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House Energy Committee Shoots Down Increases in Fuel Efficiency

During its deliberations on the provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday rejected a proposal to increase average fuel efficiency (CAFE standard) 20% by 2014. That proposal would have raised the CAFE standard for cars from the current 27.5 mpg to 33 mpg.

Opposition to the proposal was bi-partisan; the measure failed by a vote of 36–10.

As it currently exists, there is no language in the House Bill requiring any improvement in fuel efficiency standards—only a tepid proposal for the “study” of the issue. (Title VII, Sub-title E, Sec. 774).

The committee also rejected by a vote of 39–12 another proposal to reduce national oil consumption by 1 million barrels per day from the projected levels by 2013. (That proposal was even very careful to specify no mandated increase in CAFE standards.)

Separately, the EIA released an analysis of the impact of the package of energy proposals the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) issued last December. The privately-funded commission is a group of energy experts, company executives and government officials from both political parties.


Although NCEP did not specify a specific increase in CAFE standards among its recommendations, the EIA based its analysis on a 36% increase by 2015.

The current CAFE standard is 27.5 mpg for cars and 21.0 mpg for light trucks. A 36% increase results in efficiency levels of 37.5 mpg for cars and 30.3 mpg for light trucks by 2015. When considered alone without any other policies, the increase in CAFE standards would, according to the EIA:

  • Reduce petroleum consumption by 0.61 million barrels per day (2.5%) in 2015 and by 1.61 million barrels per day (5.8 percent) in 2025 from the reference case.

  • Lower the projected import share of petroleum products supplied falls from 62.4 percent to 61.6 percent in 2015 and from 68.4 percent to 67.1 percent in 2025.

  • Reduce CO2 emissions by 79 million metric tons (1.1%) in 2015 and 242 million metric tons (2.8% in 2025.

  • Result in an increase in the average price of new light-duty vehicles of about $1,400 in 2015 and $1,200 in 2025 (2003 dollars).

The entire NCEP policy package would cost the average American household about $78 annually through 2025, according to the analysis, while also addressing greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

In other committee activity yesterday, the House Resources Committee voted to allow oil companies to drill in ANWR. As noted here earlier (post), the EIA also calculated that in the mean case, oil production from ANWR would peak at around 870,000 barrels per day in 2024.

So, looked at another way, the 36% increase in fuel economy standards would reduce consumption by some 1.61 million barrels per day in 2025. Drilling in ANWR could produce 870,000 barrels per day by 2024.

Between the two, which policy approach seems to make more sense?

The submissions from the different House committees will roll up into the House’s final energy bill, to be considered soon. Whatever results from the House vote will still have to be reconciled with the different energy legislation in the Senate that is still being written. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote on its chamber’s bill next month.




You have to look at this issue like a corporate whore or a Rapturist. Efficiency standards cost corporations money and help to make an easy transition to alternative/renewable energy that doesn't require wars for oil. A corporate whore will stop getting money if corporations have to pay for higher efficiency standards, and how, exactly, is the Rapture supposed to happen if there's no reason for war in the oil rich Mideast?

When you put it that way it makes total sense. Of course, to think like that you need to have your head where solar power is unviable.


(note: the "analysis" link seems broken)

I'm disapointed by this news of course. I suppose I'll have to email the California memebers ... but between you and me, I'm not sure that CAFE is doing it, with either 27 or 33 mpg way out in 2014.

I mean, the difference between the 70's and now is that we have a lot of good "efficiency" choices on the market, but people choose their inefficient cars, regardless.

At the low end there are things like the Echo (35/42), and at the high end there are things like the the Mercedes E320 CDI (27/37). Both of those beat the 2014 goal today.

It's a cultural problem ... somehow a Mercedes E320 CDI has to out-cool a Hummer (four of which I saw on the road yesterday, as I rode my bike).


Link fixed, thanks.

I agree with you on the consumer/cultural aspect. That has to change, or certain members of the House will be able to justify actions such as their vote on this CAFE proposal by continuing to be able to make statements such as:

“People are driving around in big cars because they like them, because they feel safe,” said Democrat John Dingell of Michigan.

“You’ll never get your soccer moms and soccer kids in there,” said Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan, referring to the feared subcompact vehicles. “It’s not what Americans want.”

As a counterpoint to those two, here’s a quote from Rep. Bartlett (who is not a member of the Energy Committee). Bartlett is the member from Maryland who made the presentation on Peak Oil to Congress last month.

“If we are now not liked around the world, we will be hated around the world when they recognize that we have used up, in our profligate use of oil, a resource that they need to industrialize their countries.”

Mikhail Capone

Yes it is a cultural thing, but it didn't spring up from nowhere. Carmakers have spent BILLIONS in marketing and advertising to get people to think that they need certain things and to prefer certain types of vehicles (the ones that they have the biggest margin on).

It could be changed if there was any will to do it, because the resources are there. It's a problem of willpower.


Why does it always have to be Evil-Halliburton and Evil-Bush-Hitler-Monkey? Why do you have to condescend to everyone who has a different world view. Oh, yes. I remember. You're "tolerant."

How would you feel if it turned out that the regulations were just poorly drafted? The article said that there was bi-partisan opposition to the legislation. There is a good representation of staunch environmentalists on the committee. You have just turned a large segment away from being able to think clearly about the subject. It is clear thought that will bring about changes in our industrial and social infrastructure, not emotional reactionism or politically charged name calling.


Wow, is Count0 an ancient Gibson reference? ;-) I used to program using a 5ms "count zero interrupt" so I get it ...

I'll cop a to a little of the condescention, but it isn't because I think the cars or people are bad, it's just because I think they are a little out of sync with the times, and need to catch up.

There are lots of (more) appropriate choices today. And pretty much whatever you drive, your next car can do better.


Yes it is a WG reference. That means that I am a l33t h4x0r. w0000t! I just can't stand the way that most people who are progressive on environmental issues are rude and condescending to people who are not. I am not a big environmentalist. But I am a pragmatist. I think that there are practical gains to be made economically and socially by reforming our culture and industries' views on the transportation infrastructure.

With negative, off the cuff comments like Paul's you can turn a good deal of people like me away very quickly.


The part about the lost opportunity re:CAFE standards that really frosts my cookies is that the higher standards would likely be a good thing for the US car companies. Without that legal prod, they'll drag their feet on efficiency, and our friends from Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Kia, Hundai, et al. will gobble up even more of the US market.

Just once I'd like to hear an American car company CEO say, "Change the rules? Jack up the CAFE standards? No problem. We can out-compete anyone, anywhere, anytime." Instead, they and our elected representatives have to be dragged kicking and screaming through every inch of progress.

Look at the GCC front page right now and check out that Mazda Demio, or look up a Scion xA or the '06 Civic. Those are all cars I would very serious consider buying, and if the Civic still has a hybrid available (very highly likely), they'll get my money about a year from now. Why can't American companies design, build, and sell cars with that level of efficiency, style, resale value, quality, and ride, and do it here in the US???


The problem is with the cafe standard itself. Because of the way its calced the industry has to fight against it even when most of thier line already beats it because all thier lines cant meet the standard because of the tasks those lines perform. They also cant be sure how the public will sawy year to year and they can ONLY sell what the public will buy from them.

Musclecars apeal to young males who happen to be a BIG market and a vital one.

Roomy big trucks appeal to moms and dads with lots of little terrors.

Anyway rather then spend money of gas engine eff the car makers would rather spend money on hybrid and hydrogen tech and backfill gas engine tech with barrowed bits and peices others have come up with. Its much much much cheaper for them and its far better in the long run.


You know, European operations of American car companies have lots of options that us "green car" types would love. The argument has been that American buyers don't want them. Of course, those cars are never offered here, and we don't know for sure.

Instead ... well it is easy to sell power and performance in a short television commercial ... just call out the horsepower, the zero to sixty time ... and you're done. I think that appeal does work, and not just for young males. It presses the easy buttons.

The really bizzare thing to me is that every car category seems to be heading toward 6 sec 0-60 times. I can see that in a true sports car that handles ... but it seems pointless (and even dangerous) in a comfort car with a soft suspension.

(this has been my morning ramble)


I agree with Odograph on the performance excesses built into so many cars these days. I'm a performance freak myself, but the reality is that there are few opportunities in today's world to enjoy that kind of performance. Most cities and highways now are just too crowded.

So many hybrids are now proclaiming that they strike a balance between performance and economy. But do you really need a Honda Accord hybrid to run 0-60 in 7 secs? Would 9 be sufficient? And how much could the mpg increase if you backed off on the performance by that amount? My Honda Insight does 0-60 in about 10 secs. and gets 50 mpg at 80 mph. That's plenty of performance to squirt through most traffic (well, the tiny size helps, too!).


When your daily commute has you merging with 18 wheelers doing 90 going 0-60 in 6 seconds is rather useful;/ Specialy when those 18 wheelers are driven by drug addled ex mental pateients with the common sense of adolf hitler and the people skills of gengis kaun. And those are the polite ones!


It always kills me the way average comsumers seem to covet high power cars when on my daily commute I must go up what is called "Beacon Hill" (Route 1 in Norhtern Virginia) and I see all these +300 HP S-P-O-R-T-S C-A-R-S lumbering up this modest grade at 30 mph when the speed limit is 45 as I brake to go around them in my fuel efficient 4 banger -- what a waste when most high powered idioits can't and/or don't drive to keep up with the flow of traffic -- if they can't handle the HP then let them at least get 40 miles to the gallon!


It always kills me the way average comsumers seem to covet high power cars when on my daily commute I must go up what is called "Beacon Hill" (Route 1 in Norhtern Virginia) and I see all these +300 HP S-P-O-R-T-S C-A-R-S lumbering up this modest grade at 30 mph when the speed limit is 45 as I brake to go around them in my fuel efficient 4 banger -- what a waste when most high powered idioits can't and/or don't drive to keep up with the flow of traffic -- if they can't handle the HP then let them at least get 40 miles to the gallon!


wintermane - my two cars both turn basically 6 sec 0-60s. I have a Honda S2000 and a Subaru WRX Wagon. Based on the experience of those cars I have a few comments:

1. I can't remember a time when I needed to flog them at full throttle to escape something, as a safety issue. In fact, I'm usually trying resist the urge to flog them more than I need to.

2. You need good handling and braking if you are going to use that 0-60. I really consider the WRX unbalanced and near-unsafe. Any driver that does not use considerable restraint is going to hurt someone. The current trend in making every car on earth turn a 6 sec 0-60 is very scary for this reason.

3. Based on all the cars I've driven, a sub 10 sec 0-60 makes something routinely drivable, and something around 7.5 sec makes for spirited driving, 6 sec or lower starts to get scary-fast.

4. When I DO flog 'em there aren't many people keeping up. Most people are seduced by those television ads, and drive around as if they had a 7-10 sec 0-60 car. That's a good thing given their cars handling and their average skills.

(I plan on replacing the Subaru with a fuel-sipper of some kind, and keeping the S2000 as an occasional car.)

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