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.”

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.

September 21, 2008


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

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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