Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 24, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

FUEL ECONOMY WONKISHNESS....The CAFE fuel economy standards passed in 1975 have worked great: average fuel efficiency increased dramatically between 1974 and 1985, cutting U.S. oil consumption by about a billion barrels per year. Unfortunately, CAFE standards haven't been tightened since then, which means fuel efficiency has stagnated since the mid-80s.

Last year President Bush proposed that CAFE standards be increased, but his proposal does away with the "A" in CAFE. Dean Baker doesn't like it:

Carmakers will be required to make each type of car they produce more fuel efficient over time, but they will not be obligated to improve the average fuel efficiency of the cars they produce.

Thus, each car maker would have to gradually and steadily improve the mileage of each type of car, instead of improving the fuel efficiency of their entire fleet. According to EPA estimates, the 2006 Toyota Prius gets 55 miles per gallon (mpg), and the 2007 Ford Explorer gets 16 mpg. Under the new standards, both cars must improve their mileage. Which means that if, a few years from now, the Prius is still at 55 mpg and the Ford Explorer is at 20 mpg, Toyota will be penalized, while Ford will be a model corporate citizen.

Point taken, though I think Bush's proposals would raise fleet averages: if you raise the standards for every category of vehicle, the average for all of them put together almost has to go up unless buying habits change pretty dramatically. Still, why not add a bit of free market orthodoxy to the mix, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences:

Changing the current CAFE system to one featuring tradable fuel economy credits and a cap on the price of these credits appears to be particularly attractive. It would provide incentives for all manufacturers, including those that exceed the fuel economy targets, to continually increase fuel economy, while allowing manufacturers flexibility to meet consumer preferences. Such a system would also limit costs imposed on manufacturers and consumers if standards turn out to be more difficult to meet than expected. It would also reveal information about the costs of fuel economy improvements and thus promote better-informed policy decisions.

Too wonky, I guess. But it sure seems like just the kind of thing both liberals and conservatives could get behind. Maybe that's the problem.

Kevin Drum 5:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (149)

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Comments

The CAFE fuel economy standards passed in 1975 have worked great: average fuel efficiency increased dramatically between 1974 and 1985, cutting U.S. oil consumption by about a billion barrels per year.

Actually, the savings had more to do with lowering the speed limit nationally to 55MPH, as fuel efficiency didn't increase much until after 1980. Just going back to that, 55MPH, without any increases in current levels of fuel efficiency, would save lots of oil.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that it's wonky, it's that it represents actual policy, as opposed to simple-minded cheerleading.

See your previous post.

So the GOP will be against it, as I'm sure the resident trolls will tell us any moment now...

Posted by: craigie on May 24, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Increasing economy per vehicle seems like the better idea, though I'm not sure why you wouldn't put the standard on miles per gallon and not differentiate between different types of vehicles (for example, you would perhaps have a sliding scale - cars getting 10mpg would be required to increase efficiency by 100%, while those at 60mpg by 1%, or what have you).

The free market aspect to doing it by averages is that manufacturers can dump efficiency into loss leaders (Fiesta) and focus profitability into larger vehicles. Tightening up the standards across vehicle types seems like a good idea.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on May 24, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

If gas prices keep going up SUVs and other inefficient cars are going to be even less popular. I know my wife has said she will not buy anything that she doesn't consider very economical--above 30 miles to the gallon. I don't think she is alone. We have been looking for a new fuel efficient car and have found that Toyota and Honda are having a hard time keeping them in stock. Fuel efficient cars from domestic manufacturers are almost non-existent.

Of course, I would like to see CAFE standards improved because I want to force the manufacturers to get ahead of the fuel efficiency curve. But hey, that is just me. I like thinking ahead. A trait not shared by a lot of Americans.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 24, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

fuel efficiency has stagnated since the mid-80s

What a coincidence, so has the Republican agenda.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 24, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Just tax the ever-loving fuck out of gasoline, no loopholes for "small-business" tax cheats, and let market pressures do the rest.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on May 24, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK
Point taken, though I think Bush's proposals would raise fleet averages: if you raise the standards for every category of vehicle, the average for all of them put together almost has to go up unless buying habits change pretty dramatically.

Um, no. And that's breathtakingly shallow analysis, especially if you've actually read the article you've clipped from.

I mean, if they were broad categories, maybe. But Baker's comments make it clear that they are by model, and that changes to the design of the model (making it biggeR) can actually let you make the mileage worse rather than better.

So, even in broad categories, there is no guarantee of better economy, much less across fleets. All you do is make existing models bigger, or discontinue your most efficient existing models, and you can stay within the limits while getting worse mileage fleetwide.

There is no rational reason to expect Bush's proposal to do anything to improve fuel efficiency, and you've shown the capacity for analysis on other issues (peak oil) that suggests you ought to easily see through this. To interested in pimping the tradable credits idea to really think about the Bush proposal you used as a launchpad?

Posted by: cmdicely on May 24, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

I suggest you replace the term "wonkishness" with "wonkery."

Same amount of syllables -- less consonant friction.

Speaking of wonkishness or wonkery or a just plain long and hideously off-topic post -- I have a big one up on Chomsky, cognitive science, Descartes vs Locke, Hobbes vs Rousseau, the epistemology of labelling, essentialism vs constructionism, which hook slides nicely into Bush-bashing.

Not that it's for *anyone* to read, mind you :). It's addressed to obscure, who shares my passon on this stuff.

Chris Dicely is allowed to read it as well :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

How dumb are we suppoed to be? If Detroit needs to increase the fuel efficiency of each model, they will simply discontinue existing models and introduce new ones.

Which is undoubtedly what Bush, with his childish ideas of deception, had in mind.

I mean, they already did this once, when they "invented" the SUV. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Posted by: serial catowner on May 24, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

In the MTV thread, oopsie

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

We have been looking for a new fuel efficient car and have found that Toyota and Honda are having a hard time keeping them in stock. Fuel efficient cars from domestic manufacturers are almost non-existent. Posted by: Ron Byers

Sadly, at least with regard to Toyota, fuel efficiency still isn't what it should be with their hybrids. Poke around on the Internet(s) and you'll find that they (probably because of the N. American market) have calibrated the shift between motors in such a way that you get no benefit from the electric motor for freeway driving, which is completely retarded.

The fact of the matter is that unless we get rid of V-8 engines all together, or at least excise tax the living shit out of them, we'll never see real increases in fuel efficiency with conventional internal combustion engines or raise fuel standards overall.

Case in point -

2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee w/ std 4.7L V-8, 235HP, 20MPG highway rating, 4,094lbs curb weight.

2006 Honda Odyssey w/ std 3.5L V-6, 244HP, 28MPG highway rating, 4,537lbs curb weight.

Not only are V-8s unnecessary, those designed and manufactured by U.S. auto makers are gutless and do nothing but suck fuel.

The kicker in the case of the Honda, something that gives it as much "green appeal" as a hybrid engine, is that when cruising in 5th gear, the engine runs on three cylinders. Hey, it's not rocket science.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the most important part of the post is the observation that the loophole for "light trucks" concentrated auto industry efforts and profits there, with the result that we're in a spot similar to the '70's, with cars unsuited to any market but our own past and nothing good in the pipeline - a very good argument that sometimes what industry wants/demands is the very worst thing to give them, for their own sake, let alone everyone else's.

Posted by: goiing_to_jail_dale on May 24, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Catowner beat me to it. This clearly guts the CAFE standards all together. This actually incentivizes Detroit to introduce low efficiency models so they can slightly improve them from year to year and stay in compliance with the law. When it gets too hard to improve gas mileage on a given model they'll just cancel it and start over.

Posted by: JohnK on May 24, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

In any case, this is a game Detroit rigged long ago- now they just sit back and watch us try to play on a tilted table.

You want better gas mileage, get a smaller engine- one that can only push a smaller car at a lower speed.

So, with help from Nader, Detroit got thrown in the briar patch with safety regulations that- bottom line- make it impossible to import really small efficient cars.

People who really want fuel efficiency will be looking at 50-year old cars with small motors. This really isn't rocket science.

Posted by: serial catowner on May 24, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the most important part of the post is the observation that the loophole for "light trucks" concentrated auto industry efforts and profits there, . . . Posted by: goiing_to_jail_dale

Excellent point as both Subaru and Volvo took advantage of the arcane formula used to determine what constitutes a "light truck" to slip the Outback and XC70, respectively, into that category allowing both to boost horsepower without having to meet more stringent fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles. I think we'd all agree that neither is a "light truck."

This move was particularly galling to longtime fans of Subaru, heretofore known for it's great reliability, affordability, AWD, and decent gas mileage. They were always thought of as the "hippie" or "green" AWD vehicle. Subaru is very much an also ran in the domestic Japanese market, and so it is clear that the U.S. market is now driving design and marketing.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Just tax the ever-loving fuck out of gasoline, no loopholes for "small-business" tax cheats, and let market pressures do the rest.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on May 24, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

O_B_F did the polite short version and got totally ignored. This is like healthcare: we're surrounded by examples that have worked buy we think we have to reinvent the wheel.

For GNP for energy used, Japoan is twice as efficient as us, Western Europe 1.5-2 times as efficient. Look at the average fuel economy their vehicles get. You guys are all dodging around the logical solution.

We believe in market forces and market driven allocation. The problem is petroleum use, not just gas. A tax on such, however decided and distributed, allows gas prices to be underpinned, encouraging substitution (electric, renewables, etc.) as well as fuel economy.

And you'll be able to spot the fat cats, environmentlly irresponsible, and those who want to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on somethng they may enjoy a mile off.

Keep it simple!!

In every other sphere we pretty much agree mandate driven policy is less efficient. Why do you all back it for this?

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

The CAFE fuel economy standards passed in 1975 have worked great: average fuel efficiency increased dramatically between 1974 and 1985

Er, the National Academies study concluded that, although the CAFE standards "contributed" to increased fuel efficiency (though by how much is unknown), they also imposed serious costs, including a probable increase of thousands of traffic fatalities a year (and a much greater number of additional injuries), and depriving consumers of features they clearly value, such as faster acceleration, greater carrying or towing capacity, and reliability.

The study concluded that:

"Raising CAFE standards would reduce future fuel consumption below what it would otherwise be; however, other policies could accomplish the same end at lower cost, provide more flexibility to manufacturers, or address inequities arising from the current system."

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

The Laffer curve shows that if you lower CAFE standards, fuel efficiency actually increases.

Posted by: H. Ford on May 24, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

The now discontinued VW Lupo TDI 3L is able to get you, in daily use albeit driven economically, around 70-75 mpg.

By US standards it's not even a car of course, more like a powered "quadcycle", but for commuting ... what's the point in anything bigger? (And it's a diesel too, I know, I know - you guys aren't exactly in love with those). The Lupo scored 4 stars in the EURO NCAP programme, so it's a pretty safe vehicle, given it's size (it'll be basically flattened if involved in a head-2-head collision with a Hummer og course).

Bottom line: It's doable to reach high mpg in a safe modern car - though Serial Catowner is right though: You'll have to dump the monster trucks and ditto SUV's (they're way to aggressive against their counterparts when involved in collissions anyway, so that's a feature, not a bug. The perverse logic of "Bigger is safer" is going to lead to everyone driving around in Armored Personnel Carriers or tanks in due time, and who needs that?)

Regards.

Posted by: Ole on May 24, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

notthere:

I'd be less amenable to an inevitably regressive gasoline tax than a more evenly-distributed BTU tax, which came within a red pubic hair of passage in Clinton's first term, if memory serves.

Don't penalize the petroleum that we need for synthetic materials. And don't penalize gasoline over diesel, which might create a resurgence in an engine type that, while quite efficent run at consistent speesds, isn't inherently clean (although a diesel hybrid with an engine that rarely engaged the drivetrain might me much much more efficient than our current gasoline hybrids).

Create a tax custom-designed to target greenhouse gases -- and subsidize low-income heating fuel if we must.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Still, why not add a bit of free market orthodoxy to the mix, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences"

Because along with it will be loopholes and voluntary suggestions. VOLUNTARY does not work with Korporate Amerika.

How did Brazil manage to get to where they are about to become independent from imported oil by the end of this year ? MANDATES. They mandated that every gas station have at least one ethanol pump, and then mandated that any auto company selling vehicles in the country have flex-fuel vehicles in their fleet.

THEN they let the free market work, and Brazilian consumers opted more and more towards the cheaper ethanol.
.

Posted by: VJ on May 24, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

It'd be nice to tax the @#$% out of gasoline.

It'd be nice too if corporations like GM realized that global warming is their problem too.

It'd even be nice if our government thought enough about the future of the planet to impose CAFE numbers that meant something.

None of these things will happen.
They are too sane, too moral, too rational.
Too nice.

Rather here is what is going to happen:

1) More hurricanes this summer that will knock out US refineries.

2) Bush's Iraq mess will continue to roil oil futures.

3) Bush's Iran recalcitrance will continue to roil oil futures.

4) Failure to capture bin Laden will continue to roil oil futures.

5) More Chinese and Indian demand for oil.

Thus:

Look for $4 gallon sometime real soon....

In other words: look for the marketplace (coupled with governmental incompetence) to make Stupid Urban Vehicles extinct far faster than governmental competence ever could.

Happy days lie just ahead...

Posted by: koreyel on May 24, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Too wonky, I guess. But it sure seems like just the kind of thing both liberals and conservatives could get behind. Maybe that's the problem.

So. Are you for it or against it?

As you put it, I think that it is an excellent idea, but with petroleum at $70 per barrel it might be superfluous.

Also, for what it is worth, I expect that continuous improvement by Toyota will in fact produce a Prius with a higher fuel economy than what the Prius gets now. Toyota will pay no penalty if Ford improves the fuel economy of its trucks and SUVs. I previously posted an announcement by GM and Chrysler/Daimler that their new hybrids would get substantially better fuel economy than equal-sized cars now on the market. Cars are also going to get lighter as more and more parts are made of carbides and nitrides.

Posted by: republicrat on May 24, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

I forgot to mention, that's another paper worth reading in its entirety. Thanks, Kevin.

Posted by: republicrat on May 24, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ole - I have a VW Jetta TDI. It's pretty nice (though VW still hasn't gotten the hang of doing nice, durable interiors). I would kind of like to have a Lupo - but sometimes I take my kids to school in the morning - sometimes we go on family trips in the Jetta. The Lupo would not be very useful for these purposes. So I'd need TWO cars for that kind of flexibility.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on May 24, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

For GNP for energy used, Japoan is twice as efficient as us, Western Europe 1.5-2 times as efficient.

As you can see from this chart, Japan's GDP energy efficiency is about 1.5 times that of the U.S., not twice, as you claimed. And western european countries exhibit a broad range of efficiencies, some of which (Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden, for example) are no greater than that of the U.S.

Not that these comparisons are terribly meaningful, anyway. Other things being equal, the U.S. will tend to be less energy efficient than Japan or Europe because of its more extreme climate, its low population density, and other demographic and environmental differences. Note also that the most energy efficient nation listed is also one of the poorest--Bangladesh.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: Not only are V-8s unnecessary, those designed and manufactured by U.S. auto makers are gutless and do nothing but suck fuel.

Some american model V-8s, like the Honda you cite, turn off half of the cylinders when operating under light loads. Have you come across any writings about how well this works in practice?

Posted by: republicrat on May 24, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

How did Brazil manage to get to where they are about to become independent from imported oil by the end of this year ? MANDATES. They mandated that every gas station have at least one ethanol pump, and then mandated that any auto company selling vehicles in the country have flex-fuel vehicles in their fleet.

Damn commie bastards.

Posted by: Thoristotle on May 24, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

By US standards it's not even a car of course, more like a powered "quadcycle", but for commuting ... what's the point in anything bigger?

Comfort, power, safety, status. Of course, most motor vehicles aren't used solely for commuting anyway.

Bottom line: It's doable to reach high mpg in a safe modern car

Not a car that would be attractive to most American consumers. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, but not today.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Some american model V-8s, like the Honda you cite, turn off half of the cylinders when operating under light loads. Have you come across any writings about how well this works in practice? Posted by: republicrat

Nope. However given the fine engineering standards the U.S. auto industry is known for, they probably screwed it up so that it was all cylinders on the same side of block.

If this is true it's odd that U.S. manufacturers haven't made much noise about it. Again, it's not rocket science, and supposedly increases fuel efficiency by three-four miles to the gallon.

But getting back to my initial point, very few vehicles and no passenger cars, vans or SUVs need a V-8 engine for any reason.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be less amenable to an inevitably regressive gasoline tax than a more evenly-distributed BTU tax, which came within a red pubic hair of passage in Clinton's first term, if memory serves....

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Where do you target greenhouse gases? At the car or during production too. Home and industry also? I think that's a separate (but worthwhile) issue.

Revenue can be neutral and redistributed to the lower tax levels. If they use public transport so much the better.

On petrolum taxes, I agree the distribution shouldn't necessarily be flat. I see no reason for any diesel advantage, but to encourage a move away from petroleum derived synthetics, fertilizer, etc. may be no bad idea in the longer term. But that is all policy details.

The main point is that cost driven reallocation will be the most efficient way to go and, by underpinning the price the incentive remains, rather than what we have experienced 1985-2005.

Like I said, look around. 50 year experiments that have worked. While we've done nothing. Why do we think we're so special? May be we just think we're cleverer. Just too darn smart.

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney: We haven't built a new refinery in 30 years, we can't drill, we can't build pipelines...will you guys agree to any of that?

You are perhaps familiar with the phrase "starve the beast"? :)

Posted by: has407 on May 24, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

it is the Democratic Party and its minions who have fought against every kind of energy project to ever come down the pike

Fuck off, liar.

Posted by: abe on May 24, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Thoris:

How did Brazil manage to get to where they are about to become independent from imported oil by the end of this year ? MANDATES. They mandated that every gas station have at least one ethanol pump, and then mandated that any auto company selling vehicles in the country have flex-fuel vehicles in their fleet.

Er, no. A mandate for an ethanol pump isn't terribly useful without a supply of ethanol to feed it. Brazil produces most of its ethanol from sugar cane, a crop that could not be grown in sufficient quantities in America's climate. The economics of producing ethanol from crops that grow well in the U.S. (corn and switchgrass) are much less attractive (in particular, ethanol from corn seems to use more energy than it provides). The large-scale production of sugar cane for ethanol in Brazil has also had substantial adverse effects, including environmental damage (air pollution, loss of biodiversity), sharp increases in food prices through the displacement of food crops, and social unrest caused by its effect on employment.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think Baker has an even better point than you claim.

Buying patterns depend not only on tastes but also on relative prices. With a cafe rule, automakers will charge a lower markup on costs for high milage types of cars, because it helps them meet the cafe standards. This is a highly effective way to reduce gas consumption, since the average cost is zero. the "cost" is a transfer from drivers of big cars to drivers of small cars, that is, from red states to blue states, from rich to poor, from non greens to greens.

I think here, as usual, the Bush administration demonstrates that they cares more about helping their friends and hurting their enemies than about efficiency and that they think we are the enemy

I write "we", because I drive a Ford Fiesta but I admit no virtue is involved. I live in Italy where gas is really expensive. The only benefit I get from cafe' is the caffeine.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on May 24, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

But getting back to my initial point, very few vehicles and no passenger cars, vans or SUVs need a V-8 engine for any reason.

Ah, the stupid "need" argument again. We don't "need" the vast majority of products and services we consume. It's not about "need," it's about standard of living.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Of coure, most motor vehicles aren't used solely for commuting anyway.Posted by: GOP

And just which Inuit village on the North Slope do you live in?

Commuting to work is probably what 80% of all vehicles bought in America are used for, particularly pick-up trucks and SUVs, maybe 90% outside of greater NYC, Boston, Washington or Chicago. Of course there is status involved in the choice of vehicle, but it's not status just for shopping at Costco and/or taking the kids to soccer/baseball/football or basketball on the weekends.

I bet 90% of all AWD/4WD vehicles in this country never get off publicly maintained roads, climb anything steeper than the driveway or ever see snow.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Commuting to work is probably what 80% of all vehicles bought in America are used for, particularly pick-up trucks and SUVs, maybe 90% outside of greater NYC, Boston, Washington or Chicago.

No, commuting is merely one of the things vehicles are commonly used for. If you seriously believe that most vehicles used for commuting are never used for anything else, then you're the one who's living in an Inuit village.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: If this is true it's odd that U.S. manufacturers haven't made much noise about it.

GM has advertised these vehicles all over.

I think it's best to let buyers decide whether they do or do not need V-8 engines. I see plenty of them doing farmwork and industrial work.

Of all the government interventions that I have heard of, I think that a guaranteed price of energy equivalent to $70 per barrel of petroleum would be the best benefit/ least harm to the economy overall. Clinton's BTU tax would be a good idea if the money were allocated strictly to research and development in energy, which is unlikely to happen.

Price supports produce surpluses, price control produce shortages. If we ever created the problem of too much domestic energy, I would be surprised. We'd have to adjust somehow.

Posted by: republicrat on May 24, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

it's about standard of living.

Translation:

It's about selfish baby boomer middle class crackers with no balls having to buy giant trucks to live vicariously through them because it's the only thing in their life they can control.

I'm sure GOP drives one to compensate for his short...comings.

Posted by: POG on May 24, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Some american model V-8s, like the Honda you cite, turn off half of the cylinders when operating under light loads. Have you come across any writings about how well this works in practice?
Posted by: republicrat on May 24, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

My VW Jetta TDI actually turns off one cylinder while cruising - by modulating the amount of fuel injected into one of the cylinders. The computer keeps the engine stable by continuously modulating injector volume as the engine runs. I've seen this in action with a VAG-COM adapter connected to my laptop.


Not a car that would be attractive to most American consumers. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, but not today.
Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Tax gasoline up to $8/gal. and I guarantee you this car would become immediately popular. (of course, any diesel would be popular if you taxed only gasoline).

We haven't built a new refinery in 30 years, we can't drill, we can't build pipelines - billions of barrels of oil are locked up off the west coast
Posted by: Cheney on May 24, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

What do you mean "We" white man?

It's not like we have state-run oil companies. (more like the other way around).

Nobody's stopping these bastards from building a refinery somewhere else. Why don't you volunteer your back yard?

The answer is - the oil companies won't build refineries, because then they can't use "tight supplies" as an excuse to jack up prices. And then they whine about the evul tree-huggers. Why don't they build a refinery in some third world shithole where they can bribe the local dictator? Because they don't have the protection of the US military. They want all the benefits (like invasions of middle eastern dictators who don't play footsie with them) of being in the country with the most powerful military, yet they don't want to pay the taxes to maintain that military.

Personally, I don't see the problem with offshore oil platforms. Yeah, down in the Santa Barbara area, they're an eyesore. Further north, there aren't any because there's stiff opposition. (Exxon just got through tearing up Avila Beach and rebuilding it because they couldn't keep their damn storage tanks from leaking).
So - the Central Coast loses a few tourism bucks from offshore oil rigs? I don't see why we can't cut the oil companies a deal. The oil belongs to the residents of the Central Coast anyway - we should just sell it to the oil companies, so the people who would be negatively impacted by the loss of tourism, could be reimbursed from oil revenue. Frankly - this kind of thinking would probably solve 90% of the problems in the world today. Share the oil profits with the PEOPLE who's land you're screwing up.

But on the other hand, about 90% of the tourist dollars that come to the Central Coast are off-roaders coming up to ride on the sand dunes. They don't give a crap if there's oil platforms out there. (Just as long as they can have some of it to run their sand rails).

it is the Democratic Party and its minions who have fought against every kind of energy project to ever come down the pike. We can't even build new power plants. How about some new nukes, cleaner-burning coal, dams, or even wind-powered plants - will you guys agree to any of that?

More bullshit.
Nukes are out because NOBODY has shown that they can do it responsibly. Oh - it's all fine and dandy when they can run plants for years with no backup cooling system (Phoenix), or when they plan to build a plant in an earthquake zone (Diablo Canyon), or when they feel like screwing around and just shut off the safties (Chernyobl), and of course no power company on earth is going to guarantee safe waste storage for 12,000 years.

Any company that can prove that they've solved all of these problems, in my book, is welcome to build as many nuke plants as they like.

Dams are a waste of time - all the best locations are already dammed. And the mountain snow-pack that feeds them is diminishing (ie. Glacier National park has gone from hundreds to less than two-dozen glaciers).

And wind-power IS being expanded. So theres ONE place where the residents are fighting back because they like their scenic ocean view. Wind is being expanded in the plains states, Mojave CA, Palm Springs CA, all over the place. Whining about the cape Hatteras project being stalled because of a few whiny wealthy property holders is not really a valid complaint.

P.S. to JeffII - my passenger car needs V-8 engine.
Posted by: Cheney on May 24, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

Try going on a diet and losing a little weight. You'll find that a 4-cyl engine will move your car adequately.

Posted by: Thoristotle on May 24, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's best to let buyers decide whether they do or do not need V-8 engines.

No. Because most people are stupid (see below) and don't need V-8 engines.

I see plenty of them doing farmwork and industrial work.Posted by: republicrat

And which small, isolated midwestern agricultural community do you live in? While it's true that some people need trucks, among them farmers and framing carpenters, they comprise something like 1% of all truck purchases in the U.S. The rest are used overwhelmingly as passenger vehicles, and damned inefficient ones at that.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Just tax the ever-loving fuck out of gasoline, no loopholes for "small-business" tax cheats, and let market pressures do the rest."

Okay. Say we are sitting pretty in 1990 with our $1.19 gas. Say we add $1.50 tax to it over a period of years so that we don't completely shock the economy. $2.80 for gas, maybe even $3. Hell no, *no one* would be buying gas-guzzlers then!

Funny, though, that here we sit with $3/gallon gas a recognized long-term reality, and consumer gas consumption has BARELY CHANGED. Why? Because gas is an inflexible demand market. People have jobs, and can't change them willy-nilly. They have cars that get some gas mileage. Maybe twenty years from now they'll have traded in their car for an economy model, and they'll have moved to a new neighborhood closer to work (and a corporation in their industry will have moved their work closer to where people live, which is significantly less likely, but whatever). But that's a massively slow-turning market force. We need something to have an effect in three year, five years, ten years. We don't have twenty years to burn.

CAFE standards had a real, measurable, and significant impact on overall fuel consumption, in a handful of years. Until the "light truck" loophole got exploited all to hell and back, of course, which lesson should be "don't add a loophole big enough to drive a (light) truck through".

Increasing gas prices have shown almost no impact on overall consumption. Given the choice between imposing a huge tax on gas (which effectively raises the price astronomically and certainly affects the working poor significantly more than the Hummer-buying crowd) and raising CAFE standards, I am sorry, but I go for CAFE.

Now, there is also a THIRD option, which is, "tax the everloving fuck out of gas-guzzling vehicles at the point of sale". Put a "gas guzzler tax" in big red numbers on the front of EVERY vehicle sold in the US (NOT excluding commercial vehicles). I might propose using a formula something like (where "T" is some target fuel efficiency fleet-wide, "A" is the actual vehicle fuel efficiency averaged across city and highway) "(T - A) * 1,000". IE, if your Hummer gets 30 mpg less than the target of 40mpg, then, sorry, you pay a gas guzzler tax of $30,000.

Effectively, this is the same as taxing the everloving fuck out of gasoline. But, when the customer is sitting there staring at their nice shiny Escalade, they're not likely to be thinking "Gee, this is going to cost me $30k in gas over the next five years!" Put that $30k on the price sticker and you can bet your mother they'll consider it. Suddenly, the inflexible market becomes pretty damned flexible.

I'll leave the "okay, so what happens when I trade that Hummer in" and "will a bank give me a loan to cover that $30k in taxes on my $50k Hummer?" questions to the policy wonks. Call me Mr Bush. :)

Posted by: Jet Tredmont on May 24, 2006 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Funny, though, that here we sit with $3/gallon gas a recognized long-term reality, and consumer gas consumption has BARELY CHANGED. Why? Because gas is an inflexible demand market. People have jobs, and can't change them willy-nilly.

What did you expect, to see F-350s, Hummers and such abandoned by the roadside all over the country? It doesn't happen overnight. It takes a while to affect behavior in this fashion. However, we're seeing again, just as we saw in the mid-70s, dealerships cutting the longest deals at the best prices to clear all the gas guzzling behemouths off the lot. GM announced last week that it will quit making the orignal model of the Hummer, which got something like 12MPG on the highway. Driving by the local GM dealership I pass everyday to and from work, I see their animated sign touting the fuel efficiency of various models. Deja vu all over again. I hope gas goes to $5/gallon.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's about selfish baby boomer middle class crackers with no balls having to buy giant trucks to live vicariously through them because it's the only thing in their life they can control.

Is it? Good luck with that argument. You might reflect on the fact that insulting the very people you're trying to persude to change their behavior isn't likely to be terribly successful.

But this isn't really about persuasion, is it? It's about venting your hatred of your fellow Americans.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I love my Bike, LOVE my Bike

Posted by: totallyIrrelevant on May 24, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Buying patterns depend not only on tastes but also on relative prices. With a cafe rule, automakers will charge a lower markup on costs for high milage types of cars....

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on May 24, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

If my memory serves me well, in the 80s both BMW and Jaguar, lacking any number of sales for smaller cars, were quite willing to pay a "fine" because there average mileage was above CAFE fleet standards. Equally, present day (US) manufacturers already make their money (I know that's contradictory) on their larger vehicles, particularly SUVs. They've never made any amount on their small cars. Plus it's just another complicating juggling act.

Tax the gas! Diesel. Petroleum. Whatever. Anybody actually going to get up and say why this makes no sense. Or less sense than all these "wonkish" ideas?

GOP -- "It's not about 'need,' it's about standard of living." This idiocy has already been dealt with but I would love to know how you measure "standard of living"?

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Is it? Good luck with that argument. You might reflect on the fact that insulting the very people you're trying to persude to change their behavior isn't likely to be terribly successful.Posted by: GOP

Fuck persuasion. You lot aren't smart enough to be persuaded. The only thing you understand and respect is the stick. So I'm more than willing beat some sense into you by doubling CAFE standards (well within the capabilities of even Detroit) and bludgeoning you with excise tax on vehicle weight and engine displacement.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

It's not "too wonky", Drum; it's friggin' insane.

CAFE wasn't broke.

First we need to tighten up the definition of a car, it ought to include thinbgs like the Ford Valdez.

Then we need to raise CAFE.

Doh

Posted by: Lettuce on May 24, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Tax gasoline up to $8/gal. and I guarantee you this car would become immediately popular. (of course, any diesel would be popular if you taxed only gasoline).

Brilliant. And how "popular" do you think a proposal to tax gasoline at $8/gallon is going to be?

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

GOP -- "It's not about 'need,' it's about standard of living." This idiocy has already been dealt with

What "idiocy" Do you have an actual point or argument to make?

but I would love to know how you measure "standard of living"?

The value of goods and services consumed.


Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII:

Fuck persuasion.

And that about sums up your attitude. As I said, you're not really here for a serious debate or discussion. You're here just to vent your contempt for other Americans.

Unfortunately for you, you live in a democracy, not the Dictatorship of JeffII, and if you really want things to change, persuasion is your only option.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly, GOP. Imagine what happens to all those Americans living below the poverty level when gasoline gets to $5 per gallon. Not to mention the middle class. Please, Reid and Pelosi - propose a $2 per gallon tax tomorrow!

Posted by: Cheney on May 24, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

See:

Revenue can be neutral and redistributed to the lower tax levels. If they use public transport so much the better....

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's $7 a gallon in most off Europe and causing very little rumpus. Unlike here, obviously!

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

I see the king of tedious trolling, Don/GOP/Al etc etc is back under his favorite name, still playing the "last word" game.

Whatafriggingloser.

Posted by: BB on May 24, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: Which is it then: "no passenger cars, vans or SUVs need a V-8 engine for any reason" or "most" don't? Pick one and stick with it.
Posted by: Cheney

Why do you keep posting this, other than the fact that you're an asshole who never makes sustantive contributions to threads here? I clearly stated that no passenger cars, vans or SUVs need a V-8 engine for any reason. I never qualified that with "most."

But getting back to my initial point, very few vehicles and no passenger cars, vans or SUVs need a V-8 engine for any reason. Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 7:25 PM

No. Because most people are stupid (see below) and don't need V-8 engines.

I see plenty of them doing farmwork and industrial work.Posted by: republicrat

And which small, isolated midwestern agricultural community do you live in? While it's true that some people need trucks, among them farmers and framing carpenters, they comprise something like 1% of all truck purchases in the U.S. The rest are used overwhelmingly as passenger vehicles, and damned inefficient ones at that. Posted by: JeffII

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know. I read the posts by some of my favorite progressives on this board and have to wonder if they really know as much about human nature as they should.

Personally, I have always thought that a car was a device to get me from here to there, nothing more (except for the little red sports car I bought during my mid-life crisis), but nearly everybody I know has a reason (some good and some not so good) for buying the car they drive. My sister-in-law bought a big SUV because she wanted to make sure she had room for all of her grandchildren's car seats. She has since bought a hybrid SUV because she likes setting high but wants better gas mileage. My brother drives the big SUV. My son and his wife have a minivan because she is a soccer mom and a minivan is a pretty darn convenient way to move kids to from appointment to appointment. He has a big pickup truck for hauling stuff. He quit driving his big pickup truck regularly because of gas mileage. He now drives a little jeep like Japanese vehicle that gets much better mileage. Another son is a single, 27 year old, and drives a Ford Mustang with a big V-8, because, well he can afford it. He thinks it helps him pick up young women. The fact is once he gets married to one of those young women, the Mustang will be history. My wife is plain cheap. She wants a Prius, but you can't find them around our part of the country, at least not without a long wait and a willingness to pay over sticker. As I said she is cheap. She never paid over sticker in her life and isn't about to start now. That is why we have recently ordered a Honda Fit. Frankly since we commute together that Fit will be a good daily drive choice. It has reasonable creature comforts and seems roomy on the inside, while getting over 30 around town. Our larger 6 cylinder Pontiac will be parked in the garage and will be used by me on special occasions (like trips) or when we can't commute together.

The point of all this is that everybody wants the freedom to buy the car that best fits his or her perceived needs. Some of those needs are better (the minivan, the hybrid and the little Honda) than others (the 6 cylinder Pontiac--which gets around 25 mpg.) Some are down right expressions of vanity. The big SUV, the Mustang and my old little red sports car. They are all equally human. Progressives poo poo such human choices at their peril.

Comments like "no car needs 8 cylinders" while entirely accurate are actually counter productive. They ooze the same kind of "I am better than you" mentality that turns off a lot of voters. Hell, it turns me off, and I as progressive as anybody.

JeffII, remember that persuasion requires an understanding of the person you are trying to persuade and willingness to fit your argument to that person's vision of the world and of himself. The car companies sure do a good job of remembering the simple rules of salesmanship.

PS, I am truly sorry if I have said anything to upset anyone.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 24, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

I am insane.

Posted by: BB on May 24, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately for you, you live in a democracy, not the Dictatorship of JeffII, and if you really want things to change, persuasion is your only option.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure. Are we? Less and less each day, it seems to me. Of course I might be wrong. It could be a monarchy.

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII, remember that persuasion requires an understanding of the person you are trying to persuade and willingness to fit your argument to that person's vision of the world and of himself. The car companies sure do a good job of remembering the simple rules of salesmanship.Posted by: Ron Byers

Sorry, Ron, but we are long past (about 30 years) the point where we need polite discussion about this topic. If you think the right and even most Americans are open to discussion or really even smart enough to understand the issue, then you've been living someplace other than they U.S. for the last six years. Have you forgotten why we are in Iraq?

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

I am insane.

Posted by: BB on May 24, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for proving my point, troll.

Gonna melt down as usual?

Bye.

Posted by: BB on May 24, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

notthere,

Read Ron Byers' post of 8:44pm. Finally, a sensible post from a self-described progressive.

But I expect he will just be ignored and y'all will continue to engage in masturbatory paleo-liberal fantasies ("$8/gallon tax on gas!" "$30,000 tax on a Hummer!" etc., etc.) and expressions of contempt towards the very people you need to convince.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

GOP -- "It's not about 'need,' it's about standard of living." This idiocy has already been dealt with

What "idiocy" Do you have an actual point or argument to make?

but I would love to know how you measure "standard of living"?

The value of goods and services consumed.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 8:31 PM |

Oh, GOP! You have bought the US consumer society hook, line and sinker, haven't you? You answered your own question and can't even see it, can you?

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think most Americans are a lot smarter than you give them credit. Notice in my little survey of my family 4 of my family members (my sister in law, my son, my wife, and me) have opted for higher gas mileage vehicles because of the cost of fuel. That leaves my brother who doesn't live all that far from his job, my son, who always wanted a toy and my daughter-in-law, who has safety reasons for her choice, driving vehicles that wouldn't pass your snooty muster. As time goes by they will all move to smaller vehicles for the same reason the rest of us have--economics.

As to public transportation, in my city, forgetaboutit, it is nearly non-existent.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 24, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII,

Sorry, Ron, but we are long past (about 30 years) the point where we need polite discussion about this topic.

Yeah, insulting the people whose votes and buying choices you're trying to change is obviously going to be much more successful for you.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah I'm a troll. What are you going to do about it libbie? Call the ACLU on me?

Bwahahaha!!

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm drunk right now.

Posted by: BB on May 24, 2006 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Why am I alone and miserable?

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

notthere,

Oh, GOP! You have bought the US consumer society hook, line and sinker, haven't you?

If this is supposed to be an expression of disagreement with my answer to your question about how to measure standard of living, why do you disagree with it? And what's your own answer?

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I'm missing something, but I read the linked article and it merely assumed that improvements in fuel economy would result in fuel savings - at least, the page cited did not give any evidence that such savings in fact occured or what there magnitude was. Obviously, merely improving fuel economy does not result in a one-for-one reduction in fuel usage because the greater economy drives higher useage. This should be self evident - many people have a budget for transportation, and if they can drive farther on that budget (say, take an extra trip to Grandma's house), they will. I didn't see any discussion of this on the cited page, but maybe it was on another page.

Posted by: DBL on May 24, 2006 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

POG says, "It's about selfish baby boomer middle class crackers with no balls having to buy giant trucks to live vicariously through them because it's the only thing in their life they can control."

Well, whatever. Have a nice life.

Posted by: DBL on May 24, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

A federal tonnage fee anually upon registation. I know it was struck down by the California courts, but that ruling was likely incorrect.

Posted by: Matt on May 24, 2006 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers:

Lemme just say I appreciated your post. You seem like a completely commonsensical person attemping to view these choices as the people who make them do.

This said, I *also* relate the the frustration of Jeff II, OBF, notthere and others who'd like to clobber the oil and auto industries with mandates to condition long-term outcomes. Do we really have the luxury anymore for the nearly unlimited "lifestyle choices" enjoyed by currently comfortable Americans?

The problem, of course, is that deprivation is relative. We see modest cutbacks in our choices and tend to scream bloody murder. Europeans -- with an equivalent level of cultural and technological sophistication -- take $7 gas as a given -- and make healthier transportation decisions.

This doesn't have to be "austerity." The trick is selling people on the idea. Shit, think of how much heart disease and obesity would go down if Americans started bicyling locally even as a small percentage of the communtes they currently drive to ...

This is fundamentally neither a political nor even a resource problem. It's a *psychological* problem that we can figure out how to overcome.

And forget fuel supply -- we need to reduce carbon emissions even more critically than we need to squeeze more out of a gallon of fuel ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

DBL you are right. There is no one to one correlation between increased fuel economy and decreased fuel usage. The cost dampening effect of increased fuel economy can and probably will encourage increased travel. Of course the real solution involves changing daily commute patterns. That involves shortening the distances from home to work and improving public transportation.

The folks in Europe have not been as impacted by higher fuel prices as people in America because for the most part they live closer to work and have effective public transportation systems. Cars are more of a luxury for weekend and special occasion travel. In many American cities the only way to go to work is via car.

I also think that the internet will help with this problem. I was talking to my partners yesterday about something I have noticed, and last night I had the same converstion with a former associate at the open house for his new office. It is clear to me that except to meet with clients and to enjoy the companionship of my collegues, I can do everything I need to do from home. My accountant hasn't had an office for several years. He works out of his home. I suspect a lot of people are making that same discovery.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 24, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

i have a new chevy aveo -- it's about 9-10 thousand for the base model (no AC, just AM/FM radio). i have the manual shift sedan model, and i have a mixture of city and highway driving for my commute. it has a 12 gallon tank, and it often goes for 360-380 miles before i have to fill it up. usually, there's just under a gallon still in the tank.

so, if you're looking for _cheap_ commuter car with efficient gasoline consumption, it's a good option. it's not a powerful car by any means, but i find it suits my purposes.

Posted by: spacebaby on May 24, 2006 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, merely improving fuel economy does not result in a one-for-one reduction in fuel usage because the greater economy drives higher useage. This should be self evident - many people have a budget for transportation, and if they can drive farther on that budget (say, take an extra trip to Grandma's house), they will.

Yes. And increased fuel efficiency may result not only in increased usage, but also in increased demand for larger vehicles. If, say, ten years from now an average SUV gets the same mileage as an average mid-size car does today, then more people may choose to buy SUVs. The savings in oil consumption from an increase in fuel efficiency may be offset by an increase in average vehicle size/power. We can already see this effect to some extent with newer hybrid models, such as the hybrid Accord. Rather than using hybrid technology primarily to reduce gas consumption, auto manufacturers have instead used it primarily to provide more power for the same gas consumption.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Do we really have the luxury anymore for the nearly unlimited "lifestyle choices" enjoyed by currently comfortable Americans?

Well of course they're not "nearly unlimited." And in 50 years Americans will likely be substantially richer than they are today and will look back on the lifestyle of today's Americans as significantly deprived, in the same way that we look back on the lifestyle of 1950s-era Americans in that way ("What, no big-screen color TVs? No cell phones? No cheap flights to Europe? No Starbucks and sushi restaurants? No MRI scans or viagra?") The idea that Americans are somehow too wealthy or have too good a lifestyle is just silly.

$7/gallon gas is much easier to accept in Europe than it would be in the U.S. because European countries and cities are much more geographically compact, meaning driving distances tend to be lower, cars tend to be smaller to accomodate smaller and more congested roads, and mass transit is much more cost-efficient. You're never going to get a mass transit system in LA or Phoenix or Houston that is remotely as efficient or accessible as those in London or Paris or Rome. The relative value of having a car will always be much greater in the U.S. than in Europe.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

The truth is that the whole debate about CAFE is blowing smoke...although I am an ardent Democrat, this is one area where changing regulations will have no impact.

Automakers will start increasing fuel efficiency in response to market demand...i.e. when people like you and I start buying smaller cars instead of bigger ones and start telling dealers that the reason that they've lost the sale is because their cars were not fuel efficient enough.

Regulations can force car manufacturers to make their cars more fuel efficient...buy they can't force people to buy them. And let's not forget, it's the cars that are actually bought and driven that pollute the atmosphere...not one's which sit on dealer lots with a big fat zero on the odometer.

Posted by: mfw13 on May 24, 2006 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: Sorry, Ron, but we are long past (about 30 years) the point where we need polite discussion about this topic. If you think the right and even most Americans are open to discussion or really even smart enough to understand the issue, then you've been living someplace other than they U.S. for the last six years.

You might be smarter and better informed than many people in the market, but you are not smarter and better informed than all of them. the freedom that wise buyers have to buy V-8 engines for their purposes extends as well to less wise buyers. This isn't about need (as perceived by you or anyone), it is about freedom, innovation, and opportunity. I gather that you have never seen a loaded van hauling a trailer working on rough ground or climbing a muddy hill. You feel you have the authority to asset that in the whole US economy there is justification for trucks to have V-8s, but not for SUVs. You don't.

Posted by: republicrat on May 24, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised no one has surmised the Bush administration plan to require each model car increase gas milage as a plan to support GM and Ford by removing Toyota and Honda from the US market.

I'm also with someone upthread who stated that they use a bicycle. I bike to work 9 months out of the year here in Minneapolis, MN. Saves gas and keeps me weighing under 300 pounds.

LM Wanderer

Posted by: LM Wanderer on May 24, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Last word.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

GOP:

Actually, GOP, relative deprivation is the crux of the problem. It's the crux of the immigration problem, it's why China is kicking our ass in manufacturing, it's why unions have lost most of their clout, it's why mature economies tend to go into long-term decline ...

Human behavior simply doesn't match up to classical economic modelling. An economy prospers, the workforce gradually gets paid more, standard of living rises -- as we for two and a half decades in the postwar period. But productivity per worker didn't rise along with it. So as economies which started from a much lower base (Japan, Europe) began to catch up with us as they rebuilt after the war, they overcame us, and the decline in manufacturing and stagnation of middle class wages has been ongoing ever since. And as those economies matured, their comfortably middle class workers performed a similar whammy on them as manufacturing moved to China and developing countries. And so it goes ...

While the American middle class is better off today than it was in the 50s by many objective yardsticks, we don't necessarily *feel* we're better off because we can order pizza at three in the morning or TiVo our favorite shows or download vast amounts of music for a trivial cost onto our iPods. We feel more insecure, less certain of the future -- and we're objectively much deeper in debt. While we're much better educated -- we're also hugely underemployed relative to that education. And of course there are a much larger palette of threats -- drug abuse, AIDS, mutating diseases like SARS and avian flu, terrorism -- than there were in the 50s. Opinion polls certainly elicit a much greater hope for the future 50 years ago than today.

If we can't measure the blessings we have in any clear-cut objective way, if we don't increase our output as workers as our pay increases -- then we simply can't plug human behavior into economic models, which insist that growth and earnings increase with time.

Our economic system isn't designed to meet human needs, GOP. It's the ideology of a cancer cell.

And that's why free-market economic solutions only seem to make the problems worse over time ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm also with someone upthread who stated that they use a bicycle. I bike to work 9 months out of the year here in Minneapolis, MN. Saves gas and keeps me weighing under 300 pounds."

My suggestion is that each and every American take a good hard look at their leg tone.

Leg tone is THE major indicator of diabetes and heart disease.

If you've got fat legs... corporate America owns you.

They own you because:

1) You rely on corporate America to move you from place to place in your local environment.

2) You will eventually rely on corporate America to dose you for the plethora of diseases caused by (1).

You don't like my message?
Tough.
Someone has got to tell you the truth.
Might as well be me.


Posted by: koreyel on May 24, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Why not just tax people for cars and give a deduction for dependents?

X% of the car - why take a government paperwork approach.

Posted by: McA on May 24, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh, GOP! You have bought the US consumer society hook, line and sinker, haven't you?"

If this is supposed to be an expression of disagreement with my answer to your question about how to measure standard of living, why do you disagree with it? And what's your own answer?

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:15 PM |

Actually, what I asked was:

"Oh, GOP! You have bought the US consumer society hook, line and sinker, haven't you? You answered your own question and can't even see it, can you?"

I was hoping you'd go away and engage a brain cell. It would be new but, I thought, an exciting prospect for you. But, no! You're back!

The question was: "..how you measure `standard of living'?" Your answer: "The value of goods and services consumed."

OK, ace. Let's say we have x and y. Each is single, has an income of $40,000 p.a. (above median) and are similar in major respects. Neither saves or maintains debt; they spend their money each year.

Now we're going to introduce some variables. Hang on! One has to live in NYC and the other can live in Mississippi just about anywhere. One loves to drive, the other hates it. One is a domestic type (likes a house and yard), the other doesn't care where he puts his head down. One likes to home cook, the other likes to eat out. You get the idea. Add your own variables.

Draw a line down a page. Now put all the NYC expensive items on one side and tell me how much more of same could be bought in Mississippi. x could buy a house in Mississippi, y probably rent a small apartment in NYC. Who has the better "standard of living".

But standard of living is quality AND quantity of goods and services so it gets more complicated.

But that's $ for $ within the US. Believe me, you could take that $40,000 a year and live even better in India, if that's what you like.

So, "standard of living" is not flat income/expenditure measure. That's just your tiny percentage of this country's GNP.

Here's some advice. Start trying to think for yourself. Slough off the party-think. Liberate yourself.

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1--
"the the frustration of Jeff II, OBF, notthere and others who'd like to clobber the oil and auto industries with mandates to condition long-term outcomes."

Please see/read:

.....In every other sphere we pretty much agree mandate driven policy is less efficient. Why do you all back it for this?

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK
and:
Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen an argument yet.

Posted by: notthere on May 24, 2006 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Silly silly Notthere. I'm a time-waster troll with severe OCD. You think I actually care about the content of what I'm saying?

Harharhar!!

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think most Americans are a lot smarter than you give them credit. Posted by: Ron Byers

If you really believe that, explain the last six years of American history.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

notthere:

Well any kind of energy tax -- whether on BTUs, carbon, petroleum or gasoline -- for the purpose of modifying behavior (both productive and consumptive) would be seen by free-market proponents as a "mandate," because it's artificially piddling in market forces just the same.

Remember all the flack Gore got for attempting to use economic incentives to encourage pro-social behavior? He thought it was a market-based reform -- he was mocked as a nanny-stater the same.

So I was using the term "mandate" as synonymous with an energy tax, the purpose of which is more to incent behavior than raise revenue (although the revenue couldn't hurt).

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't about need (as perceived by you or anyone), it is about freedom, innovation, and opportunity. I gather that you have never seen a loaded van hauling a trailer working on rough ground or climbing a muddy hill. You feel you have the authority to asset that in the whole US economy there is justification for trucks to have V-8s, but not for SUVs. You don't.Posted by: republicrat

Heyzeus, pubrat, in your lame attempt to be so fair minded you're as bad as Cheney/GOP/Charlie/Al. If I didn't know better I'd think you're just another (if less literate) iteration of our looney right wing Sybil.

You keep insisting that I don't acknowledge the need for special use or work vehicles with larger engines. For the last fucking time, my position, which is unassailable, is that there is no need for a passenger vehicle, be it a sedan, coupe, SUV or van, to have anything larger than a V-6 engine.This is where our problem lies with oil in this country, private passenger vehicles. There are nearly two in existence for every American. As there are only about 170 million of us that are eligible to drive, I'd say that's about 400 million too many autos. If you have a problem understanding this, then you should probably stay out of the discussion.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

If you really believe that, explain the last six years of American history.
Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 10:59 PM

Butterfly ballot, 9/11. swiftboat for the GOP, And last but not least elitists like JeffII.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 24, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney -- It's obvious and already "up front". The only question is whether you consider the beast to be good, or as Bush alluded to, a monkey on our back.

Posted by: has407 on May 24, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Jeff, I couldn't resist. I would suggest that the Republicans haven't exactly beaten the Democrats like a drum. Despite the fact that John Kerry ran the worst campaign in recent history, both Presidental elections have been razor thin. You might not have noticed but except for tax cuts (everybody likes tax cuts) Bush hasn't exactly had his way with his legislative program. Everybody is mad as hell at the Republicans. They are likely to lose both houses this year.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 24, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why everyone is so concerned about CAFE standards. They are basically worthless.

If you only sell one car and you miss the standard by 10 mph then you have to pay a small fine. If you are selling a fancy sports car for $60,000 that gets 12 miles a gallon then you have to add some extra money to pay the fine. I know it wasn't that much a few years ago and I can't imagine that the fines have been raised since then.

You also need to understand that if I sell two cars, one gets 10 miles a gallon and one that gets 50 miles a gallon then I met the CAFE standards. However, that doesn't really tell you anything about gas consumption. If gas goes for $.75 a gallon then the fancy sports car will probably be driven more. If gas is $4.00 a gallon then the small car will probably be driven more.

The key to how fuel efficient cars are is NOT the CAFE standard. The KEY IS THE PRICE OF A GALLON OF GAS.

We would be far better off if we had a serious gas tax and dropped all of the CAFE standards. Let the free market work and let supply and demand naturally cut our gas use and let the free market require car companies to make more fuel efficient cars. BUT the most important thing is to get people to DRIVE more fuel efficient cars.

Posted by: Neil Hecht on May 24, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

For the last fucking time, my position, which is unassailable, is that there is no need for a passenger vehicle, be it a sedan, coupe, SUV or van, to have anything larger than a V-6 engine.

Yeah, right. Your position is unassailable. This would only make sense if passenger vehicles were never used for work by anybody. And if you get to define "need" for everybody.

I have never owned a V-8, but I do not quarrel with other people's assessments of their needs for them. I don't think you should either.

Posted by: republicrat on May 24, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

"if you raise the standards for every category of vehicle, the average for all of them put together almost has to go up"

For shame Kevin, you seem to have fallen victim to AP Simpson's Paradox which (this is over-simplified) says: one cannot meaningfully average averages. Check out the examples at Wikipedia. They illustrate the fact that intuition (or as W would put it: "your gut") is no substitute for the evidence.

Posted by: Bill on May 24, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Bob/rmck1--
As I know you understand I don't see a tax as a mandate. I see a tax, in all cases, as an expense and therefore a disincentive. How you distribute those taxes affects the whole market: income, corporate, sales, cigarette, gas taxes, etc.

We know how to use them. They work. We can adjust them relatively easily. Within that relatively minor (or major) distortion, markets continue to work unless the tax can be avoided (smuggling, black market).

A mandate to me is an instruction that aims to distort the market. It's like the Kremlin: "X million tons of steel next year. 2 million hair dryers." They don't work. The distortions are hard to gauge. The outcome and effects unpredictable.

Your definition, any tax is a mandate. Free markets mean no taxes. Not to say a little unrealistic, don't you think?

Posted by: notthere on May 25, 2006 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Butterfly ballot, 9/11. swiftboat for the GOP, And last but not least elitists like JeffII.Posted by: Ron Byers

Actually, except for 9/11, the other three prove my point as to just how clueless Americans are.

You might not have noticed but except for tax cuts (everybody likes tax cuts)

Which, again, just proves how stupid Americans are as the overwhelming majority of the tax cuts went to people who were already at the very least in the upper-middle income bracket. Meaning that some 80% of Americans realized no benefit from the cuts. Yep! We Americans sure loves us some tax cuts. Hey China! Can you float us a couple billion more? No, really. We can see the light at the end of the Iraq tunnel.

Bush hasn't exactly had his way with his legislative program.

Bush never had a "legislative program" except for tax cuts. That being said, the only thing he actually worked actively for that was defeated was Social Security and Medicare "reform," leaving All Children Left Behind, and the splendid Medicare Drug "Benefit." Don't forget stem cell research being stymied for five years now. The EPA and Interior are in a shambles, as are the CIA and the military. And, again, I guess you kind of forgot about that pesky war in Iraq? Oh, and then there's that shining new example of democracy, Afghanistan! Smack anyone? Price is down because supplies are great.

Everybody is mad as hell at the Republicans. They are likely to lose both houses this year.
Posted by: Ron Byers

Well see. But the damage done in the last six years will take, in many cases, decades to undo. And this is not the fault of Bush and the Republican controlled Congress. This is the fault of the dim-witted American public who allowed all this to happen.

Posted by: JeffII on May 25, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: biu991 on May 25, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff11-
I gather you weren't driving during the years of the 55MPH .
A) Nobody actually drove 55.
B) Even in the 80's, fuel savings was minimal at best.
C) Modern cars run more efficiently at 70 MPH than 55

Posted by: CaptBob on May 25, 2006 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

JeffII-
I gather you weren't driving during the years of the 55MPH .
A) Nobody actually drove 55.
B) Even in the 80's, fuel savings was minimal at best.
C) Modern cars run more efficiently at 70 MPH than 55

Posted by: CaptBob on May 25, 2006 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry about the double post. Rookie mistake.

Posted by: CaptBob on May 25, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

From the same NAS link:

The gas guzzler tax, which first took effect in 1990, specifies a sliding tax scale for now passenger cars getting very low gas mileage. There is no comparable tax for light trucks. The level at which the tax takes effect increased from 14.5 mpg in 1980 to 22.5 mpg today, and the size of the tax has increased substantially. Today, the tax on a new passenger car achieving between 22 and 22.5 mpg is $1,000, increasing to $7,700 for a car with a fuel economy rating under 12.5 mpg. In 1975, 90 percent of new cars sold achieved less than 21 mpg and 10 percent achieved less than 12 mpg. In 2000, only 1 percent of all cars sold achieved less than 21.4 mpg (EPA, 2000). The tax, which applies only to new automobiles, has undoubtedly reinforced the disincentive to produce inefficient automobiles and probably played a role, as did the CAFE standards, in the downsizing of the passenger car fleet. The absence of a similar tax for light trucks has almost certainly exacerbated the disparities between the two vehicle types.

A $30,000 tax on a Hummer seems infinitely more sensible than a 100% tax deduction, which requires American taxpayers to subsidize its purchase and, of course, which the Bush administration not only endorsed but instituted.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on May 25, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

notthere:

Understand that I'm using what would be considered a term of common
discourse, not necessarily an accurate one. As you can see, our friend
Cheney already piped up and called an energy tax to moderate behavior
a "mandate." This is going to be churned by the Mighty Wurlitzer as
was done to a whole raft of sensible proposals by Gore to disincent
enenvironmentally and socially destructive behavior through varieties
of fiscal (tax) policy.

Understand also that we're on the same side; I do not oppose the idea
of an energy tax, whether supply or demand side, or gas guzzler taxes
or, in fact, any way to disincent fossil consumption through fairly
distributed higher prices. I am, however, along with Jeff II and OBF,
quite willing to accept the "mandate" label. You're not, because you
believe you can spin this as a "market reform," because prices rather
than government policy will be used to moderate behavior.

What I'm telling you is that this *will not matter*. You cannot co-opt
the support of the free marketeers this way, because to them,
Keynesian economics (which this is a species of, although not for
strictly economic ends) may as well be a Lenin Five-Year Plan.

That's the kind of neoliberal happy talk that always sort of
half-nauseated me about Clinton/Gore. You can't happy-talk
government-sponsored behavior mod, no matter how noble the ends.
So we may as well call a spade a spade here. We want people to change
their behavior, and it won't happen magically by the Invisible Hand.

You tried to turn my argument into a straw man. All taxes
are not mandates; the income tax's purpose is to raise revenue,
not modify behavior, even if there are incentives to this
end sprinkled throughout the tax code. There are also certain
types of tax "mandates" that are well-accepted by the public.
So-called sin taxes on booze and cigarettes. Often revenue
streams from state lotteries and legalized gambling are dedicated
to some noble end like funding for seniors (in my state) or
education. An energy policy should be modelled on this.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 25, 2006 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

Bob/rmck1 --
I appreciate the discussion as noone else would take it up. Where I differ -- am I too old? -- is willingness to make thing mean "...wnat I want to them to mean...." I'm heartily sick of coding meanings to confuse and obfuscate. I cannot bring myself to accept any tax as a mandate.

By popular vote (much more than 51%), the people give a mandate to a politician to carry out a program. A government gives a representative a mandate to carry out prescribed actions, etc. It is a commission to perform. You can have a mandate to raise or lower a tax or taxes.

An income tax is a tax: it can disincentivise a worker or force them to find a second job; it raises the cost of labor stimulating more efficient use. Just like a cigarette tax or a fuel tax or energy tax does the same thing: it diminishes demand and has knocks on effects like giving up smoking or fuel efficiency.

Your so called free marketeers are being inconsistent which, if you have an inconsistent philosophy/theory requires inconsistent language to support it. And, yes, I'm a Keynesian as I haven't seen it not work yet. So we can agree to differ but, in my view, I'm not the one spinning.

Posted by: notthere on May 25, 2006 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

The difference between a tax and a mandate - is that a mandate tells you how to comply "produce more low mileage cars", a tax just adds pressure and lets people innovate to reduce the amount of tax they pay.

A tax can incentivize use of public transport in some cases. A rule to reduce average car mileage at point of production doesn't.

My own idea for manipulating average mpg for a car company, is too classify a few sailboats as cars and sell them at a loss. The infinite mpg should pull the average up.

If I own a Humvee, and a wind powered car but never drive the windmobile, is that a good thing?

Posted by: McA on May 25, 2006 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20060524/ts_usatoday/boatersthrottlebackasgassoars

Where as higher gas prices, gives you strange saving like this. Higher gas prices, less boating, less strain on fish.

Who'd thunk it?

Posted by: McA on May 25, 2006 at 4:19 AM | PERMALINK

notthere:

The thing is -- I don't think we're differing at all on substance. And I think both of us are trying to avoid spin. I fully understand your rejection of the term "mandate." Using tax policy is not remotely in the same class as, say, wage and price controls. And virtually all tax policy has behavioral consequences embedded in it; it's why we have an income tax at all, as opposed to highly regressive sales taxes.

What I'm doing is trying to talk about this in a political context -- and that inevitably deals with spin and counterspin. Thing is, I remember the Gore campaign. At that time, it was very au courant in neoliberal circles to talk about using marketplace incentives instead of government regulation to effect environmental change. And I watched the economists chew this up ...

A tax on a behavior is *like* a mandate in the sense that it's calculated not merely with the revenue in mind, but taking into effect models that project a certain degree of behavior change. A cigarette tax of X per pack we calculate will reduce smoking by X amount, etc. And then this is sold to the people as "letting the market work."

An economist would look at this and reject the premises. Taxation to modify behavior isn't letting the market work; it's distorting the market to produce a desired outcome. The *intent* is still the same as, say, cigarette rationing. In the final analysis it's still meddling in the economy to produce effects at odds with maximizing subjective utility (and my *subjective* utility is maximized by feeding my nicotine habit, thank you very much, &c.)

This is why I have a strong sympathy with Jeff II, OBF and others who would just prefer to be honest about it. Don't call it a "mandate" if the term is technically inaccurate. They're simply avoiding the pretense that an energy tax amounts to letting the free market work. It's calculated government intervention every bit as much as regulatory action -- and that's a good thing. The market left to its own devices won't necessarily produce positive social outcomes.

Politically, this is the problem that Democrats have had by trying to co-opt Republican themes -- and then watching voters flock to the Republicans who offer them the real thing. Like John Kerry attempting to run to Bush's right on terrorism and the Iraq war instead of offering a clear alternative, the voters will choose the real thing over Republican Lite every time.

And that's exactly what we saw happen to the neoliberal "free market" frame on environmental issues in the 2000 election.

It's time to get serious and own up to our intentions.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 25, 2006 at 5:03 AM | PERMALINK

"Point taken, though I think Bush's proposals would raise fleet averages: if you raise the standards for every category of vehicle, the average for all of them put together almost has to go up unless buying habits change pretty dramatically"

CAFE was pretty successful, but breaking vehicles into even two categories did exactly what you fear - it encouraged people to buy vehicles in the next bigger class. Why? Lets say you're an auto dealer, and you need to keep down your CAFE for cars and trucks. You'd rather sell a small truck over a big car, since the small truck will bring DOWN your truck CAFE, while the big car will bring UP your car CAFE, even if the truck gets worse milage than the car. Thus, the dealer passes on some incentive to the buyer, and the truck gets sold. This is why midsize and fullsize station wagons have all but disappeared.

So Bush's plan, by having more categories, would encourage a small midsize car over a big compact, a small fullsize over a big midsize, etc. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The problem isn't too few categories, it's too many. With ONE category for BOTH cars and trucks, this problem goes away.

Posted by: Tom on May 25, 2006 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK

Our "friend" H. Morgan Burnett is at it again. Don't you people know that fuel efficiency is hazardous to your health?

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/0525edequal.html

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Posted by: dfsdfds on May 25, 2006 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

Can we please stop using the word "wonkish" to refer to any policy discussion with actual content? Let's not legitimize simple intellectual laziness.

Posted by: Matt on May 25, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

I think Bush's proposals would raise fleet averages: if you raise the standards for every category of vehicle, the average for all of them put together almost has to go up

Huh? No, it doesn't. Under CAFE, auto makers are forced to make decisions about how many cars to produce of each class. If their CAFE average is too low, they have to cut back on heavier vehicles and produce more economic ones. That's the whole idea of fleet averaging.

Bush's plan will almost certainly decrease fuel efficiency of overall fleets, as auto makers emphasize larger cars and trucks.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on May 25, 2006 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

CaptBob,

Modern cars run more efficiently at 70 MPH than 55

Say what? What?!

I'd sure like to see a cite for this, because it goes against everything I've heard about fuel economy and the affect of air resistance.

Maybe you mean modern cars run more efficiently at 70 MPH than a coal driven steam engine at 55 or some weird thing like that but otherwise you are simply wrong!

The same car driven in the same conditions will get more miles per gallon at 55MPH Then at 70 MPH.

Posted by: Tripp on May 25, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

notthere,

So, "standard of living" is not flat income/expenditure measure.

I didn't say it was. I said standard of living is the value of goods and services consumed. You seem to disagree with this, but I have yet to see any clear alternative definition from you.

Here's some advice. Start trying to think for yourself. Slough off the party-think. Liberate yourself.

Here's some advice: Read, think, and learn.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1,

I'm having a hard time figuring out what your post of 10:14pm has to do with anything I said. You just seem to going off on some tangent about the psychology of consumption. I was rebutting your claim that it is somehow wrong for Americans to keep striving to improve their standard of living, and explaining why high gas prices have less impact on standard of living in Europe than they would in the U.S.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

You can't tax the @#$$ out of gasoline. It hurts the pooor and middle class too much, and does absolutely nothing to inhibit the wealthy that buy most of the behemoths inthe first place. It drives up the price of everything else.

There is no reason for anyone to drive a vehicle getting less than 20 MPG anymore, except for RV's and commercial delivery vehicles. Screw CAFE, screw fleet averages, just simply set a minimum MPG for personal transport vehicles, and increase it at a steady rate. Put extra liscensing fees on big vehicles that people shouldn't be driving.

Posted by: Mysticdog on May 25, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII

For the last fucking time, my position, which is unassailable, is that there is no need for a passenger vehicle, be it a sedan, coupe, SUV or van, to have anything larger than a V-6 engine.

For the nth fucking time, there is "no need" for the vast majority of products and services that we buy. We don't buy them because we "need" them, we buy them because we WANT them. Even products that in some sense serve our basic "needs," like housing, food and clothes, are far more extravagant and sophisticated than is actually required to sustain our lives. So your claim that no one "needs" a car with a V6 engine, even if it's true, is completely and utterly irrelevant. We don't "need" virtually everything else we buy either.


Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

R. Porro,

A $30,000 tax on a Hummer seems infinitely more sensible than a 100% tax deduction, which requires American taxpayers to subsidize its purchase and, of course, which the Bush administration not only endorsed but instituted.

A $30,000 tax on a Hummer and a 100% tax deduction on a Hummer would both be idiotic, so it's a good thing we don't have either of them.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

There is no reason for anyone to drive a vehicle getting less than 20 MPG anymore, except for RV's and commercial delivery vehicles.

Of course there is. Size and power are desirable features for many people in a motor vehicle. That's the reason they buy vehicles that get poor gas mileage.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

It might be sensible to have a high gas tax, but make the tax on up to (as an example -- this number would need further consideration) 200 gallons a year creditable, with receipts, against income tax.

You could even make it a system of "marketable credits", after a fashion, simply by allowing people to buy and sell gas tax receipts, so that those who hadn't used their full creditable alotment would be free to offer to buy receipts from those who'd used more than the creditable alotment (presumably, at a discount from the amount of tax).

Posted by: cmdicely on May 25, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

It might be sensible to have a high gas tax, but make the tax on up to (as an example -- this number would need further consideration) 200 gallons a year creditable, with receipts, against income tax.

Any gas tax probably disproportionately impacts the poor. Poorer Americans tend to drive older, poorly-maintained, fuel inefficient vehicles.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

There is no reason for anyone to drive a vehicle getting less than 20 MPG anymore, except for RV's . . .Posted by: Mysticdog

Actually, there is no reason for RVs.

Posted by: JeffII on May 25, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, there is no reason for RVs.

Yes there is.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

The reason for focusing standards on fleets rather than cars is that ALL we care about is averages, and the mix does change. Furthermore, car specific standards could have an adverse effect on the mix.

Suppose it is very expensive to raise the efficiency of a Prius by 10 percent, but relatively cheap to raise the efficiency of a SUV by 10 percent. The standard will then raise the price of a Prius relative to an SUV causing people to buy more SUVs and fewer Prius.

I can see no reason whatsoever why the government should micro-manage the auto industry. Give the manufacturers overall targets (let them even trade any excees mileage) and leave the rest to them. Remember, the point is to burn less gas, not to have people drive tanks that are very fuel efficient -- for tanks.

Posted by: Dean Baker on May 25, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

GOP:

You were rebutting a specific claim -- I was rebutting your entire asshat worldview.

Americans and Europeans aren't "striving to improve" their standard of living -- that's the whole point.

As wages and standards of living improve in a maturing economy, worker productivity *per worker* doesn't rise along with it. In fact, it tends to start declining as expectations rise.

And that's why places like China can kick our fucking ass -- because they get much more productivity out of workers paid at much lower wages.

If human behavior responded the way neoclassical economics models, then as our standard of living rose we'd work harder.

Instead, the opposite tends to be true. And that's why mature postindustrial economies tend to go into long-term decline.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 25, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who drives a V8 vehicle for hauling, towing or other heavy duty "work" instead of a turbodiesel is either a fool or a tool. Maybe both.
More torque, better traction, better fuel economy, and it won't explode unless you're transporting explosives. They also get 2-4 x the mileage before needing to be replaced or completely rebuilt. (i.e. 500k mi instead of 150k mi.)
They may not accelerate quite as quickly, but people don't need to run timed 1/4 miles pulling a trailer.

Posted by: kenga on May 25, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

> Say what? What?!
>
> I'd sure like to see a cite for this,
> because it goes against everything I've
> heard about fuel economy and the affect
> of air resistance.

Sorry to disappoint you but I have observed it myself on many different vehicles with instantaneous fuel economy meters. 72 mph seems to be the tipping point for most smaller cars - up to that speed fuel economy goes up, after that it goes down.

I would be careful of the conventional wisdom on that particular issue. Claybrook/Nader were not very truthful people, yet they did manage to create memes which persist to this day.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on May 25, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

> You can't tax the @#$$ out of gasoline. It
> hurts the pooor and middle class too much,
> and does absolutely nothing to inhibit the
> wealthy that buy most of the behemoths inthe
> first place.

Sorry to disappoint you, but since the middle and lower class make up the VAST majority of drivers in the US, in order for gasoline consumption patterns to change this group MUST experience an increase in the real price of gasoline and therefore some pain. Otherwise - no change in behaviour.

The only question is whether this will happen in a controller manner (i.e. via taxes) or all at once after the next 2 Katrinas and the Iran war.

Much as I despise the rich and their Hummer H3s, it is the average joe driving a V-8 Durango (particularly a 7-year-old, out-of-tune Durango) that is using the bulk of the fuel, the precious juice.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on May 25, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Dean Baker writes:
>
> The reason for focusing standards on fleets rather than cars is
> that ALL we care about is averages, and the mix does change.
> Furthermore, car specific standards could have an adverse effect
> on the mix.

[and lots of other good stuff]

I think it's vital to point out that the CAFE problem is a (fascinating) example of something called Simpson's Paradox.

So the simplest case here is a car company (call it Acme Motors)that makes just two kinds of car. The Guzzler gets 10 mpg, while the Sipper gets 40 mpg. In 2005, Acme sells equal numbers of each car, for a fleet average fuel economy of 25 mpg. By 2010, amazing technical advances allow Acme to increase the fuel economy of each vehicle by 50%! In other wores, the Guzzler now gets 15 mpg, while the Sipper gets an amazing 60 mpg. Pretty obviously, the fleetwide economy has to go up, right?

Well, no. The marketing department at Acme knows that profits on the Guzzler are much higher, so they market it aggressively, while the Sipper is allowed to "sell itself". So in 2010, 80% of Acme's market is the Guzzler, while only 20% is the Sipper, and the fleet-wide performance is now down to 24 mpg.

But an interesting point here is that Acme wouldn't even have to be evil to have their fleetwide fuel economy go down. Let's pretend that other car companies had big cars that got 10 mpg and that also improved in fuel economy, but only by 20%. In this case, lots of those buyers now switched brands and bought the Guzzler, which had much better fuel economy. This could cause Acme's sales to increase, but changes the mix of cars they sell. Across all brands and all cars, fuel economy has gone up, but it's gone down for Acme, who actually improved per car mileage more than any competitor.

Simpson's paradox is really fascinating, but what it tells me is that no matter how well-intentioned or well-implemented a CAFE-type plan is, there's a much cleaner solution that doesn't lead to any paradoxes and should lead to reductions in gasoline use over the same time horizons: increase the price of gasoline.

If gas cost $5 a gallon, the fleet mix of new cars would change a lot. But more than that, you would also change usage patterns in cars that had already been purchased. The Acme Guzzler is only a really crappy buy if we can safely assume that it only has one passenger. If it seats five in style and is used to carpool, (keeping 4 other Guzzlers in their respective garages) then it's potentially a much better deal.


Posted by: Jonathan King on May 25, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII:
"What did you expect, to see F-350s, Hummers and such abandoned by the roadside all over the country? It doesn't happen overnight. It takes a while to affect behavior in this fashion. However, we're seeing again, just as we saw in the mid-70s, dealerships cutting the longest deals at the best prices to clear all the gas guzzling behemouths off the lot. GM announced last week that it will quit making the orignal model of the Hummer, which got something like 12MPG on the highway. Driving by the local GM dealership I pass everyday to and from work, I see their animated sign touting the fuel efficiency of various models. Deja vu all over again. I hope gas goes to $5/gallon."

First, no, I didn't expect to see gas-guzzlers sitting on the side of the road. That was exactly my point. This DOES take time, and in the mean time, it's HIGHLY regressive.

Who is buying a new, fuel-efficient car? The guy who spends 50% of his paycheck on gas? Or the guy who wants to save a little extra each month so he can buy NFL Season Ticket on DirecTV?

By taxing the living fuck out of gasoline you introduce a highly regressive tax which affects the working poor at a horrendous percentage and doesn't affect the rich at all. The middle class you effect enough to nudge their next car-buying decision (although in the ~4-5 year meantime you're taxing the bejesus out of them too).

As I said, if you want to make the process of buying a new car favor fuel efficiency, then tax the living fuck out of gas guzzler vehicles. Get people at the point of decision, not as a punative after-effect. The one point that I missed there was that this needs to be based on a percentage of the sale price, not some flat dollar value (otherwise, again, paying $10k extra on a $250k car won't phase the buyer, but paying 75% (~$180k) extra because it misses the fuel economy target by 75% definitely would ... at the same time, adding $180k to the price of a $30k passenger van seems like it would hurt the working poor a bit too much ...)

If you are trying to get people to drive less, then act at the city-planning level, not, again, at a punative level. Most people, moreso those with hanging-on-a-thread jobs than those making a hundred grand a year, can not change their living/work situation substantially short term. They have no way to react to $5 gas. Their only reaction can be to let the credit card payment lapse, let the mortgage or rent lapse, and eventually claim bankruptcy.

Again, I have no problem with using market forces here to guide decisions over CAFE standards. The problem many people have here is that they keep assuming that people "choose" to use X amount of gas per week, or that, as one poster said, if the price of gas goes up they'll just drive their little fuel economy mobile around instead of the sports car. That's great for the folks at the top of the economic ladder; but you affect their driving and buying habits at the expense of flooding welfare rolls with folks who can no longer afford to get to their jobs.

And that, my friends, should be the LAST thing we progressives are in favor of!

Posted by: Jet Tredmont on May 25, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

You were rebutting a specific claim -- I was rebutting your entire asshat worldview.

You didn't rebut anything.

Americans and Europeans aren't "striving to improve" their standard of living -- that's the whole point.

What nonsense. Of course they are. Economies grow because people choose to engage in economically productive activity to improve their standard of living. People acquire knowledge and skills in order to get a better job and make more money so they can buy more stuff. Consumer demand is the primary engine of economic growth in all the industrialized democracies.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't "Detroit" a misnomer? Aren't most "American" cars manufactured elsewhere? Does anyone have the number of cars manufactured in Mexico for "Detroit"?

The practical, technically feasible, car of the near future will be electric with lithium ion batteries recharged by solar or wind power, charged on or off the grid. The electric motor is much more efficient than the internal combustion engine. With electric motors, no energy is used while idling at lights. Some braking energy is returned for storage in the batteries.

Since the electrical energy will be derived from solar and wind energy, no net CO2, SO2 or other pollutants will be emitted. No extra thermal energy is dumped into the environment, just the energy interrupted by the wind and solar electric collectors on its way to heat the earth's surface.

Fuels derived from sugar cane or switch grass are captured by slow growing plants that are much less efficient in capturing solar energy than a silicon solar cell. In temperate zones, solar and wind are 20 to 50 times more efficient energy producers. And as an added bonus, you don't need to cut down every tree in the Amazon to grow sugar cane for your SUV or VW.

Of course, right now you can buy reasonably priced electric motorcycles that go at least 30 miles on a charge. They move at around 30 miles per hour. Goggle "electric motor scooter" and see how many choices you have right now.

Looks to me like a Peak Oil Crisis will make CAFE standards moot. Internal combustion engines are just a passing fancy.

Posted by: deejaays on May 25, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

The practical, technically feasible, car of the near future will be electric with lithium ion batteries recharged by solar or wind power, charged on or off the grid.

No it isn't. The batteries are too heavy and expensive, do not provide enough range, and there's no recharging infrastructure. Electric vehicles will be confined to small niche markets until affordable and effective fuel cells are available, which is decades away.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK
The batteries are too heavy and expensive, do not provide enough range, and there's no recharging infrastructure.

Lead-acid batteries are perhaps too heavy and don't provide enough range, lithium ion and other more advanced batteries may, for now, be too expensive, and there is, in fact, some recharging infrastructure.

Electric vehicles will be confined to small niche markets until affordable and effective fuel cells are available, which is decades away.

This part is probably true; plug-in hybrids (including diesel-electric hybrids that can burn biodiesel) are more likely to be important soon than pure-electric vehicles.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 25, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Lead-acid batteries are perhaps too heavy and don't provide enough range, lithium ion and other more advanced batteries may ... be too expensive,

Yes, they are too expensive, too heavy, and they don't provide enough range.

and there is, in fact, some recharging infrastructure.

A handful of (now useless) recharging stations were built in Arizona and Southern California for the (now defunct) GM EV-1 electric car. They didn't even provide sufficient coverage for the tiny number of vehicles they were built to serve. It would take decades and billions of dollars to build a national recharging infrastructure capable of supporting a significant fleet of electric vehicles.

This part is probably true;

Of course it's true, just as it's true that batteries are too heavy and expensive, and that there is no recharging infrastructure.

plug-in hybrids (including diesel-electric hybrids that can burn biodiesel) are more likely to be important soon than pure-electric vehicles.

A plug-in feature on hybrids will also be of limited appeal for many years due to the lack of recharging infrastructure.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

GOP:

> "You were rebutting a specific claim -- I
> was rebutting your entire asshat worldview."

> You didn't rebut anything.

Uh-huh. Do you honestly think I'd believe that a poster who styles
himself as "GOP" would be capable of seeing beyond the cliches?
Dude, free market fundamentalism is a *religion*. You clutch
on to your a-priori assumptions like a nun to her rosary beads.

> "Americans and Europeans aren't "striving to improve"
> their standard of living -- that's the whole point."

> What nonsense.

And where were *you* the last 30 years as
America lost most of our manufacturing base, eh?

> Of course they are.

Of course it's an *assumption*, and one which can't even be examined
by orthodox economists because it's been put in a black box called
"subjective utility." Well guess what -- some people maximize
their subjective utility by getting all into their jobs and striving
to learn new skills and keep on top of a rapidly changing economy.

And some people maximize their subjective utility by
sitting on a stoop drinking Boone's Farm and toking spliffs.

To an economist, these activities are *the same thing*.

I'll bet you didn't know that, huh. That's because
I'll bet you never even cursorily studied economics,
but rather learned your shtick reading Reynolds, &c.

Look up "subjective utility" before you knee-jerk at me about it.

> Economies grow because people choose to engage in economically
> productive activity to improve their standard of living.

That hardly describes the typical behavior of middle-class
workers. What the average worker *really* wants to do is work for
a firm for 40 years and retire with a gold watch and a nice pension.
Thanks for your service to our company, Mr. Smith. And that used
to be the way of it for auto and steel workers and the like.

But then something happened called the global economy ...

> People acquire knowledge and skills in order to get a
> better job and make more money so they can buy more stuff.

People acquire knowledge in today's economy out of a profound
insecurity that they could lose their jobs *snap* like that. This
is not a shift facilitated by "natural economic behavior" -- it's
a shift made essential by survival. People with families have
inelastic expenses. Much of this is driven more by the love of
one's children than by any affirmative choice to "buy more stuff."

You know, you're wingin' it here, but if you had real knowledge of
economics, you'd be talking about the vast increase in productivity
growth to support your thesis of what drives our increasing standard
of living. Indeed, unprecedented increases in productivity growth
sustained the 90s boom. But productivity growth means something a
little different than it did in Henry Ford's day, when he built the
River Rouge plant and attracted workers, many recent immigrants and
from the rural South who previously lived an agrarian existence, and
paid them a solid middle-class wage ($5 a day). *That* represented
both a surge in productivity growth (men working with machines) and
a rise in standard of living that sustained this country for decades.

Today, productivity growth means something a little different. It
means doing the same amount of work with less workers. What drives
it is automation and the IT revolution. While without question that's
made a significant chunk of people a bunch of money, it's arguable
whether it's been an ualloyed boon to the American worker as a whole.

And there's no question that this fundamental insecurity (which
economists and their camp followers love to try to spin as the
"natural result" of a "competitive economy") is why, despite a
standard of living objectively much higher today than it was in the
50s, that there's so much more uncertainty about the future than in
that decade, so much conviction that America is on the wrong track.

Many people who appear well-to-do are living in a house of cards,
GOP. They use their home equity as a credit card, they have no
savings, they live in McMansions with cathedral ceilings that are
monstrously expensive to heat, drive their SUVs 80 miles to and
from work. Sure, the Dow is at record levels, unemployment looks
good, interest rates are still at historic lows, inflation is under
control. But why don't these great numbers translate to optimism?

If economists define this as "natural behavior," they're simply
taking the behavior that exists and making it true by definition.

> Consumer demand is the primary engine of economic
> growth in all the industrialized democracies.

Which only demonstrates how little you know about the history of
capitalism. Read Max Weber. Capitalism arose in societies that
emphasized production over consumption -- like the early New England
Puritans, many of whom amassed fortunes in farming, trading and
manufacture without living glitzy lifetyles. Production and business
success for them was its own reward, a proof of Godly virtue. Read
Poor Richard's Almanac. Japan's boom through the 80s was sustained by
a culture which similarly emphasized the collective over consumerism.

Consumerism as a driving force -- spending on credit for
luxuries, motivation research advertising which conflates
desires with "needs" -- occurs in maturing, postindustrial
economies and is both a cause and an effect of decline.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 25, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Do you honestly think I'd believe that a poster who styles himself as "GOP" would be capable of seeing beyond the cliches?

As far as I can tell, you'd believe the moon is made of cheese.

Dude, free market fundamentalism is a *religion*.

Is it? Er, okaaay. And exactly what is this bizarre comment supposed to have to do with anything I have actually said?

You clutch on to your a-priori assumptions like a nun to her rosary beads.

What assumptions would those be? Be careful to state only things I have actually said, rather than those that exist only in your fevered imagination of what I said.

And where were *you* the last 30 years as
America lost most of our manufacturing base, eh?

Er, right here. And the point is.....? You're not making much sense, as usual. You make the above statement in response to my statement that Americans are striving to improve their standard of living. And the connection between my statement and your response is supposed to be.....what, exactly? Do you have any kind of coherent argument to make, or are you just going to keep making this kind of mystifying non-sequitur?

Of course it's an *assumption*,

Of course WHAT'S an assumption? What does "it" refer to? Again, this statement is just grammatically incoherent as a response to the statement of mine you quote immediately before it.

and one which can't even be examined by orthodox economists because it's been put in a black box called "subjective utility."

WHAT has been put in a black box called "subjective utility?" Again, it's hard to figure out what the hell you're even trying to say, because you keep referring to "it" without providing any indication of what that pronoun is supposed to be referring to.

I don't have the patience to try and decipher any more of your post. If you have a relevant, coherent, comprehensible response to what I have actually said, then make it.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Bob/rmck1
Thanks for your post 5:03 am. Missed it. Agree on Republican Light but I am so non-political I have no idea if being more straightforward is effective. My gut says it works longer term, after other policies have failed. Very altruistic but not, probably, US politics.

On GOP, there's no point in getting in a "discussion" with him 'cos he knows diddly about anything, let alone economics. He is purely argumentative. Search "standard of living".

Posted by: notthere on May 25, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1 --
I mean search "standard of living" in this item.

Posted by: notthere on May 25, 2006 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

GOP:

Well I guess it should also stand to reason that you'd be a
literal-minded kinda guy :) I've reread my response; all
the pronouns match up with anteceedents and I'm following
your argument just fine. You might have to, you know, read
what I'm saying a little *carefully* -- but I hardly think it's
beyond the ken of the posters here with an education in economics
vastly superior to mine. Cmdicely would follow it no problem.

Of course what I say can be rebutted; I'm arguing from a
perspective and not considering an alternative to my position.
And that's very troubling, because I do not know an adequate
solution to the problem the global economy poses to workers.

So lemme cut to the chase and examine the crux of what you're saying:

> Economies grow because people choose to engage in economically
> productive activity to improve their standard of living.

> People acquire knowledge and skills in order to get a
> better job and make more money so they can buy more stuff.

This might be a commonplace of MBA programs -- but it simply does
not describe behavior in the real world. It neither adequately
describes why standards of living rise nor suggests the motivations
of workers who keep themselves abreast of their occupations.

In fact, in the postwar 30-year golden age of American
manufacturing -- it happened in the reverse. Standards of living
and wages continued to rise while worker productivity remained
relatively constant. Why? In the heavy industries, unions were
negotiating better and better contracts. Corporations had no
problem with this, because we had essentially annihilited the
industrial bases of Europe and Japan, and nobody competed with
us. GM was making scads of money -- why begrude the labor force?

So when Japan and Germany began to give us a serious run for our
money in the 70s, we were notoriously unprepared for it. Unions
fought hard for their contracts, and a new orthodoxy began to
arise that blamed the UAW for the Big Three's decline. Workers
were "lazy;" they "wanted to be paid more than what they're worth."
And, of course, Detroit declined and auto manufacturing blossomed
in places without unions, and without guarantees for workers.

This is unfair to workers; union negotiators were only maximizing
the subjective utility of their workers every bit as much as a
corporate striver who acquires new knowledge and skills so he
can climb the ladder and "buy more stuff." If a worker is forced
to take a 15% pay cut but is still paid three times as much as
his Japanese counterpart -- it still feels like a loss of standard
of living. There is no objective way to measure it; that's why
Mexicans will work for $7/hr at jobs no American would touch
for under $14 -- and feel much wealthier than the American.

This is what I meant when I originally said that
depriviation is relative. Because we *are* better off than
we were in the 50s doesn't mean that we *feel* better off.

We don't; we feel quite insecure.

In today's service and IT economy, it's a given that workers and
management need to keep themselves abreast of their fields and keep
their resumes updated. But this isn't a human drive that you say
is what increases standard of living; this is forced on us by a
fluid global economy that can shed jobs without warning through
downsizing and outsourcing. The primary motive is defensive.
This behavior is forced on us, rather than being actively chosesn.

What's expanding standard of living is what it ever was:
productivity growth. But as I argued last message, productivity
growth today means more work out of less workers, and it's a
process driven by technology and not labor. It's why our level
of underemployment -- of unused college and graduate degrees --
is so high; it's why a ticket in the solid middle class is not
what it was back in the day when you could be a steel hunkie
with a 10th grade education and retire with two houses. It's why
two-family incomes are essential to produce a lifestyle that Dad
alone could provide 40 years ago. We're all working much harder,
with less security, less benefits, than our parents' generation.

And once again, this is why all the tech toys imaginable, all the
new foods available, all the state-of-the-art medicine, all the
vastly expanded entertainment forms -- don't make us more secure.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 25, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Rather than playing character assassin, I would rather look at an actual acceptable mode of renewable transportation.

I make the assumption that petrofuels will run out in 20 to 40 years. I also assume that there is not enough arable land for both food and fuel production. I also use existing technologies to base my calculations.

So can we get around on electric powered vehicles?

Existing lithium ion battery packs have an energy density of 7.5 kilograms per HorsePower-hour. A highway small car has a 100 HP motor. This is a peak energy requirement for zipping up a steep grade with four chunky passengers. The actual cruising horsepower is much lower. Let us assume that 10 HP for 5 hours is a reasonable cruising need. This is 50 HP-hrs. The battery weighs 375 Kgs (825 lbs). Is this acceptable for a town-car weighing 2400 pounds?
So you have to plug it in and recharge it. How much electricity would you need? A HP-hr is around 0.75 KW-hr. This is 37.5 KW-Hrs. At $0.15 per KW-hr, a good estimate for solar and wind powered electricity supplied to the existing power grid. This is $5.60 per "tank full".

So you could still have mobility and millenia of renewable energy without overburdening the environment, contributing to global warming or pollution.

Is that acceptable?

Posted by: deejaays on May 26, 2006 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

I'm cool with the idea of taxing cars in proportion to engine size to penalize gas guzzling. It works for Asia.

Only thing is that, there is a genuine need for families to have big cars under car seat laws. They need some kind of deduction to compensate.

And the family unfriendly buggers can just go to hell. No kids, no one to pay for the baby boomers in retirement.

Posted by: McA on May 26, 2006 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have the patience to try and decipher any more of your post. If you have a relevant, coherent, comprehensible response to what I have actually said, then make it.

Posted by: GOP on May 25, 2006 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

GOP, If you had ever made an intelligent question or response in the 2 months I have been here I might been sympathetic.

Glad you don't have the attention to read an intelligent post. Just confirms the intelligence level of the reader.

Bob / rmck1 has answered you more than enough in terms of script. You have given no substantial answers.

Give an educated or perceptive or argumentive answer.

Everybody else,
GOP, McA, American Hawk are all here purely for argument, not debate. They have no ideas or original thought or independence.

Posted by: notthere on May 26, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

argumentive = argumentative
I try NOT to be illiterate.

Posted by: notthere on May 26, 2006 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

> GM announced last week that it will quit making
> the orignal model of the Hummer, which got
> something like 12MPG on the highway.

Which is funny, because what is now called the "Hummer H1" and is essentially a civilian version of the military HUMMV is/was the ONLY model of that product line that could possibly have been justified on a utility basis. In truth most of them were bought by Arrrrrnold wannabes, but if there was actually an "I need it for my ranch" argument it was for that model. The one now being killed.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on May 26, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

'GOP' posted:

"Brazil produces most of its ethanol from sugar cane, a crop that could not be grown in sufficient quantities in America's climate. The economics of producing ethanol from crops that grow well in the U.S. (corn and switchgrass) are much less attractive"

Except that ethanol can be made from corn, wheat, soybeans, milo, and many other starch feedstocks. One of them is usually cheap when the others are high.

.

"(in particular, ethanol from corn seems to use more energy than it provides)"

WRONG.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

"for every one unit of energy used to produce ethanol and its accompanying co-products, 1.67 units of energy results"

PDF


Contrarily, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, "every unit of energy expended in gasoline production is reported to result in only 0.79 units of energy in the form of gasoline"

PDF


Do try and keep up.
.

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