06 October 2010
Reposted from Jobsanger
In most parts of the world drivers have become accustomed to driving a smaller and more fuel-efficient automobile. They may not be as small as the tiny electric commuter vehicle shown above, but they have accepted that the day of the gas-hog is gone. Not so in the United States.
Americans fell in love with large, powerful, gas-gorging vehicles long ago, and they show no signs of wanting to change that. Even after a couple of gas crises and a Gulf oil disaster, Americans still want their gas-hogs. All you have to do is look around on any city's streets to see that. The most popular vehicles by far are still the large SUVs.
But that has to change soon. The world is fast approaching peak oil (the point at which production drops no matter how much new drilling is done), and some believe we may already be at that point. Whether Americans want to admit it or not, oil is not an unlimited resource and will run out. Refusing to recognize this and make the necessary changes will just set the country up for serious problems in the near future.
With this in mind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released documents yesterday that show the new fuel economy standards that will be expected from the corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) by 2025. The current CAFE goal (average mileage for all cars a company sells) is to be 34.1 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016. The government is wanting to shoot for a mpg figure of between 47 and 62 by the year 2025.
Personally, I agree with the many environmental organizations that say the 47 mpg figure is just too low -- the 62 mpg figure is better and not at all unreachable. There are several advantages to making the figure as high as possible:
* As we approach peak oil, the competition for the remaining oil is going to be fierce and may involve military action. The less oil this country needs, the more secure it will be.
* Using and burning less oil will produce less air pollution and make the air healthier for all of us who have to breathe it -- especially those with asthma and other health problems.
* Burning less oil will also cause less environmental damage -- an important point considering we are nearing the point of no return for global climate change.
* The higher mileage rates will save consumers thousands of dollars over the life of an automobile. Since our politicians don't seem to have the political courage to pursue policies that will create new job creation, this could be very important in a jobless recession that could last for many years.
The NHTSA and the EPA documents say a much larger portion of the car market will have to be devoted to electric and hybrid automobiles. They think to reach the 62 mpg goal, electric cars would need to cover 7% to 14% of the market, and hybrid vehicles would need to make up 55% to 68% of all car sales.
I think those figures are probably too high. That assumes that gas-powered cars have reached the technological limit for fuel efficiency. I don't believe that, although I have no problem with electrics and hybrids taking up a larger market share. I think there is still room for innovation and technological advancement -- regardless of the whining we will undoubtably hear from the auto companies.
It would be a mistake to listen to the negativity and settle for the lower end of the proposed new standards (47 mpg). The 62 mpg goal is achievable and would produce far larger benefits for our society. And there's no real reason the goals couldn't be even higher after 2025.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin