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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: Emissions are a smokescreen
By superstition on 6/26/2013 10:19:45 PM , Rating: 0
Do us a favor and post some substantive rebutting information. Attempting to shoot the messenger is not nearly as persuasive.

Objectivity, particularly when it involves oil money, is going to be difficult to come by -- especially if it's more substantive than stenographic repetition of press release claims and such.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By Reclaimer77 on 6/27/13, Rating: 0
RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By Digimonkey on 6/27/2013 8:46:13 AM , Rating: 2
There has been three leaks I know about in the last three years without doing an internet search. One around Alberta Canada, one in Michigan and one in Arkansas. It's rather inevitable for a pipeline not to leak, it happens, so there should always be some concern. Especially for one that travels over a huge aquifer.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By BRB29 on 6/27/2013 9:02:06 AM , Rating: 2
Yes it will but it's not a big deal. You're talking like if we use trucks, ships or trains that it won't leak. If anything, using other modes of transport introduces more human errors. Usually those spills will be in places where it will be a big deal.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By Digimonkey on 6/27/2013 1:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
A million gallons of oil dumped into the Kalamazoo river is a pretty big deal. That happened in 2010 and just a month ago they were talking about having to dredge the river, so 3 years and still cleaning up the mess.

I'm not really against the pipeline if the risk/reward ratio is substantial, I'm just saying people have the right to be concerned.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By freedom4556 on 6/27/2013 3:35:51 PM , Rating: 2
They cleaned up the one in Arkansas. It's all gone. I drive by it every day. It was a tiny (in perspective) leak. Not that the local liberal media will every admit that.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By superstition on 6/27/2013 4:00:15 PM , Rating: 2
And the Kalamazoo river?

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By freedom4556 on 6/27/2013 4:23:14 PM , Rating: 2
Dunno, I don't live there. Was just providing a local perspective.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By Reclaimer77 on 6/27/2013 4:30:05 PM , Rating: 2
He didn't say "leaks" though, he said "bursting".

Pipeline "bursts" are so rare as to not even be brought up. And when they do happen, the flow is shut off, duh. You know you're dealing with some wacko with an agenda when such an absurd point of view is even shared.

It's like me saying we have to stop developing battery tech, because a cargo ship coming from China might sink in the ocean and create an ecological mess.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By Digimonkey on 6/27/2013 6:42:30 PM , Rating: 2
I was replying to your comment, and you said "busting". I'd agree, bursting rarely happens, and I'm for the keystone pipeline being built if it's a boon for the US economy and regulations are followed.

By superstition on 6/28/2013 5:20:07 AM , Rating: 2
I'm for the keystone pipeline being built if it's a boon for the US economy and regulations are followed.

What if the regulations are inadequate? What, exactly, constitutes a boon for the economy that outweighs the risks? If we're going to place an aquifer, for instance, in jeopardy, doesn't it seem wise to know exactly what we're getting into and why?

I've asked those who complained about my sources to provide their own "objective" (substantive) facts, but so far I haven't seen any posted.

If it's true that this is yet another example of unwise corporate welfare like corn ethanol -- where environmental degradation is ignored in favor of certain rich people/politicians getting to skim a profit off of human misery... then I think it's worthwhile to know that. Wishful thinking won't make it a "boon", nor will placid ignorance. But, I do agree that if the overwhelming evidence (including what is reasonably obtainable) is positive then it makes sense to proceed.

RE: Emissions are a smokescreen
By BRB29 on 6/27/2013 8:59:45 AM , Rating: 2
The pipe to NC was damaged and leaked several times. The damage is easily controlled because we can stop the flow. The leaked oil can be controlled with engineering, planning and damage control.

Pipes saves you a ton of money because it doesn't use trucks, ships or trains or transport this oil. It's much better for the environment than the alternatives. It also keeps the prices of gas down significantly. If you look throughout the states, places that use pipelines have lower prices overall.

Now please STFU about pipes. The worst oil spills have always been those shipping tankers at sea.

By superstition on 6/27/2013 3:57:58 PM , Rating: 2
Again, we must ask ourselves why we should risk so many miles of pipeline in the first place, carrying that stuff to China.

It makes a lot more geographical sense to move it through British Columbia than it does to bring it through the US.

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