Saturday, December 22, 2007

Congress increases CAFE requirements for the first time ever

What's this, a mandatory requirement for 35 miles per gallon? Wow!

The bill's centerpiece is the boost in the minimum fuel-efficiency standard for passenger vehicles, the first to be passed by Congress since 1975. It requires new auto fleets to average 35 miles a gallon by 2020, a 40 percent increase from today's 25-mile average. By 2020, the measure could reduce U.S. oil use by 1.1 million barrels a day, more than half the oil exported by Kuwait or Venezuela and equivalent of taking 28 million of today's vehicles off the road.

Is America going green? Eh, not so much. It pretty much works the same way current CAFE standards work. The average mileage of the entire line of vehicles an auto manufacturer produces will now have to meet 35 miles per gallon. That's an increase of 10mpg over current standards, but, for example, if a company produces 2 vehicles, 1 SUV and 1 car, their average mileage must be 35 mgp. Does that require both vehicles averages go up? Nope. Let's say that now, the SUV gets 20mpg while the car gets 30mpg. Average of 25. Ok, to increase that overall average to 35, you can either raise both numbers by 10mpg, or you can increase the car's by 20 mpg, or any combination whatsoever that adds up to 20. And that would be fine, but the automaker can easily defeat this by producing 2 more lines of cars. Now, the SUV doesn't have to raise its efficiency whatsoever, while the three cars absorb all the increase, like this: the SUV still only gets 25mpg, while three cars get 38.33mpg apiece. And you can spread that out even further by building more cars.

That would be all well and good, because it still causes the mileage to increase on the majority of cars, but it pisses me off that people who want to drive planet-killing vehicles get a free pass to continue doing so at will. Of course that doesn't matter so much to me because the next time I buy a car I'll be getting a hybrid, hopefully something that gets more than 40mpg. But still, we don't need to allow gas-guzzlers that get 13mpg to even exist.

Anyway, this bill comes with a host of other revolutionary energy regulations:

The law says that at least 36 billion gallons of motor fuel a year should be biofuels by 2022, most of it in "advanced biofuels," not a drop of which are commercially produced today.

[...]One portion of the bill sets new efficiency standards for appliances and will make the incandescent bulb -- invented two centuries ago and improved and commercialized by Edison in the 1880s -- virtually extinct by the middle of the next decade. The bill will phase out conventional incandescents, starting in 2012, with 100-watt bulbs, ultimately ceding the lighting market to more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

The commercial building industry could also be transformed by new incentives for energy-efficient windows, equipment and design. The federal government is supposed to make all of its buildings carbon-neutral through energy efficiency and clean energy use by 2030.

It's a step in the right direction, but obviously doesn't go far enough. We need more action on encouraging development of solar energy, plus we need to seriously end the wasteful extravigance of vehicles that get less than 25mpg. You'd think people would have been impressed by now with the importance of divorcing ourselves from oil, but no, once people get to the showroom it's a question of their manhood or how safe a vehicle they can get for their kid (never mind that rollovers cause a disproportionate amount of fatalities).

There are provisions for both encouraging the growth of corn ethanol as well as further provisions for encouraging the transition from corn ethanol to other ethanols. One would hope these incentives work, but the legislation may not be strong or specific enough to see that it does.

Thankfully, Congress managed to avoid attaching any incentives for drilling for natural gas or oil domestically. While this bill is a great start, there's still a ways to go.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

Well, I suppose that counts as progress these days.