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Bush Administration Seeks Authority to Change Fuel Economy Standards for Cars

The Bush Administration is seeking to restructure the fuel economy standards for passenger cars. Secretary of the Department of Transportation Norman Mineta has sent Congress a letter asking for the authority to reform fuel economy standards for passenger automobiles for the first time, likely using an approach comparable to that applied to the light-duty truck sector in March. (Earlier post.)

The new light truck standards, although in the aggregate only marginally tougher than their predecessors, restructured (“reformed”) the Corporate Average Fuel Economy model to be based on vehicle size and product mix. By 2011, when the revised rules come into force, each automaker will have its own fuel economy standard based on its own product mix.

The DOT views the new reformed truck regulations as providing a structure that reduces fuel consumption, but also “eliminates incentives to make lighter and therefore more dangerous vehicles.” The Administration’s stated rationale is that imposing a uniform high fuel economy bar would incent automakers to skimp, to make lightweight products that would be unsafe in the quest for meeting the target.

DOT will apply the same philosophy to restructuring the passenger car standards.

Our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the technical expertise to regulate fuel economy in a manner that is cost effective, based on sound science and safeguards vehicle occupants. Substantial increases in CAFE standards under the current single standard approach would increase fatalities on America’s highways, raise healthcare costs and reduce employment. As a result, the Administration would oppose any increase in passenger car CAFE standards without corresponding reform.

Congress currently sets the car standards, which are 27.5 mpg. Any change in CAFE, starting from this point, would be initiated at the earliest in MY 2008, and would phase in gradually to a target date. In short, the request will bring no tangible relief in the short-term.

Bipartisan reaction to the request was somewhat tepid. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) a longtime booster of higher mileage standards, said Mineta’s letter was a good sign but represented a weak commitment. (AP).

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) said, “I only hope folks understand these actions will have no near-term effect on rising gas prices. The American people deserve real solutions, not a bunch of smoke and mirrors.” (AP)

Comments

Joseph Willemssen

Great - another scam to actually do nothing and claim they're doing something. Gotta like the fear-mongering about "dangerous light cars", too.

patrick

Lighter vehicles of the same size as their heavier counterparts can easily be just as safe for the occupants and result in vehicles safer for those in the other vehicle.

wintermane

No the point is with the old way many compnaies disign deathtraps to pull thier fleet average up while still being able to sell very safe heavy trucks to luxury markets.

By changing the standard you prevent that and can fine toon the milage reqs for each size of car.

Good example a large car can stand to loose more weight and keep its safety then a small car.

Robert Schwartz

CAFE is proof, as if any were needed, that no policy can fail badly enough to be abandonded by politicians.

Joseph Willemssen

CAFE is proof, as if any were needed, that no policy can fail badly enough to be abandonded by politicians.

Nothing wrong with fuel economy standards. What is wrong is when you start monkeying with them by having two categories, exempting some vehicles entirely, then splitting the two categories into subcategories.

Don't blame the idea because the people who implement it do it with malintent.

wintermane

The cafe system was a pile a festering crap from the start as it didnt take into concideration the lineup the company sold. It treated each company the same.. it was the same as if you made one stupid nitwit moronfest of a group come up with a sengle standard for calulators rhought to high end pcs. Think thats silly.. well guess what awhile back some morons tried to do just that and they were just that damn clueless.

Andrey

I can understand conserns for decreasing weight of small passenger cars - there are and will be too much 2-ton begemoths on American roads. But opposing weight reductuin of killer-heavyweight "light" trucks - how stupid this government and nation could be?

shaun

heavy cars are more dangerous for everyone else on the road. car companies should be incentivised to reduce weight. a single uniform fuel efficieny standard for anything using public roads would be safest for all of humanity, instead of diferentially protecting people in trucks while increasing risk to people who choose lighter vehicles

dan

Gotta agree with the first post, from Joseph... another "do nothing" scam from the White House. But they need to give it a good name like, "Freedom Standards", or "Clean Standards", or maybe something like, "Righteous Standards".

Mark A

There is one obvious thing the lawmakers could to to save gas, and lower everyones fuel bill. It was implemented in the early seventies. Its the national 55 mph speed limit. I am no proponent of it, but it appears that everyone wants to be regulated into saving gas, and lowering their expenses, and not doing it on their own. This 55 speed limit would be one way. Although I dont know how it would be enforced. With our deteriorating interstate system, this would kinda of fit, as alot of times I feel I am going too fast for the road I am driving on, due to the road being too rough or unsafe.

Mark A

As a followup to my earlier national 55 mph speed limit post, it would be one way for George Bush and the republicans to show the democrats and the world that it is doing something about high fuel costs. Everyone seems to think they are doing nothing but conforming to big oil. The president cannot just snap his fingers, and we all have low fuel/energy costs. These things have to be developed. But everyone should form their own opinion about what is being done. You cannot regulate inspiration.

t

At a time when we are experiencing a perceived crisis in gas prices, the administration wants to make our standards even laxer. If so called death traps are a concern, let's do everything we can to minimize the number of large vehicles, not small vehicles.

If they are so concerned about death traps, then why aren't they banning all those SUVs which have a tendency to rollover.

stomv

Mark A:

You have to understand that the Bush administration has never asked for a single sacrifice from Americans. Going to war? Let's lower taxes for the first time in wartime history! Cheney laughed off conservation as a strategy years ago.

I agree that lowering highway speed limits would have an immediate, effective impact. However, it would involve asking people to sacrifice for the common good, and that's something that this administration isn't willing to do.

wintermane

The reason the 55 law was repealed is alot of places its dangerous very dangerous. It also didnt save fuel and cost lives.

Generaly speaking those roads rated 65 mph are rated that because its the right speed to eb going on that road.

Also alot of cars even today preform better and get BETTER fuel econ at 65 then they do at 55 because of the overdrive gear.

bob

Andrey, I guess we should build 18 wheelers like tin cans too?

Reform doesn't happen overnight people. When's the last time any of you checked your tire pressure? Unfortunately this is often the most overlooked thing with maintaining a car, that can significantly affect gas mileage.

ed

I get better gas mileage and lower emmissions out of my 1990 Mustang LX 5.0L "gas guzzler" than many people get out of their 4 cylinder econoboxes that claim to be earth friendly. My emmissions are better than my wife's 2003 Camry and gas mileage is only marginally less.

Mark_H

".. alot of cars even today preform better and get BETTER fuel econ at 65 then they do at 55 because of the overdrive gear."

Keep dreaming.

ed

Mark H... I think you might be wrong. An engine is going to perform best at it's most efficient powerband range. Often this is between 1800-2000 RPM. All depending upon vehicle gearing, a vehicle could be more efficient at 65 than 55.

Prius for me

"I get better gas mileage and lower emmissions out of my 1990 Mustang LX 5.0L "gas guzzler" than many people get out of their 4 cylinder econoboxes that claim to be earth friendly. My emmissions are better than my wife's 2003 Camry and gas mileage is only marginally less."

From fueleconomy.gov:
1990 Ford Mustang 8 cyl, 4.9 L, epa 17/25 mpg,
9.2 emission tons vs.
2003 Toyota Camry 4 cyl, 2.4 L, epa 23/32 mpg,
6.9 emission tons

ed, it looks like that extra gas guzzler CO2 is lodged between your ears- nevertheless, you can always reward yourself with a burnout..

Mark_H

"Mark H... I think you might be wrong. An engine is going to perform best at it's most efficient powerband range. Often this is between 1800-2000 RPM. All depending upon vehicle gearing, a vehicle could be more efficient at 65 than 55."

Yes, I might be wrong, I'll allow that.

This 'gearing' issue seems to imply that there is a gear that you can use at 65 that you can't use at 55. "Gee, I'd like to shift into 'overdrive' but I'm going too slow. Guess I'll have to speed up to save some gas."

Concrete, real-world examples, please.

stomv

The "safer at 65 than 55" is nonsense. It was raised then, and debunked then.

The argument is that driving at 55 results in boredom, and hence an increased probability of getting into an accident. Additionally, since some people speed, the differential between the speeders and the law-abiders is increased, thereby increasing the probability and danger of an accident.

The first claim is simply wrong. Debunked. The second one is easily solved: start writing speeding tickets. Hell, take the extra revenue generated, and after using it to pay for the extra time from State Troopers and the sign replacement, invest it in more fuel saving measures!

Joseph Willemssen

The president cannot just snap his fingers, and we all have low fuel/energy costs.

Well, actually he could. He could do a ton of things he isn't doing.

NBK-Boston

The fuel-economy loss that drivers face when cruising at faster speeds is caused by two factors: 1. Missing the optimum engine powerband. 2. Wind resistance.

Depending on engine and transmission characteristics, the first factor might in fact be optimized at a higher speed, perhaps somewhere around 65 mph instead of around 55 mph. I don't know how each particular car model stacks up, nor do I even know if there was/is an industry regulation making manufacturers set their overdrive-gear optimum point at 55 mph. This is usually the less important factor, however.

Wind resistance is a function of the shape of the car (swoopy designs like the Prius and the old EV1 have particularly low drag coefficients) and a function of the square of the speed.

That is: (Fd) = (0.5)x(p)x(Cd)x(A)x(v^2), where Fd is force of drag, p is density of the fluid, Cd is the coefficient of drag (a dimensionless constant which depends of the shape of the vehicle), A is the cross-sectional surface area of the vehicle (again, tied to the specific design of the car) and v is the velocity of the vehicle. Basically, if you do the math, you'll find that crusing at 65 mph creates 39% more drag than cruising at 55 mph. No matter how well-tweaked your gearing ratios are, that's a lot of extra resistance to overcome, and a big drag on fuel economy. That's why a moderate cruising speed is such a simple yet effective fuel economy measure.

See http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml for a generalized graph of fuel economy vs. cruising speed, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_resistance for a discussion of air resistance.

rj

"In terms of overall deaths, removing the lightest vehicles is a significantly more beneficial option than removing the heavier vehicles, and 'putting occupants of heavier cars into lighter cars would actually lead to more deaths' (p5). They conclude that more effort needs to be made in protecting vehicle occupants in all types of vehicles rather than focussing on vehicle incompatibility issues. This improves the outcome for occupants in most crashes, including single-vehicle crashes."

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3927/is_200303/ai_n9232928/pg_9

Ron Fischer

Putting weight into CAFE only mandates weight. If the concern is higher mileage cars are less safe why not mandate safety & higher mileage together?

Eliminating CAFE also solves the problem... by putting the burden on consumers. They will either drive less or sell/buy their cars more often in search of higher efficiency.

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