The Dernogalizer

May 28, 2009

China Raises MPG

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 4:30 pm
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A couple weeks ago, the US raised fuel economy standards, with the new standard for the average of the fleet being 35.5 mpg, and for passenger cars 39 mpg for 2016.  It appears China is about to step up its game and increase its fuel economy standards as well.  China already gets the equivalent of 35.8 mpg for the average of the fleet, and well be boosting that to 42.2 mpg in 2015.  This is still in the proposed planning stages, but once there is comment from Chinese automakers, it’s very likely this will be the new standard.  The article I linked above gives very good insight into how China’s system is different than ours, and what the effect of these new standards will likely be.  Also, one shallow criticism I have seen of the new US fuel economy standards is that people will be driving lighter, smaller cars, therefore risking our safety.  There are a lot of holes in that argument, and I noticed an article on a new study in Europe where smaller cars earned top safety marks.  I reject the notion that safety vs fuel economy is a choice we have to make.  Have your cake, eat it too(otherwards translated as getting off of foreign oil imports and combating global warming).  

” Worried about heavy reliance on imported oil, Chinese officials have drafted automotive fuel economy standards that are even more stringent than those outlined by President Obamalast week, Chinese experts with a detailed knowledge of the plans said on Wednesday.”

“Cars with small fuel-sipping engines are now subject to a 1 percent sales tax, while sports cars and sport utility vehicles with the largest engines are subject to a 40 percent sales tax. Stricter fuel economy standards have won support from four interest groups within the Chinese government, said a Chinese government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.”

“Adjusting for these differences is difficult and controversial. Mr. An estimated that the average new car, minivan or sport utility vehicle in China already gets the equivalent of 35.8 miles a gallon this year based on the American measurement system of corporate averages and will be required to get 42.2 miles a gallon in 2015.”

“The details of China’s new fuel economy standards may favor domestic automakers at the expense of multinationals, several auto industry officials said. That is because the new rules call for the steepest increases in fuel economy — as much as 26 percent — for midsize and compact cars, market segments where multinationals are strong. Subcompacts, a market where domestic automakers are stronger, will be required to increase their gas mileage by as little as 9 percent compared with the existing standards, which took effect on Jan. 1.”

May 23, 2009

What a Week

This has by my account been a very good week for the environmental movement.  First fuel economy standards were toughened by the Obama administration.  Then, a story  broke about how the US and China were closing in on a climate deal between the two, just in time for Copenhagen.  Finally, the Waxman-Markey climate bill passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which was quite a hurdle.  Now obviously there is still a whole lot to be accomplished.  While the new fuel economy standards are welcome, they could certainly be higher.  While the US and China and closing in on a deal, how good of a deal that will be, and whether or not it’s reached before the end of the year remains to be seen.  The climate bill has gotten one obstacle out of the way, but it still has many more to go, and it could definitely be stronger.  However, it’s important we take note of good things when they happen.  The editorial in the NY Times today does just that.  Some notable excerpts are posted below.

For anyone eager to see the United States take a serious leadership role on the issue of global warming, this week was enormously encouraging.”

“In fairly short order, President Obama and a Democratically controlled Congress have made the lassitude and indifference of the Bush years seem like ancient history. And they have greatly improved the prospects that American negotiators will arrive at the next round of global climate negotiations in Copenhagen with a credible strategy in hand and with the leverage to encourage other major emitters like China to get cracking.”

“Critics says these and other provisions are too generous to polluters, and in truth the bill is not as strong as it should be. But anything more might well fail, as other bills have failed, and then the country would be back to Square 1. As it is, the bill represents an ambitious first step toward a solution too long delayed for a problem too long denied.”

May 18, 2009

Breaking News: 39 mpg standard by 2016!

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










November 25, 2008

John Dingell Ousted!

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:19 am
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I’m a couple days behind the news on this one, but it’s certainly worth mentioning. Here’s an interesting article in case you want more background

For anyone who doesn’t know, Democrat John Dingell of Michigan has been one of the most powerful members of Congress, and held his seat for well over half a century. He used to be the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Dingell is one of the main reasons why environmental and climate legislation has been so difficult to pass in the House. He “protected” the auto industries fro decades from improved CAFE standards, and emissions standards. Ironically enough, he’s probably one of the main reasons why the auto industry has been driven into the ground. Dingell’s chairmanship was challenged by Henry Waxman of California, a Congressman who has been much more proactive on energy and environmental legislation. Just having Democrats in control of Congress isn’t enough. We need to have the right Democrats in charge of the right committees. I’m looking forward to seeing how things change in 2009 with Henry Waxman as the new chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

It’s about time John Dingell got what he deserved.

November 24, 2008

Should We Bailout the Automakers?

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:59 am
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Bail Me Out So I Can Produce More of These!

Bail Me Out So I Can Produce More of These!

That’s pretty much the main question dominating a lot of the news at this point. In my opinion, they should only be bailed out on one condition, and that is a mandate to put out top of the line fuel efficient cars. No more of these monster trucks. Sadly, it doesn’t look like the Big 3 are willing to do that. I’ve always had a very sour taste in my mouth when it comes to these guys.

I remember a few years back the CEO’s being asked on TV about the debate over CAFE standards, and whether or not their companies would be willing to put out more fuel efficient cars. They all spewed out their “oh, regulations will be bad for that, lets just let the market tell us which cars to produce”. Well boys, the market has spoken loud and clear. This is why I’m really realllly tempted to just say to them “if the free market is so important to you when times are good, then why should it matter any less when times are bad?”. I become even more tempted to watch them go under when you look at what they’re doing right now. Every time I’m watching TV I see a commercial for some over sized SUV that few people want or need, and the people on the commercial telling me confidently how this car gets a stunning 24 mpg highway. There’s no reason we should be bailing out anyone trying to sell us that. Of course it gets even worse when you look at the incredible salaries these CEO’s are getting while they drive their companies into the ground. And did you guys have to show up to Congress to beg for money in private jets? I hope the PR person was fired for that one.

So there’s all these reasons why I have little sympathy for the companies. My only real concern is the workers, and how the collapse of these guys will affect the economy. We’re talking about millions of jobs here, and in an economy as weak at ours, we can’t afford that kind of a rise in unemployment. There’s also the issue of fuel efficient cars. The foreign automakers might be better, but they aren’t perfect. It could be very beneficial for us if we bail out these companies, and then in return force them to produce cars with far higher fuel economy. It could be a crucial way to help solve our foreign oil dependency, while at the same time saving millions of jobs.

So these would be my conditions. For starters, there’s already 25 billion dollars allocated for the production of more fuel efficient cars. That money shouldn’t be touched for anything else, so we’re not tapping into that. I’d prefer to use the money from the 700 billion $$ already allocated, but either way would do. I’d support us dropping them a lifeline of up to 50 billion dollars, with a few simple conditions. Only 5% of cars produced can be trucks and SUVS. Average CAFE standards automatically raise to 30 mpg, and they rise by 5 mpg every 3 years. Also, more than 50% of cars produced must have hybrid technology. Sounds fair to me.

Obviously I’m living a pipe dream though, but those are the only conditions under which I would support a bailout.

September 16, 2008

Be Gone Gas Guzzlers

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:34 am
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Heres my weekly column that’s out today about fuel economy standards, who’s setting them, and how they’re planning on doing it.


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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