Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

July 3, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MILEAGE STANDARDS....Remember that EPA report about greenhouse gases that the White House refused to open its email to read? I missed this when it was first posted a few days ago, but the report's conclusions have a little more punch when you see them in the original. So here they are, courtesy of the Wonk Room:

"Far outweigh," by the way, turns out to mean about $2 trillion. Not bad for a bunch of tree huggers.

Kevin Drum 11:48 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

Bookmark and Share

I choose not to read this post, ergo I can assert the denial of its contents without lying.

[Closes eyes, covers ears with hands] lalalalalala...

Posted by: Winston Smith on July 3, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

If gas prices don't come down dramatically and soon the public is going to demand fuel economy far in excess of the proposed standards. The refusal of GM, Ford and the rest to get out front on fuel economy might just sink a few of those companies as they are forced to dump SUV and light truck inventory while rapidly retooling to meet economy vehicle demand. Enlightened executives would have welcomed higher standards long ago. Enlightened executive seems to be an oxymoron in today's American business world.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 3, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

The technology to build conventional gasoline-fueled cars that get 50MPG or better has been "readily available" for 20 years.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

If the leadership of GM ran Micrsoft we'd all still be running DOS.

Posted by: RobertSeattle on July 3, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers wrote: "Enlightened executive seems to be an oxymoron in today's American business world."

I would disagree. For example, the executives at Google have chosen to invest heavily in the development of solar electricity generation and pluggable hybrid-electric cars.

And then there are the executives at companies like Nanosolar who envision a future in which ubiquitous, cheap, high-efficiency, distributed photovoltaic electricity generation will radically transform the way that electricity is produced and used, thereby causing social changes comparable to those brought about by the automobile, television, the Internet and cell phones.

And for that matter there are at least a few executives at General Motors who are pushing the development of GM's pluggable hybrid-electric car, the Chevy Volt -- no doubt having to overcome resistance from others at GM.

But, yes, clearly there are plenty of backwards executives in the oil, coal, automobile and electricity industries who are dragging their feet and clinging to the rapidly and inevitably dying era of cheap, abundant fossil fuels.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Light duty vehicles have a variety of GHG savings potential, from standard sedans to bicycles, and everything in between.

We reach a blocking point, howevoer, when we put a 500 pound ultra-lite on a freeway with semi-trucks. The medical costs begin to eat away at savings.

We have a variety of ultra-lites using todays electrical technology, much of it in pieces in my backyard as the young kids around here experiment. But the young kids need less technology and more concrete barriers because they suffer disproportionately more broken legs.

Posted by: Matt on July 3, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's not directly relevant, but in Portland, Clever Cycles (a cargo/commuter/chic-focused bicycle store) sold so much stuff so fast, that they're taking a no-inventory vacation:

Yes, we’re taking a vacation in the middle of the so-called bicycling season, 28 July to 11 August. Why? Because we expect to be sold out of nearly all our most popular products! We’re out of many of them already. (Bakfietsen? Xtracycles? Child seats? Certain Bromptons, Retrovelos etc…) It’s a combination of some of our suppliers being sold out themselves, and others being simply too far away for timely resupply. Sales have exceeded our most confident hopes; thank you! We’ve been hiring, and we’re still working at capacity, 7 days a week.

Those items listed that they're out of, are not cheap, either.

Posted by: dr2chase on July 3, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Fuel economy standards are now moot. Thomas Malthus (the long dead economist) has seen fit to give us peak oil. Now the desperate need of people not to go broke paying for rule will trump any standards we would have imposed. Good standards a few years back would have eased the current crisis.

Secular Animist claims there are a few enlightened executives. But aren't google executives really just techno-hippies who struck it good. The normal career path for CEOs doesn't produce them, even if a few tech startups will propel a few geeks into a few executive suites. These aren't the guys running the traditional big companies. At this point it looks like American car companies are toast. American airlines are toast. American banking is toast. Thats quite a large chunk of American business that will shortly fail! All of this because our precicious MARKET is incapable of predicting a future supply crunch.

Posted by: bigTom on July 3, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Matt, those semis are going to be a disappearing part of the American highway landscape too.

Very few businesses will be able to continue to rely on trucking for the vast bulk of their shipping with rising fuel costs.

Fed Ex, UPS, etc. would be wise to invest not only in hybrid, electric vehicles, but also railways.

The trains are coming back. I can easily imagine seeing transportation resembling what we had in the 1930s where rail dominated the long distance transportation industry.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on July 3, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I can prove you and the Wonk Room are undeniably wrong.

A. Assume you and the Wonk Room are correct
1. We are in the middle of a very competitive Presidential Race
2. We are coming up on the Fourth of July holiday, traditionally one of the biggest holidays in terms of trips and trip miles
3. We are in the middle of the highest cost of gas regime (real dollars) ever in history
4. The costs of gas are projected to increase and the taxpayer is suffering these high costs in terms of increases in gas, food, and most goods.
5. The information from the wonk room is well known by the Democratic candidate for President
6. And so politically, now would be an opportune time for the Democratic Candidate to call attention to those findings, and call for these new standards in the name of Patriotism and in the name of the common man.
7. Such a call would demonstrate his understanding of the issues, an understanding of the needs of common man America over corporate America, and would be a major discriminator between the Democratic and Republican candidate
8. Such a call would demonstrate the Democratic candidate's leadership and be another major discriminator.

9. Observation: Crickets.

Since 9 directly contradicts 1-8, we are forced to conclude our initial assumption was wrong.


Posted by: jerry on July 3, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

You people go on and on and on and on and on about
transportation, which accounts for only 20% of CO2 emissions. Furthermore you go on and on and on specifically about PERSONAL transportation, which is but part of that 20%.

And it is obvious why. You're really not interested in CO2 emissions per-se. You're more interested in controlling others' thoughts and actions.

Posted by: am on July 3, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

am wrote: "You're more interested in controlling others' thoughts and actions."

It's obvious that your thoughts and actions are controlled by Rush Limbaugh.

It's really hilarious hearing weak-minded, ignorant slaves of right-wing extremist propaganda, who find happiness and fulfillment from robotically regurgitating verbatim scripted talking points that are spoon-fed to them by the Republican propaganda machine, whine about how liberals want to control their thoughts.

I guess in your case, if someone didn't control your thoughts, you wouldn't have any, since you are obviously incapable of thinking for yourself.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

am, I agree good gas mileage often equals lower CO2 emissions. I want good gas mileage because I don't want to pay any more than necessary for gasoline. All those people dumping their SUVs agree. Lower CO2 emissions is a bonus.

I also agree with SecularAnimist. You are a mindless conservative drone.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 3, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

am, if the EPA regulates CO2 emissions in part by requiring Ford, General Motors, Chrysler et al to manufacture vehicles that emit less CO2 by virtue of getting better gas mileage, how exactly does that "control your thoughts and actions" ?

Also, it is far from true that the overall discussion about how to reduce CO2 emissions is disproportionally focused on emissions from the transport sector. Most people who address the issue are focused on phasing out the use of coal to generate electricity.

Just imagine how miserable you would be in a future where your costs of operating an automobile have been drastically reduced through efficiency improvements, and your utility bills have plummeted because you can generate most of the electricity you use with cheap, mass-produced rooftop photovoltaics?

These are of course rhetorical questions, since I realize you are after all a brain-dead troll and incapable of responding with anything other than the right-wing bromides that Rush feeds you every day.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

am: ditto

Posted by: thersites on July 3, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I know that you are keen on roof top photovoltaics. But at this moment they are NOT cheap. I've looked into getting a system for my house, it would cost around $15,000!
Right now my electricity is generated by a local nuke plant and a hydroelectric station up river, so there are no CO2 emissions. At at best when I run the AC full blast for a month my electric bill might hit a high of $50, most months it's around $33.
So while I would like to do good and put in the solar electric - right now it wouldn't pay for me to do it since it wouldn't start to pay for itself for over 25 years, at which point I would probably have to install a new system.
Do you know where one can get a system cheaper than $15K?

Posted by: optical weenie on July 3, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

optical weenie wrote: "I know that you are keen on roof top photovoltaics. But at this moment they are NOT cheap. I've looked into getting a system for my house, it would cost around $15,000!"

That's about the same as the price quote that I got from a local PV installer in the Washington, DC area -- perhaps a little less after the applicable tax credits.

You might want to recheck the payback time -- I would be surprised if it was as long as the useful life of the PV panels, which should be at least 25 years. Most commercially available PV panels are warrantied to produce their rated output for at least 25 years, and typically last longer than that.

You are right -- rooftop PV is not yet cheap. That's why I wrote "in the future ... cheap, mass-produced rooftop photovoltaics."

Costs for conventional PV panels are dropping fairly quickly, as production expands, and the technology that Nanosolar and other cutting edge thin-film PV manufacturers are now putting into production will drastically reduce the costs and make PV electricity cheaper than coal-fired electricity within a few years. You won't mount PV panels on your roof -- your entire roof will be a PV panel. As will the windows of office buildings, etc.

At this point, Nanosolar is manufacturing thin-film PV for utility-scale applications, aiming at the small to mid-size municipal utility market. But they plan to eventually manufacture thin-film PV products for residential applications.

And by the way, while that local nuke plant may not emit CO2 itself, the process of mining, refining and transporting the uranium fuel that it uses most certainly does emit plenty of CO2 -- not to mention mountains of other hideously toxic waste from uranium mining, and the spent fuel from the reactor.

I chose to buy 100 percent wind-generated electricity through the local utility -- not "offsets" but electricity that the utility purchases from actual wind farms in the mid-Atlantic region that are feeding into its grid. It is somewhat more expensive than the utility's "standard offer" which is about 55 percent coal-fired and 35 percent nuclear, with most of the rest from natural gas and trash incineration, but it's worth it to me to support the development of the wind power industry.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 3, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Morpheus:

"Matt, those semis are going to be a disappearing part of the American highway landscape too."

Maybe, maybe not. But certainly there are going to be dangerous and heavy vehicles on the road for some time. For the government to bitch that car makers do not cut down on the steel protective bodies is a license for destruction.

Once GM builds the obviously possible 500 pound electric car, it will fail safety tests, or the government is going to end up paying the medical bills.

On the other hand, with a million dollars in concrete barriers in Fresno, CA we can get the ultra-lites on different downtown roads so they do not compete with 2,000 pound behemouths driven by meth deranged drivers. (About 5% of the drivers in this meth invested town).

We don't need GM, we have all the technology right here, available.

Posted by: Matt on July 3, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

2.5 years ago, 300 sq.ft. of solar connected to grid, warranted for 80% capacity at 40 years, cost $22,000, $4,000 out of pocket with rebates. The contractor whined about the pay-back, saying we didn't use enough electricity therefore our pay-back will take as long as 3.7 years!

The "common wisdom" is that the price of panels will drop drastically by summer of 2009. YMMV.

Posted by: IntelVet on July 3, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

In CA, vehicles and fuels make up about 42% of the greenhouse gas inventory - so, WE'VE got to hit the transportation sector up for the lion's share of the reductions if we're going to meet our GHG-reduction mandate (AB 32, et. al.). We asked for a waiver on fuel efficiency standards - thereby being allowed to set our own CAFE - and the federal EPA (the suits, not the staff) have said NO - so we're suing the b*&^ta$ds...sorry AM, but transportation does drive the GHG bus in CA.

Posted by: Merv Hayes on July 3, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

weenie, Secular,

Payback isn't what's important here. At this point it is reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and the carbon pollution they produce.

Playing the annoying but still satisfying "What if" game, think of what could have been achieved over the last six year if we'd plowed even only half the money wasted on the Iraq war into developing new and subsidizing existing alternative energy sources, particularly solar and wind? Once these things become the standard, the unit prices drop.

Furthermore you go on and on and on specifically about PERSONAL transportation, which is but part of that 20%. Posted by: am

Wrong. Personal transportation is about 70% of motor vehicle CO2 emissions, with airplanes being the most polluting of all transport.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 3, 2008 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Under development for the past 20+ years are light electric vehicles designed to run on rails. They are bi-modal, meaning they work on city streets as well. You drive to the "on-ramp," then merge with the intelligent rail system. The system drives the car, in effect forming "trains" out of the individual units.

Safe since segregated from trucks etc; fast --- very fast; fuel efficient --- low friction rail and entrained cars cut rolling resistance; healthy since stressless --- no stop 'n go, no gridlock, and you can surf the Net while the car is driven to work; reduced footprint --- special automated parking garages can stack the cars like sardines on arrival downtown; practical --- cars recharge batteries while on the grid, boosting range; economical --- relatively cheap to build since the rails can be piggybacked onto existing right of way.

The technology is out there: Why not use it?

Posted by: jeremiadjones on July 4, 2008 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Weenei, MIT has invented a new solar concentrator that could be far better than current solar panels.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 11, 2008 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly