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President also calls for increases on federal spending for CNG vehicles, vehicle research, and EV tax credits

At a speech at Georgetown University in the nation's capitol, President Barack Obama's (D) message to automakers was simple -- "told you so."

I. Obama Crows Over Fuel Economy Victories

He remarked:

The fuel standards that we put in place just a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers.  The American auto industry retooled, and today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster rate than they have in five years — with more hybrid, more plug-in, more fuel-efficient cars.

The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technologies — we’ve used science; we’ve used research and development and discovery to make the old rules obsolete.

The Obama administration is celebrating a win in which it convinced automakers to adhere to signficant increases to the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard.  

Under President George W. Bush (R) and the 2007 Congress, the CAFE standard -- which covers light trucks and sedans -- was scheduled to hit 35 mpg by 2020.  President Obama first succeeded in bumping that target to 34.1 mpg by 2016 after initially asking for 35.5 mpg by 2016.

Following that success, the President's team pushed for a much higher standard for 2025 -- as high as 62 mpg.  Automakers said that increase would "kill" the auto industry, but eventually begrudgingly caved to a target of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

The result is a mixed bag -- customers will save thousands of dollars at the pump over the lifetime of their vehicles (the exact amount is dependent on the price of fuel), but will pay $2,059 USD more for a new truck and $1,726 USD more for a new car on average (critics contend the true price increase will be at least twice that).  And automakers have to swallow an estimated $200B USD in costs for developing advanced fuel efficiency technologies.

In his speech, the President also plugged General Motors Comp. (GM) -- a bailout recipient -- for making a climate change pledge. The President remarked, "More than 500 businesses, including giants like GM and Nike, issued a Climate Declaration, calling action on climate change 'one of the great economic opportunities of the 21st century.'"

GM makes the Chevy Volt plug-in electric vehicle that both President Obama and former President George HW Bush are big fans of.

II. More Regulation Ahead?

Emboldened by the concessions that he has already won from the industry, the President proposed more regulation in his speech -- including a fresh round of CAFE targets for heavy duty trucks.  The heavy-duty truck segment (which includes semis, garbage trucks, buses and three-quarter-ton pickups) was first regulated under President Bush's Energy Act of 2007, which calls for a 20 percent increase in average fuel economy by 2018.

The standard refresh would go into effect by 2018, and force that vehicle segment -- which typically features inherently poor fuel economy -- to continue more yearly bumps in efficiency.  Despite the gains since 2007, heavy-duty vehicles are still the second largest source of emissions in the transportation sector, according to the White House.

Super Duty rear
President Obama was new fuel economy targets for heavy duty trucks.
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

Other automotive highlights of the speech included a reiteration of the President's call to bump the electric vehicle tax credit to $10,000 USD, a demand for more federal advanced vehicle research funding, and a push to give new tax credits compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

The President also called for regulations to limit the amount of carbon power plants can emit -- regulations that could force coal and oil burning plants to purchase expensive carbon capture and storage systems.

The speech compared these changes to the introduction of the federally forced introduction of the catalytic converter in 1970 (via the 1970 expansion of the Clean Air Act to cover automobiles), which critics complained would damage the industry.  He remarked:

At the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry. Guess what — it didn’t happen. Our air got cleaner.

The President threatened the oil industry that he wouldn't approve the Keystone oil pipeline unless it cooperated with emissions improvements, remarking that the pipeline would be approved "only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

Coal power station
The President wants stricter emissions standards for power plants. [Image Source: Reuters]
At least some of the President's demands are unlikely to be fulfilled given the Republican control of the House.  Thus far Republicans in Congress have fought efforts to bump tax credits for EVs/plug-ins and efforts to increase vehicle research funding.

Source: White House on YouTube

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RE: He is right....
By Argon18 on 6/26/2013 3:55:23 PM , Rating: 5
The whole carbon release thing is even funnier, since the latest studies show that global temperature is tied much more closely to CFC emissions than it is to carbon. Carbon does not explain the cooling that has occurred in the last decade, while the decline of CFC usage does. The carbon doomsayers are going to feel awfully foolish once this grand carbon myth is finally debunked.

RE: He is right....
By ebakke on 6/26/13, Rating: -1
RE: He is right....
By argleblargle on 6/26/2013 9:43:25 PM , Rating: 3
What's really funny is if you read your first sentence without the acronym: "The whole carbon release thing is even funnier, since the latest studies show that global temperature is tied much more closely to ChroroFluoroCarbon emissions than it is to carbon." Let's look more closely at that CFC... which is chlorofluoroCARBON. Notice that carbon is part of CFC? I mean, didn't you look up the acronym before posting that?

Also funny, you cite 2 studies by one guy as the latest studies. 2 studies, one researcher.... and only one is recent. There *is* an interesting correllation, but as we all know, that does not equal causation. There will be peer review and more studies to see if he's on to something real or just an interesting statistical anomaly. I suspect CFC's are part of it, but not the key.

Next, we have not been experiencing cooling, we have been experiencing a slowdown in warming. The first decade of the 21st century was still the warmest on record. C'mon, that's just sloppy, because it's info that's so easily found online.

RE: He is right....
By Mint on 6/26/2013 9:45:43 PM , Rating: 2
Carbon does not explain the cooling that has occurred in the last decade
This is a myth that arose from cherry-picking. In 2008, denialists made all sorts of claims about a cooling trend over 10 years. In 2010, they were silent. This year they're using 15-year trends to show cooling.

It's all because of the exceptionally warm El-Nino year in 1998. If that's your starting point, you get a negative trend. Much of the natural variation has been accounted for:
The trend is pretty clear and steady. The existence of warming isn't in doubt, and the role of carbon isn't really either.

No, the REAL weakest link is not the science, but rather climate policy and economics.

The EPA pegs the social cost of carbon at $38/tonne. Using IPCC warming numbers and other accepted figures, that works out to $1 trillion for every 0.02 degrees C of warming.

I think that's ludicrous. I can tell you right now that the world's developing countries - those supposedly hit hardest by AGW - can do orders of magnitude more social good with $1T than what you get from preventing 0.02 deg C of warming.

Fuel efficiency for cars has many more important benefits than slowing global warming.

RE: He is right....
By StormyKnight on 6/27/2013 1:13:50 AM , Rating: 2

The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.

RE: He is right....
By JediJeb on 6/28/2013 3:53:10 PM , Rating: 2
How about we stop tip toeing around the problem and just demand that the entire world do a reset of our civilization back to the early 1700s!

Let's do away with electricity, modern communications, modern transportation and everything. Everyone should go back to walking everywhere they go unless they can earn enough money to buy a horse to ride. Everyone should have to make their own living, do away with all welfare and entitlements and subsidies, make life simple again, simple in that if you don't work and support yourself you starve. That would cut our CO2 emissions to almost nothing!!!

Of course after doing that I would be willing to bet that we still see a warming trend because it is a natural process which the Earth goes through between all of its previous Ice Ages and the one that will come again just as they always have before. What humans are doing currently to accelerate warming is a drop in the bucket and once the Earth begins its next cooling cycle we can emit ten times the CO2 we are now and not be able to prevent the next Ice Age. The belief that humans are the cause of warming stems from humans not wanting to admit that many things are far beyond their control which causes fear when they realize the truth, and it is fueled further by the arrogant ego trips political leaders have that makes them feel they need to be in control of everything or else appear impotent.

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