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President Obama wants to make gas guzzling vehicles go extinct with tough new CAFE rules.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) is concerned the bill could cost American jobs.  (Source: Rick Snyder via Flickr)

The standard could also lead to more crash deaths, as automakers say such standards lead to cuts in material density and safety features to save on weight. The resulting cars are more fragile.  (Source: Car Insurance Comparison)
Plan would save on pollution, oil costs, but could increase vehicle costs, job losses, and accident deaths

The debate over the next Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard (set to run from 2017 to 2025) has just begun, and the political posturing appears to be in full effect.  From Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood to Senators and governors, everyone was expressing vocal thoughts about the "rough draft" of standards that United States President Barack Obama's (D) advisors unveiled on Monday.

I. 56 MPG = Lost Jobs?

Given that much of America is still recovering from recession, the topic of job loss is a sensitive one for many Americans, and is a powerful phrase to invoke in rhetoric.

Governor Rick Snyder (R-Michigan), whose state is home to America's three biggest automakers, was among 14 governors who wrote a cautionary letter to the heads of the DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), employing this phrase to its full effect.

They write:

If fuel economy standards are increased too quickly, resulting in more expensive vehicles, many consumers can be expected to hold onto their older vehicles longer and defer buying a new car, which could put auto jobs across the country at risk.

The letter does not specify whether the proposed 56.2 mpg standard counts as increasing fuel economy "too quickly", but the timing certainly make it seem like a criticism of the plan.  Governor Snyder points to estimates that the plan will add between $2,100 USD and $2,600 USD to the cost of a vehicle, on average.  He urges the government to adopt a "sensible" standard, but stopped short at saying what such a standard would be in mpg.

The White House apparently decided to take the letter as a compliment, with spokesman Matt Lehrich writing:

We appreciate the governors' support for a national fuel economy standard that will save American families money at the pump and keep the jobs of the future here in America, and we share their commitment to preserving affordability and consumer choice.

II. Mich. Sen. Levin (D) Expresses Mixed Feelings on Bill

Sen. Carl Levin (D- Michigan) sent a separate letter to the White House demanding information on what data they used to decided on the proposed CAFE numbers.  In an interview he states, "We want to know how they arrived at that starting point. We will get that information one way or another."

The Senator admits, though, that without an agreement on the standard, the solution might be even less appealing.  If an agreement is not put in place, states like California will likely look to enact their own guidelines.  While this might please some state rights advocates, it is something automakers oppose -- they prefer a national standard.  Sen. Levin also opposes such provisions, stating, "[States] should not be given a waiver [to set their own standards]."

But without a binding national agreement, the government may have a tough time stopping states from doing so.  Technically the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a federal entity, has to approve of states' plans and grant them waivers from national standards.  A 2007 Supreme Court ruling in the case Massachusetts v. EPA, (No. 05-1120) found that it was illegal for the EPA to obstruct states from implementing their own standards by refusing to grant waivers.  The message seems unequivocal -- the EPA must grant waivers if states want them.

Sen. Levin adds that he is "very concerned" about the prospect of lost sales and jobs from the proposal.

III. Ray LaHood Wants Standard to be Finalized by July

Whether or not the final draft of the standard contains compromises, such as a lower mpg target, Secretary LaHood wants it to be delivered to the EPA and DOT by the end of July.

Secretary LaHood was critical in finalizing the current CAFE standard, which will require automakers to reach 34.1 mpg by 2016.  That standard, first set into motion by departing President George W. Bush (R) and finalized by President Obama, is estimated to cost automakers $51.5B USD over its course.

The tricky part about the standards is that while they cost on the vehicle side, they force savings at the pump.  The current standards are estimated to cut 1.8 billion barrels of oil by 2016.  With oil currently at $94.77 USD/barrel, that's a savings of $170.6B USD.  Further, by cutting fossil fuel combustion, the bill reduces emissions of toxic nitrogen and sulfur-containing gases that have been linked conclusively to chronic conditions such as asthma.

On the other hand, the bill may have raised other costs, as it is thought to have made the average vehicle less safe, contributing to automotive fatalities.

More extreme elements of the environmentalist movement have criticized both the previous and the pending CAFE provisions as being too weak.

The DOT Secretary offered cautious optimism that a compromise will be reached, commenting, "Our people are very professional at this. I think we proved that with the last CAFE standard. We got it right because we had every car company standing in the Rose Garden with the president. We want to get it right this time.""

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RE: Car Sales
By michael67 on 7/1/2011 6:07:32 AM , Rating: 0
Don't try to explain it to people like that, they only think of them self, in what they want not why the world is in the shit now, and that new rule's are needed to fix it.

I own a Jaguar XJS 6L V12 and a Nissan Skyline R33, but there is no way in hell I drive those cars to work!

The fuel bill would kill me for those cars, so I now just traded my GS450h in for a CT200h, and I cut my fuel consumption in half.

Do I miss my GS yeah sure, do I miss its petrol bills hell no!!
As I have cut my yearly fuel bill down from $9000 to $4500

So I saved 4 times when I got this car:
New price differers GS vs CT -$50.000
Fuel cost/y -$4500
Road tax/y -$1800 (no road tax for now, when it comes back it will be +/- -$800)

So I save on my TCO/y about $11.000 , and that's because I paid cash, if I would have taken a loan the differentness would have bin $13/15.000/y
The same go's for my wife that also got a CT before me, and for her the TOC/y went down about $5000/y from her old car.

And even do the CT is not as comfortable and certainly not as fast as the GS the differences are not that big, and whit 50K km/y you want a comfy car and the CT still fills that bill.

And even do me and my wife make both about 2x average $16.000/y is still real money, and what am i going to do with the money, anything except then waste it on cars and fuel!

RE: Car Sales
By michael67 on 7/1/2011 6:28:36 AM , Rating: 2
Damn love that Edit button.

One miss click and you all get the rouge version. ^_^

RE: Car Sales
By JediJeb on 7/1/2011 5:00:25 PM , Rating: 3
But what about those of us who can only afford a car that we can get by with making a $250-350/month payment on? Every car you mention owning costs more than I make in a year working as a chemist in a small laboratory and if I even though of buying one of those right now I would have to give up my house and live in a tent.

Sure the government could mandate that tomorrow no vehicle can be sold that gets less than 70mpg or is fully electric, and all other cars must be pulled off the road, but then you would have millions of people having to quit their jobs because they couldn't get to work. That would solve our energy problems for certain, everyone driving super efficient vehicles, if they could afford them and everyone else living without cars, or electricity, or food because they would all be broke, the US energy demand would fall by 90% probably.

This is not something car companies can do overnight, they don't just have blueprints for 60mpg vehicles sitting on the shelves gathering dust. And the ones they might have in concept are not vehicles that will serve the broad base of drivers nation wide, but only those who live in big cities and have a very short commute maybe.

Don't try to explain it to people like that, they only think of them self, in what they want not why the world is in the shit now, and that new rule's are needed to fix it.

It isn't so much that people only think of themselves, but many do not have the luxury to just go out and buy the new shiny EV or Hybrid every few years. When the car companies can make highly efficient vehicles at reasonable prices, and to me reasonable is in the $16k-$25k price range, then people in mass will begin to shift to those types of vehicles.

RE: Car Sales
By michael67 on 7/2/11, Rating: 0
"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher

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