Implications of new vehicle fuel efficiency standards

The Obama administration has just imposed a new corporate average fuel economy mandate (CAFE) that would require an American company’s fleet of automobiles and light trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The stated rationale for these strict standards is to reduce U.S. oil imports and to limit emissions of carbon dioxide.

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) said of these new standards:

“This is an undemocratic, dangerous, and costly decision. The Obama administration’s heavy-handed regulation overrides American’s automobile preferences and imposes the choices of unelected bureaucrats on consumers.

Forcing ever-higher fuel economy mandates will lead to less safe cars and more automobile fatalities and injuries, according to leading safety experts. The problem with downsizing cars, according to the International Institute for Highway Safety, is that ‘smaller, lighter vehicles generally are less protective of their occupants in crashes.

Because the fuel economy mandate drives up the price of cars and trucks, millions of hard-working Americans will be priced out of the market..

 The federal government has a responsibility to provide information about fuel economy, but not the responsibility to dramatically limit people’s automobile choices because of the administration’s anti-fossil fuel agenda.”

The federal government estimates that these stricter standards will increase the price of a new car by about $3,000, a price at which the National Automobile Dealers Association said will price about 7 million potential customers out of the market. Other estimates place the additional cost at as much as $4,800 per car.

To be more fuel efficient, cars and light trucks will have to be smaller, lighter, and less crash-worthy.

An article in American Products American Power, a trade group, notes the grim statistics:

“In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences reported that the down weighting and downsizing that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some of which was due to fuel economy standards, probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993. A study at Harvard and the Brookings Intuition found that downsizing vehicles was associated with a 14- to 27 percent increase in occupant fatality risk. This means that between 41,000 and 125,000 people have died because of these fuel economy mandates.”

The new mandate will make cars even more dangerous.

The premise that the mandate will reduce U.S. oil imports is flawed because it is the federal government itself that limits production of our abundant domestic resources. Lifting the government-imposed bans on exploration and production would reduce our imports.

That premise is also flawed because we find that people who own more-fuel efficient cars tend to drive more, thus at least partially negating the expected drop in total fuel consumption.

Where did the number 54.5 mpg come from? That is the number the Obama administration estimates would be necessary to cut vehicle carbon dioxide emissions in half according to the Arizona Daily Star.

This is all part of Obama’s war on fossil fuels and the carbon dioxide – global warming hoax. A few years ago, using IPCC figures, I calculated the alleged temperature rise supposedly caused by emissions of a family car. The result was three one-hundred-billionths of a degree C.

Under that assumption, if we were to replace our entire fleet of about 250 million vehicles (estimate from DOT) with vehicles that had half the current CO2 emissions, it could possibly prevent a theoretical warming of 0.00035 degrees C. Wow, that’s really worth it don’t you think?

See also:

A Modest Proposal: Triple Your Carbon Footprint

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

Electricity generated by wind power may raise temperatures and costs

Which Vehicles Are Most Energy Efficient?

See why attempts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions  will have no effect on global temperature:

Which comes first, rise in global CO2 or rise in global temperature?

Ethanol fuel, not as green as you may think

Recently I’ve been seeing television ads promoting use of ethanol. The ethanol industry is founded solely on the myth that we must reduce our use of fossil fuels, even though the U.S. has abundant supplies. The feds have bought into that myth and have rewarded the ethanol industry with more than $25 billion in federal handouts. Big agribusiness, such as Archer Daniels Midland have been promoting ethanol use. But ethanol is not as green as alleged.

Energy Efficiency

Currently, seasonal gasoline is 10% ethanol, but E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) is being touted as a solution to our dependence on foreign petroleum sources. Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline. Consumer Reports (Oct., 2006) tested E85 in a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV (flexible fuel vehicle). CR found that E85 delivered 27% lower mileage compared to gasoline in the same vehicle. The Tahoe traveled 300 miles on a tank of E85 compared with 440 miles on gasoline, so you will have to fill the tank more often with E85. Use of the E85 fuel will cost more than gasoline to get the same energy output (depending on relative price). Because of the way Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards are structured, more large, gas-guzzling vehicles are being built as FFVs. The result is that use of E85 has actually increased national gasoline usage by about 1%.   The energy budget of ethanol is under debate. Some studies show that ethanol takes 30% more energy to produce than the ethanol contains. For instance, a study at Berkeley (Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14:1, 65-76), on the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn, switch grass, and wood biomass, as well as for producing biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants, concluded that corn ethanol requires 29% more fossil energy than the fuel produced; switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.  


Health Implications 

Use of E85 in vehicles poses a significant health risk according to a study from Stanford University. The study found:  


that E85 vehicles reduce atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increase two others-formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline. However, in some parts of the country, E85 significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog.

Inhaling ozone-even at low levels-can decrease lung capacity, inflame lung tissue, worsen asthma and impair the body’s immune system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die each year from ozone and other chemicals in smog.

E85 increased ozone-related mortalities in the United States by about 200 deaths per year compared to gasoline, with about 120 of those deaths occurring in Los Angeles These mortality rates represent an increase of about 4 percent in the U.S. and 9 percent in Los Angeles above the projected ozone-related death rates for gasoline-fueled vehicles in 2020.

Environmental Concerns 

It takes 1,700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol according to a Wall Street Journal report of a Cornell study. A study from Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that “the most water-efficient energy sources are natural gas and synthetic fuels produced by coal gasification. The least water-efficient energy sources are fuel ethanol and biodiesel.”  
Corn ethanol, produced in any quantity to make a difference in oil imports, will take massive amounts of land, destroy habitat and forests, and threaten our food supply.  

The Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that it would take 546 million acres of U.S. farmland to replace all of our current gasoline use with corn ethanol. Currently, the U.S. has 440 million acres under cultivation to produce all our food and fiber. [Source]     

“In 1997, the U.S. GAO found that the ethanol production process produces more nitrous oxide and other powerful greenhouse gases than does gasoline production. A decade later, Colorado scientists Jan Kreider and Peter Curtiss concluded that carbon dioxide emissions in the production cycle are about 50 percent higher for ethanol than for traditional fossil fuels.” [Source, Ethanol: Unintended Consequences]

Ethanol is for drinking, not for burning.




EPA fuel standards costly and ineffective

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed increasing fuel mileage standards for motor vehicles from the current 30.2 mpg for passenger car fleets to 35.5 mpg by 2016. Their rationale for this increase (so they say) is twofold: reduce carbon dioxide emissions and thus forestall temperature rise; and reduce our total consumption of petroleum products. The fuel standards will fail on both counts.

The proposed fuel mileage standard will have no measurable effect on temperature according to Dr. John Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Alabama’s State Climatologist. Christy testified before Congress last year on California’s proposed vehicle emission reduction of 26% (equivalent to a 43 m.p.g. standard). Christy’s research found that such a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would have a theoretical temperature impact of “no more than 0.01 °C by 2100.” “…if the entire world adopted and adhered to this legislation, the net effect would be less than 0.04°C by 2100. As an atmospheric scientist who regularly publishes temperature records for specific regions as well as the globe, I can assure you this level of impact is too small to be detected. Global temperatures change by more than this from day to day.”

Added to that, there is evidence that better fuel mileage will not result in lower total fuel consumption. Department of Transportation data show that as automobiles become more fuel efficient, each car is driven more miles, so that there is actually no reduction in total fuel use.

Various estimates claim the more efficient vehicles will cost consumers about $1,000 to $1,500 more per vehicle and cost the auto companies $52 billion to comply. For 100,000 miles of driving, the new standards would save 495 gallons of fuel per vehicle. Depending on gasoline price, the owner may or may not recover the additional purchase price cost.

There is another consideration. The first vehicle fuel standards were imposed by the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program, better known as CAFE. We have seen since that time that the more fuel efficient vehicles tend to be smaller, and smaller vehicles tend to be more dangerous in crashes with larger vehicles. A 2002 National Academy of Sciences study concluded that increases in CAFE contributed to between 1,300 and 2,600 more deaths in a single representative year, and to 10 times that many serious injuries. A 1989 Brookings-Harvard study estimated that CAFE caused a 14 to 27 percent increase in occupant fatalities-an annual toll of 2,200 to 3,900 deaths. A 1999 USA Today analysis concluded that, over its lifetime, more restrictive fuel standards had resulted in 46,000 additional fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that every 100-pound reduction in the weight of small cars increases annual traffic fatalities by as much as 715.

The EPA seems to ignore science and history. Is it blinded by a political agenda?

The cost of increased fuel economy standards is high in both money and lives, but it may give false comfort to those afflicted with “green guilt.”