump Cannot Delay CAFE Penalties

During the Trump administration’s year-long quest to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets, it attempted to give automakers in violation of the current standards a break by delaying the scheduled increase of penalties. The logic here is that the federal government is reassessing the Obama era standards, so it lumped in the new fines that were supposed to go into effect last July.

Those penalties represent an increase of $8.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon a new car consumes above the minimum fuel standard. But with the new targets in quasi limbo, the updated fines were not being applied.

On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled the Department of Transportation cannot do that. Since the old rules are technically still in effect, the court ruled that automakers are still subject to the fine.

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Premium is the New Regular: Automakers Want to Kill 87 Octane

The automotive industry wants to make 95 octane gasoline the new normal for the United States and it has taken its case to Washington. On Friday, Dan Nicholson, General Motors’ vice president of global propulsion systems, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee that switching to 95 octane would align the U.S. with Europe and is one of the most affordable ways to boost fuel economy and lower greenhouse emissions.

Affordable for automakers, that is. Because there is no reason to think your local gas station will suddenly do you a solid and price 95 octane lower just because 87 is gone.

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  • FifaCup Loving both Interior and exterior designs.
  • FifaCup This is not good for the auto industry
  • Jeff S This would be a good commuter vehicle especially for those working in a large metropolitan area. The only thing is that by the time you put airbags, backup cameras, and a few of the other required safety features this car would no longer be simple and the price would be not much cheaper than a subcompact. I like the idea but I doubt a car like this would get marketed in anyplace besides Europe and the 3rd World.
  • ScarecrowRepair That's what I came to say!
  • Inside Looking Out " the plastic reinforced with cotton waste used on select garbage vehicles assembled by the Soviet Union. "Wrong. The car you are talking about was the product German engineering, East German. It's name was Trabant.