The Dernogalizer

June 14, 2010

Merkley Unveils New Plan to Eliminate America’s Dependence on Overseas Oil

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt Dernoga @ 7:56 pm
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Senator Jeff Merkley has a monopoly over good progressive clean energy proposals in the Senate.  Today he unveiled his plan for America to eliminate its dependence on foreign oil by 2030.  Below is the press release from Merkley’s office.  Here is the draft of Merkley’s plan, and here is an insightful article in Grist by Dave Roberts on why this matters.

Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released an ambitious plan to eliminate America’s dependence on overseas oil by 2030 (online here).  In a speech before the Center for American Progress, Merkley laid out the national security, economic and health reasons that such a plan is needed to make our nation stronger and more self-sufficient.

“It has never been more clear how our dependence on oil has made America vulnerable.  There are huge risks associated with continuing to hang the success of our entire economy on one volatile commodity,” said Merkley.  “My plan sets a realistic goal for aggressively reducing our use of oil based on proven technologies, American innovation and sustained focus on reaching those goals.  These are not controversial or far-fetched ideas, but they do require long-term thinking and a new roadmap for our energy future.”

This year, more than two-thirds of America’s oil imports will come from nations that too often do not share our goals or values.  This dependence on nations such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Venezuela, and Nigeria costs our nation billions that could be used here at home and helps governments that often act against our national security interests.  It also prevents us from fully investing in home-grown American clean energy and undermines efforts to improve the quality of our air and water.

Further, a simple increase in domestic drilling will not solve the problem.  Since America only has 3% of oil reserves, yet uses 25% of all oil, we simply do not have the supply to match demand.  And domestic drilling is not without risks, as the ongoing BP oil catastrophe has shown.

In his speech today, Merkley laid out a plan to eliminate all foreign imports from non-North American nations by 2030.  It includes steps to ramp up production and use of electric vehicles, increase travel options and improve infrastructure, develop alternative transportation fuels and reduce the use of oil to heat buildings.

Critically, the plan also calls for setting the targets into law and creating a National Council on Energy Security to ensure a sustained focus on reducing the use of oil.  The Council would be charged with making recommendations to the President and Congress to ensure America stays on track.

Merkley emphasized that the challenge is primarily not technological, but one of political will, and called on Americans to rise to the challenge: “American entrepreneurs and ingenuity are undoubtedly capable of breaking our addiction to oil.  The question for all of us, policymakers and citizens, is whether we’re going to choose strength or vulnerability.”

June 6, 2009

Natural Gas

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 11:22 pm
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Part 2

This is my second post in a 3 part series about what role natural gas can play in a low carbon sustainable future, and what role it should play.  Part 1 is right here.  This post is going to explore the reasoning against and for natural gas use.

I will cover the environmental/social justice, carbon emissions, and national security arguments surrounding natural gas.

Environmental/Social Justice/Carbon Emissions: So it turns out, natural gas drilling is exempt from clean water laws.  Thank you Vice President Cheney.  Apparently natural gas companies do not have to disclose the chemicals they are using in a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, where millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are injected at a very high pressure down and across into horizontally drilled wells.  This causes the rock layer underground such as shale to crack,  and the natural gas from the shale flows up from the well since the sand particles injected hold open the fissures.  Hey, I wonder what happens to the chemicals?  Apparently gas drilling has degraded water in hundreds of wells in Colorado alone.  Ohio had it’s own report on contmination problems from the drilling of natural gas.  Another fear from drilling and the pipelines that carry the gas is of an explosion.  In fact, Ohio has it’s own report of a drilling related explosion.  Here is how Pro Publica described it…

A spark ignited the natural gas that had collected in the basement of Richard and Thelma Payne’s suburban Cleveland home, shattering windows, blowing doors 20 feet from their hinges and igniting a small fire in a violent flash. The Paynes were jolted out of bed, and their house lifted clear off the ground.  Fearing another explosion, firefighters evacuated 19 homes in the small town of Bainbridge. Somehow, gas had seeped into the drinking water aquifer and then migrated up through the plumbing.”

For a good graph of all the natural gas accidents that have occurred state by state, check here.

What’s the counter-argument? Well, if you’re the Natural Gas Industry, you would point to the regulations natural gas does have.  But who trusts the suppliers to tell you that natural gas is clean?  The above information clearly shows it’s not clean.  The legitimate argument you would get from the part of the environmental community that is pro-natural gas(or apathetic about natural gas), would be to compare the extraction process of natural gas to oil drilling, or to how we extract and store our coal.  I know many could consider the effects of mountaintop removal to be worse.  The implications of oil spills are also pretty daunting.  Coal slurry dam disasters can be absolutely devastating.  The counter-argument regarding extraction would be that compared to coal mining and oil drilling, natural gas extraction is the lesser of the evils.

What about emissions? This again depends what you’re comparing the natural gas to.  I would consider this a valid source, since although it’s on the natural gas industry’s page, the source they’re taking this emissions profile from is the Energy Information Administration(EIA).  It’s also along the lines of what I’ve read from both pro and anti natural gas sources.

Fossil Fuel Emission Levels
- Pounds per Billion Btu of Energy Input
Pollutant Natural Gas Oil Coal
Carbon Dioxide 117,000 164,000 208,000
Carbon Monoxide 40 33 208
Nitrogen Oxides 92 448 457
Sulfur Dioxide 1 1,122 2,591
Particulates 7 84 2,744
Mercury 0.000 0.007 0.016
Source: EIA – Natural Gas Issues and Trends 1998

As you can see natural gas has about 56-57% of the CO2 emissions of coal, and 71% of oil.  Carbon Monoxide is comparable to oil, and far less than coal.  Nitrogen Oxide is another greenhouse gas, and is far less concentrated in natural gas than coal and oil.  When it comes to sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury, natural gas is far cleaner.  So this is how one could look at the glass half-full for natural gas.  On the other hand, with greenhouse emissions that at best are 50% of coal(which is extremely dirty), I wouldn’t exactly call natural gas a clean fuel.  The issue we run into again though is that in a country that’s nearly 50% dependent on coal, we could have a World War 2 style effort to produce clean renewable energy, and it would still take a considerable amount of time to displace the coal.  The same goes for coal intensive developing countries such as China and India.  Time we don’t have.  The argument can be made, and it has been made, that while we’re adding renewables to the mix, we need to also increase our use of natural gas in order to displace coal so that we can more dramatically reduce emissions.  In fact, there is considerable evidence that Britain is going to double it’s Kyoto targets, and achieve a 23% reduction below 1990 levels by 2012 in emissions, largely because it switched to natural gas from coal.  Of course there were measures to increase usage of renewables and to have a smarter transportation system, but natural gas was a significant factor in this achievement.

The LNG Exception? One big outlier in all of this emissions data is the additional environmental damage and life-cycle pollution of Liquefied Natural Gas(LNG).  Here, natural gas is frozen to -260 degrees to become a liquid, and then shipped on giant tankers, often halfway around the world to countries that use it.  This is what we import.  According to a study by the Carnegie Mellon Institute, when you take into account the full life-cycle of carbon dioxide emissions of coal versus LNG, their total CO2 emissions are “comparable”.  I quote that since I want to add context and say that according to their findings, LNG has 89% of the carbon dioxide of coal, although that isn’t mentioned, so you’ve got to pull out a handy calculator.  It’s also worth noting that this is only taking into account carbon dioxide emissions, and not nitrogen oxide emissions, which is also a greenhouse gas.  If you note the chart above, you’ll see that if you take NO2 into account for the full life-cycle, the greenhouse emissions comparison of the life-cycles of LNG and coal won’t be quite as close.  The important thing to take away from this information on LNG is that it’s considerably dirtier than ordinary natural gas, and can approach the pollution of coal.  Whether or not you call them “comparable” depends on your criteria.  Coal is still dirtier, but not by as much as it was before we accounted for LNG.  When it comes to transportation, the US Department of Energy says LNG that’s used for our transportation needs doesn’t save energy use or greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Independence!(or not?) One of the things that natural gas advocates say is that that the US has large supplies of natural gas, and that we can use natural gas to help us become energy independent by using it in our cars.  It’s very interesting then to note a natural gas analysis all the way out to 2030 by the Energy Information Administration.  Two very telling charts are on page 8, which show natural gas supplies by region in the world, and by country in 2008.  Let me rank them by region.  In order of trillion cubic feet we’ve got the Middle East with 2549, Eurasia with 2020, Africa with 490, Asia with 415, North America with 283, Central and South America with 262, and Europe with 167.  The other chart shows the US currently has 3.4% of the world’s natural gas reserves.  That should sound familiar to our current oil dilemma.  Additionally, if you look at natural gas production over the last 30 years, you’ll see that even as our demand has increased, our production levels have remained the same.  Compare that with what’s a steady increase in our natural gas imports, and take a look at who we’re getting those imports from.  Then glance back up at which regions of the world have most of the remaining supplies.

This information leads to one conclusion regarding our national security.  If we dramatically increase US natural gas consumption(and even if it only holds steady), we’re inevitably going to be importing more and more of our natural gas each year from the countries around the world that we’re trying to become energy independent from when it comes to oil.  Additionally, this imported gas would be in the form of LNG, which means it would be more polluting than the dry domestic natural gas.  This raises 2 concerns.  The first is that on our current course, we’re going to have the same dependency problems with natural gas with currently have with oil.  The second is that the idea of replacing coal with natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sounds good, until you’re importing LNG and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions you’ve cut is far less than anticipated or desired.

So, to sum up what this part 2 analysis has brought to light…

Extraction/Social Justice? At worst drilling for natural gas is just as bad as coal and oil.  At best, it’s dirty and can harm communities, but not as dirty as coal or oil, and won’t cause as much harm to communities as coal.

Carbon Emissions? Natural gas is 56% as carbon intensive as coal, 71% of oil,  and has less emissions in other important areas as well such as NO2, sulfur, and mercury.  However, when you bring LNG into the equation and calculate for lifecycle emissions,  you’re no better than oil for transportation, and marginally better than coal for baseload power.

International Security? US natural gas production is reaching its limits, our imports are increasing as our demand goes up, and the parts of the world which have the natural gas do not like us.  This means increased use of natural gas will not solve our energy independence problem.

Stay tuned for my verdict on the role of natural gas, what it will be, and what it should be, in PART 3.

May 18, 2009

Breaking News: 39 mpg standard by 2016!

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:43 pm
Tags: , ,

The first blog post I made on here(minus the intro) was about how the Bush Administration was using the lowest standard possible under the 2007 bill called the Energy Independence and Security Act that raised CAFE standards to a minimum of 35 mpg by 2020.  I testified before the National Highway Traffic and Safety Admin(NHTSA), about how they were making a big mistake.  For a time it looked like this was what the government was going to pursue, but news recently just broke that the CAFE standard is going to be 39 mpg by 2016, which is a sizable shift.  I’m very pleased with this.  A few notable excerpts are below.

“The Obama administration will issue new national emissions and mileage requirements for cars and light trucks to resolve a long-running conflict among the states, the federal government and auto manufacturers, industry officials said Monday.”

“But Mr. Obama is planning to go further, putting in place new fuel economy rules that will combine the standards of California’s emissions law with the corporate average fuel economy program administered by the Department of Transportation. The effect will be a single national mileage rule that matches California’s strictest-in-the-nation standard.  Under the new standard, the national fleet mileage rule for cars would be roughly 39 miles a gallon in 2016. Light trucks would have to meet a fleet average of slightly more than 26.2 miles a gallon by 2016.”

“This is a very big deal,” said Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign, a group that has pushed for tougher mileage and emissions standards with the goal of curbing the heat-trapping gases that have been linked to global warming. “This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.”     

**Update 5/20/09** Here is a good NY times editorial which puts the significance in perspective.

**Update 5/27/09**  This post originally said 42 mpg, it turns out the media got that confused, 42 mpg was what the California standard in 2020 would have been.  The actual standard is 39 mpg by 2016.  I’m updating this post to reflect that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 3, 2009

Tar Sands Column

Filed under: Climate Change,Dernoga — Matt Dernoga @ 8:08 pm
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So I have a column in the Diamondback today. I want to correct a couple of small things that the editors changed. I put “tar sands” everytime I discussed them, but they were changed to “oil sands” for some reason. Other thing is when I mention natural gas is being used to extract the oil from the sands, I say I would rather us be using that natural gas to replace coal plants because it is cleaner than coal. For the record I do recognize natural gas is not clean and not what we should be pursuing, I just would rather us burn it to replace coal rather than burn it to extract tar sands oil.

http://media.www.diamondbackonline.com/media/storage/paper873/news/2009/03/03/Opinion/Energy.A.TarNished.Reputation-3656037.shtml

Energy: A tar-nished reputation

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 3/3/09 Section: Opinion

Last week, President Barack Obama met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss energy. The United States and Canada share the largest energy trade partnership in the world, with Canada supplying the United States with more oil and natural gas than any other country. A major point of interest has been the Canadian oil sands, from which Canada is extracting increasing amounts of oil to export to the U.S.

There has been a lot of talk from Obama regarding climate change, environmental protection and clean energy. This has concerned the Canadian government, which wants any climate agreements to exempt their oil sands from regulation. What was Obama’s reaction to this? He folded faster than a caffeinated origamist and agreed that the U.S. and Canada should work together to make the extraction and burning of the oil from the oil sands “clean.” I’ve also heard the tobacco companies are working on a healthy cigarette.

Oil sands production is the dirtiest on Earth. Thousands of acres of forests in Alberta have to be destroyed to get to the oil, and then vast amounts of natural gas need to be used to separate the oil from the sand and clay. The waste from this flows into waterways as toxic sludge. Then we burn the oil. Ironically, since natural gas is used to extract the oil, less of it is shipped from Canada to the U.S.. where it could be used to replace some coal plants and meet America’s growing energy needs. I’d prefer renewables, but natural gas is far cleaner.

This laundry list of environmental crimes is why a Catholic bishop whose diocese includes part of the oil sands released a harsh letter to Canadian oil companies and government leaders. After going into depth about the environmental liabilities I listed above, he concludes that “any one of the above destruction effects provokes moral concern, but it is when the damaging effects are all added together that the moral legitimacy of oil sands production is challenged.”

While Obama and Harper have been tap dancing around oil sands, Mexico has announced one of the boldest plans from developing countries in addressing climate change. A couple of months ago, they put forth an initiative to halve emissions below 2002 levels by 2050 through investments in alternative energy sources and a cap and trade system that puts a price on pollution. They’re working to convert coal and oil plants to natural gas, upgrading their bus fleets and providing strong incentives for forest preservation.

Here’s an idea. Instead of getting tarnished by Canada and shown up by Mexico, Obama should forge a new kind of energy partnership with our neighbors. Negotiate a North American regional climate agreement that eliminates tariffs for clean energy technologies and the products used to make them. At the same time, put a price on pollution from trade that reflects the true cost of activities such as the use of the Canadian oil sands. Share the money generated from this price tag, and use it to invest in new technologies to create jobs, rather than wasting money on trying to make the oil sands clean.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at mdernoga@umd.edu

December 19, 2008

Federal and State Transportation Funds Need New Source

put it to rest!

put it to rest!

One of the reasons why transportation projects are being heavily slashed all over the place is because because the government raises these funds from the gas tax.  During the summer when gas prices rose very high, people cut back heavily on their driving, which caused tax revenues for the state and federal transportation funds to decline.  Then, when we had our ongoing economic crisis in the fall, people cut back on driving even more.  This led to an even sharper drop in revenues.  What we have going on around the country is extreme cuts in transportation with whole projects and fund allocations being slashed.   Not only are states facing the pinch, but the Feds had to pump an emergency 9 billion dollars into the Federal Transportation Fund to keep it running.  For a look at the situation Maryland and Virginia are facing click: Here

Now, there’s a good chance our transportation funding for the states will be bailed out, since Obama’s stimulus package is going to have a strong transportation component.  I have my own views on what kinds of projects should be funded, but I’ll save them for another day.  But the fact of the matter is that our transportation dollars are tied to an unreliable source of revenue.  Even if the economy recovers and people start driving more, gas prices will just go back up again, causing people to drive less.  Ultimately, we’re eventually going to find the cost of gas right back on track to where it was this past summer.  We were just “fortunate” *cough* enough to have the economy blow up.  Unless people and politicians want to be unsure of our transportation funding for the years to come, we need to find a new source for transportation dollars.

There’s another reason why changing the source of funding would be useful.  A lot of transportation advocates, environmental advocates, and politicians talk a lot about increasing access to transit and providing new and improved mass transit.   I think we all would like to reduce our consumption of foreign oil.  Naturally, there is on one hand a strong incentive to take cars off the road, and reduce the amount of gas people use.  On the other hand, the need for funding  from the gas tax for both our roads, as well as all of these transit projects provides a contrary incentive for people to drive more!!! How are we going to actually reduce driving and promote smarter growth if our gas tax forces decisions in favor of more roads and more driving?

This has to change.

So I think there are a couple of ways to go about this, and they’re pretty simple.  This goes for both the feds and the states.

#1.  Keep the gas tax, but have it just go into the general fund that the rest of our tax dollars go to.  Then, draw from the general fund for transportation projects, as opposed to drawing from the separate fund we draw from now that it reliant on the gas tax.

#2.  Just eliminate the gas tax, and provide transportation funding from the general fund.

I know a lot of Americans would like to see an even lower price of gas, as well as one less tax.  However, this would encourage more driving, and increase our use of oil.  So I would support just feeding the gas tax into the general fund.  However, as a compromise, I would be open to looking into just eliminating the gas tax altogether in exchange for unchaining our transportation fund and our gas consumption, and increased funding for mass transit.

That’s my take on the situation.  I will probably write an Op-Ed column next semester related to this issue for my school paper.

November 1, 2008

Vote for Andrew Rice

I wanted to take a moment to write a post to encourage all those who live in Oklahoma to vote for Andrew Rice as your US Senator. This is a race I have been monitoring quite intently. Andrew Rice is a terrific person, he graduated with a religious studies degree, and a masters in theologic studies. In the 1990′s, he traveled to Asia to do missionary work. Over there, he worked on constructing schools, as an AIDS hospice, and substance abuse treatment homes.

However, his brother was killed in the 9/11 attacks, and this was a game-changer for him. He decided to focus on public service to try to better his country. Andrew has been a State Senator since 2006, and has already amassed a fantastic resume, particularly in expanding health insurance for children, pushing to pass a tremendous bill called stephanie’s law, and he has a solid environmental record of pushing for energy conservation, efficiency, and cleaner burning fuels into vehicles.

I’ve paid a lot of attention to the rhetoric coming from Andrew Rice, because he is running in one of the most conservative states in the country. I wanted to see how his positions when it came to energy/environmental issues would change as the days wore on. To my pleasant surprise, he hasn’t backed down a bit. Andrew constantly talks about how climate change is a real serious, urgent problem that we must confront. He refers to the future of his children as a reason he’s running for office- so that he can work to ensure they don’t have live with the effects. He gets it when it comes to green jobs and clean energy. He understands that investing in clean alternatives isn’t only good for the economy, but creates an economic boom with millions of new good paying green jobs. The kinds of jobs that are going to put America’s economy back into contention with the rest of the world. Andrew Rice also recognizes the severe limitations that come with offshore drilling and how little it can address our energy crisis.

This is not to say Andrew and I agree on everything. Coming from a conservative states, he has staked out some moderate to right-leaning positions which you can read about on his website. Additionally, even when it comes to energy he is a strong proponent of natural gas. While I recognize natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil, to me it’s still a dirty fuel, and economically is not our best option. But I can live with that disagreement.

What makes this race even more important is the opponent Rice is facing. James Inhofe, the man who is infamously known for saying on television “global warming is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people” back in 2003. Up until 2006 when the Democrats took over the Senate, Inhofe towered over the Senate’s Environment Committee, doing everything in his power to block any kind of legislation that would serve positively towards the environment, moving away from dirty fuels, or fight climate change. He has a 0% score from the League of Conservation Voters.

If you would like to read an interview with Andrew Rice conducted earlier in the year, go here

I am a realist, Rice is trying to defeat what has been considered a seemingly invincible opponent. The closest poll I’ve seen from this race is Inhofe leading Rice by 9% points. But there was ever a year for it to happen, this is it. Republicans are extremely unpopular, Inhofe has pretty much been lock step with Bush, and people are hungry for a change. There’s also the Obama Factor, as I call it, where it’s likely there will be a massive surge in youth and African American turnout all around the country which will affect races all down the ticket.

Regardless of the outcome, I sense Rice will be a star in American politics in the years to come. But if you live in Oklahoma, vote him into the Senate.

By the way, I just tracked down Inhofe’s contributions from Big Oil and Big Coal over the years. Sicccck

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)

Accepted $607,406 from the oil and gas industry since 2000. $300,548 of those dollars were from industry PACS. Supported the industry in 100% of selected votes.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)

Accepted $321,000 from the coal industry since 2000. $253,750 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

September 21, 2008

Drilled

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:24 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Short post here. At some point I’ll make a longer and in depth post about my opinions on the offshore drilling debate in Washington and in America (namely why it’s a joke and a farce), and also explain my rationale of how environmental groups and Democrats in Congress should go about the politics of it (which is at odds with environmentalists).

However, I found this clip too funny to not share. I was watching a very interesting Senate hearing on energy last weekend. A bipartisan group of Senators brought five of the nations energy experts to a panel to ask questions on how to best move forward with America’s energy policy. Of these experts, one was a member of Shell, three were either professors or heads of institutes, and one was from Google. Of the five, only the guy from google could be considered an environmentalist. He was balanced out by the man from Shell, and the other 3 were pretty much neutral. Now during this hearing, many of the Senator’s questions(particularly the Republicans) were directed at trying to pin the panel into #1. Expressing that offshore drilling should be part of our energy policy, #2. That it should be a priority. Four out of the five were willing to bite on the bait of saying offshore drilling should be part of the energy policy. However, as I know, offshore drilling is so inadequate with meeting our oil consumption and also takes 5-10 years to get oil out of the ground. So it was great when one of the Senators cut through the bullshit and asked a pointed question of his own. Owned.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnJAIeEgjSM

August 20, 2008

$2.25 for a Gallon of Gas?

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 9:59 pm
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Seen This?

Seen This?

Are you paying $2.25 a gallon for gas? Do you expect to be paying this price for gas at any point in the next 10 years? I certainly hope not, or you’ll be pretty disappointed. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is group of knuckleheads responsible for setting our vehicles fuel economy standards for the year 2020. The bare minimum is 35 mpg because of the EISA(Energy Security and Independence Act) passed by Congress last year. But 35 mpg by 2020 really isn’t trying too hard. The car I drive right now gets that, and it isn’t even a hybrid.

So the NHTSA decided to draft an environmental impact statement to determine what the new CAFE standards should be set to. In determining the cost-benefit analysis of the cost of producing more fuel efficient cars that would be passed onto the consumer vs. fuel savings, they determined the price of gas would be $2.25 a gallon in the year 2016. Let me know when you’ve stopped laughing.

Okay so besides that aspiration towards stupidity, they also determined the positive benefit of raising CAFE standards on climate change to be zero because they tried to determine the impact of cutting a little carbon in one sector of the US economy, obviously a smaller part of global emissions, and determined that 100 years from now this would have a negligible impact. Really? Duh! Obviously if you were going to measure ANY single action and the impact it would have on climate change 100 years from now, you’ll find reason to sit on your hands. Apparently the words collective action hasn’t resonated with NHTSA.

NHTSA held a hearing a couple of weeks ago to get public feedback on their plan. The feedback was pretty brutal on them, I attended the hearing, and was fortunate enough to give my own testimony 9th. Of the first 8 ppl, 7 of them completely ripped into the agency. I didn’t lighten up either, below is the testimony I delivered.

“Hi, my name’s Matt Dernoga, and I wanted to first thank the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for holding this hearing and allowing me to give my input on the critical decision of what our CAFE standards target should be set to for the upcoming decade and beyond.
It’s difficult to know where to begin, because I find all of this very perplexing. I find it perplexing that the NHTSA would aspire to only a mere 35 mpg by 2020, the bare minimum of what is required by the Energy Independence and Security Act. I am confused that American automakers would fight raising fuel economy standards given the dire fiscal situation they find themselves in as a direct result of their stubbornness. I don’t understand why the implications CAFE standards have on climate change do not appropriately affect the NHTSA’s decision making. Finally, I am baffled that our new CAFE standards are based on the presumption that the cost of a gallon of gas will only be $2.25 by 2016. I wonder if we are living on the same planet?

I’m going to hazard a guess that there have been hearings like this in the past. That years ago when the NHTSA was considering raising fuel economy standards, they decided against it based on the presumption that gas would the cheap for the opening decade of the 21st century. The NHTSAchose to assume the best, and failed to prepare America for the reality that awaited it. As a result, we have become more dependent on oil than ever before, exporting hundreds of billions of dollars overseas each year with some of it going to hostile countries. Our economy is sputtering since everything costs more as a result of high fuel prices. Businesses are having trouble staying afloat, truckers can no longer make a living, auto companies are posting billions of dollars in losses while cutting jobs, and food prices have risen because of shipping and production costs. Americans find themselves barely able to hold their heads above the rising tide.

The NHTSA is determined to respond to their mess by pushing our heads below that tide, and holding them there. The notion of $2.25 a gallon gas by 2016 is laughable, it’s a joke I could tell in a comedy club. There’s no way that anyone in this room actually thinks this will be the price. I’d be willing to bet anyone any amount that the price is higher. Would anyone here take that bet? The NHTSAis already gambling though. They’re gambling withthe future of our country. Planning our CAFE standards around the assumption of $2.25 a gallon of gas isn’t a game, it’s dangerous. You’re playing Russian Roulette withthe American economy. You’re holding a loaded gun to it’s head and pulling the trigger with the hope that it fires a blank. If you haven’t noticed, our economy, our infrastructure, our lives, and yes our cars are designed on the premise of cheap gas. That has to change, or we will face hardship many times greater than what we’re facing right now.

I know that we can meet higher CAFE standards than 31.6 mpg by 2015. I know this not only because of the NHTSA’s own analysis, but also because I know the strength, determination, and good will of the American people. It’s unnatural for us to aspire to meet only the bare minimum of what is required. That is not the American way. We do not reach for the ceiling, we reach for the stars.

The NHTSAneeds to weigh the risk of being wrong by doing too little versus the reward of doing too much. It also needs to examine it’s conscience and factor in the implications of climate change in it’s decision making. By undertaking those two simple tasks, I have faith that we can do something about CAFE that we have never done before. The right thing. Now or never is a false choice. If you love this country, and if you love your children, the time is now. Thank you. “

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