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Auto Industry: “We Can’t Change, Please Let Us Keep Abusing You”

As far as I’ve read, the auto industry has fought improvements to cut pollution every step of the way — for decades. It consistently brings in the claim that “this will drive down consumer demand and hurt the economy.” The fuel-economy improvements don’t do that.

In fact, US auto consumers so heavily favored more efficient cars that flat-footed, let’s-not-change US auto giants had huge portions of their market share taken away by more-efficient Japanese automakers decades ago.

Fuel efficiency is still an important matter to consumers, but the auto industry wants to convince regulators that more-efficient vehicles will push buyers away. Specifically, the auto industry is lobbying against federal rules that raise the average fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025, via phases that start in 2018.

It’s completely absurd for the industry to say that it can’t meet these targets without hurting demand.

Ford F-150Before going a bit further, here are some interesting words from Steve Hanley on current problems with US fuel economy (CAFE) standards:

The CAFE system has become grossly distorted over the years. For one thing, CAFE numbers are different for different categories of vehicles. The smaller the car, the higher the standard. The larger the vehicle, the lower its fuel economy can be and still comply with EPA targets. The upshot of that piece of bureaucratic brilliance is that Fiat Chrysler has decided to stop making smaller sedans with good fuel economy so it can concentrate on making large trucks and SUV with an outsize appetite for gasoline. The regulations end up encouraging manufacturers to make vehicles that pollute more rather than less. How stupid is that?

For another thing, CAFE numbers are calculated using the old formula. It was discarded years ago as the way to calculate the numbers you see on the window stickers of new cars because it had absolutely no relationship to real world mileage. If CAFE regulations used the more realistic method, the target would be about 20% less — 43.6 mpg instead of 54.5. Building cars that get 43.6 mpg seems fairly doable in a day when many passenger cars already get 35 mpg or better. After all, we are talking about 8 years from now. Surely car companies could find a way to wring 43.6 mpg out of their cars by then?

Getting back to the people who don’t have a problem with human-killing pollution, “John Bozzella, CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, told the EPA and CARB recently he wants the upcoming analysis to review assumptions about fuel prices, consumer preferences, and technologies to see whether the targets are still feasible.”

Still feasible? Still a good idea? Of course not — let’s assume that low gas prices are the most important thing (and will last forever), that surveys on consumer preferences about vehicles they can’t yet imagine are the guiding light forward, and technology just can’t get us to 54.5 mpg (never mind that electric cars are double that based on EPA equivalency ratings).

Steve summarizes so well yet again that I’ll throw another extended quote in here:

The point this debate misses is that we need to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions from passenger vehicles. The car companies are really looking at the world through the wrong end of the telescope. It’s not about selling more and bigger cars that spew more pollution. It is about changing the driving habits of Americans. The lunatic fringe on the right screams about honest businessmen trying to make a living but being balked by heavy handed regulations. That’s not what this is about at all.

What is about is avoiding a climatic catastrophe that will imperil the lives of billions of people.We have to stop dumping the effluent of civilization into our skies, our oceans, and our land. We have to stop injecting billions of gallons of contaminated water into the earth to release a few more molecules of natural gas. We have to stop burning coal. We have to stop selling cars with internal combustion engines. There is no other way.

Steve makes the important point that what we really need to do is make the price of fossil fuels adequately high, rather than massively subsidized like they are today. Indeed. In the meantime, though, CAFE standards certainly should not be weakened, bringing further harm to society.

Photo via autosdeprimera

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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