So What did Obama do with Fuel Standards Just Now?

May 24, 2009

It looks like these standards will do the following:

1) Impose fuel efficiency standards

2) Impose limits on GHGs from cars and trucks

3) Set a single standard for cars and light trucks, reaching 35.5 mpg by 2016.

Interesting.  Usually global-warming advocates just go for efficiency standards and then expect those to be de facto limitations on GHGs.  My first question is, what limits?  Would it be a total cap on auto emissions every year, regardless of fleet size or total VMT/miles driven?  Or would it be a per-vehicle-per-mile cap, a sort of emissions efficiency akin to fuel efficiency?

The point the article makes is that this announcement represented a deal: the automakers accepted aggressive efficiency standards, and a tighter deadline than the one imposed in the Energy bill of 2007 (2016 vs. 2020), and in return they get a single standard — no more different California standards.

The automakers would never have taken such a deal in the past — they would have dug in their heels and said no to any changes in the standard.  But now, as they subsist on government support to get through the downturn, and without an important ally in John Dingell (who served as their watchdog for so long at the top of the House Energy and Commerce committee), they have a weaker position.

An additional playing card in Obama’s hand was that the Bush administration had refused California’s waiver request, and the Obama EPA is now considering whether or not to grant that request.  California’s standards would have been similarly stringent, and automakers would have had to produce a significant “clean” fleet for that state.

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And the Answer is: No!

December 7, 2007

No Energy Bill for US!

The Democrats failed to attract any defectors, and the energy bill died a quick death — at least in its current form.

Look out for an anemic, flimsy alternative to happen, or for nothing at all.

When it comes to the environment, or to the war in Iraq, Democrats are basically Republicans, just with a bit of angst about it.


Can They Pass the Energy Bill? Or Any Bill?

December 6, 2007

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a GREAT energy bill that would push auto fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon, getting it half way to the President’s desk.

And not a moment too soon! In addition to jacking up the mpg, the bill would also make some other big changes:

  • It would require the electric companies to use more and more renewable generating capacity, to the point where 15% of all electricity comes from renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, i.e. NOT coal)
  • It would levy $21B in taxes on oil companies. They currently get such lavish tax breaks that they practically paid no taxes at all in recent years, despite crazy record profits

But will any of this get past the insurmountable hurdle that is the Democratic Senate? After all, if there’s one thing the Dems have trouble doing, it’s doing anything at all.

Think about it: Have they beaten a filibuster, even once? Come up with the magical 60 votes for something important, even once?

The Republicans never had 60 votes in the Senate but they regularly found a few defectors to vote with them. But the Democrats, despite facing a demoralized, regrouping opposition that is politically and psychologically weak (as well as suffering under big election losses and endless hypocrisy-highlighting scandal), can’t move a bill. And even when they do, as with the kids’-health-insurance bill, they get beat with the veto and then simply accept defeat.

Given that track record, it is naive at this point to expect the bill to survive. That’s so sad, because even though it sounds like a dramatic world-changing law, the truth is that this energy bill is really only catching up to the situation on the ground.

  • Lots of states (and our little ‘burgh, Washington DC) are already taking on California’s car rules, which will eventually push up MPG requirements even without the federal government’s say-so.
  • Lots of utility regulators (like our hometown again) are setting higher requirements for renewable energy in their electricity supply. Many are aiming higher than 15%.
  • Lots of cars get better than 35 MPG already — all the hybrid sedans (Prius, Camry Hybrid, Civic Hybrid), which add up to several hundred thousand cars on the road already. They’re 20+ years ahead of this bill, if this bill even passes this year.

In retrospect, this was the wrong story to write about — Congress’s likely-meaningless charades aside, the real story is happening in state and local governments, where the lightbulbs have been fluorescent for years….


Automakers Pitch Their Bogus Line To DC Officials

September 30, 2007

Last Wednesday, we went to support the Clean Cars bill that is pending in Washington, DC (find a link here; it would make cars sold in DC meet the California emissions standards, which about 11 states also copy).

Most of the people there were supportive, but one attendant was from the AAM, or Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. They’re the industry group that represents the 6 biggest car companies, and they’re fighting cleaner cars and tighter regs at every turn. (They’re fighting California’s new emissions rules, and they just lost the Vermont case.) He was Greg Dana, their Vice President for Environmental Affairs.

Mr. Dana had his turn at the microphone, and made his case against tighter air regs. It came down to four points. Here are points #1, #2 and #3:

  • The automakers are doing everything they possibly can to make cars cleaner, and really shouldn’t be pressured right now.
  • California’s rules get so tight by 2016 that the auto industry is likely to completely collapse.  Consumers will stop driving rather than buy better cars.
  • They’re looking into making cars out of tin, with 3-cylinder engines, because nothing else could possibly work. They need a “breakthrough” technological advance, which they don’t foresee, if they hope to comply with the 2016 rules.

And here’s point #4, the one I thought most interesting:

  • Under California’s 2016 emissions standards, only 4 of the 494 new-car models on the market today (2007) would be allowed to be sold. They are:
    • Toyota Yaris
    • Toyota Prius
    • Toyota Camry Hybrid
    • Ford Escape Hybrid

I’d like to point out how plainly untrue points 1-3 are, using point 4 (i.e., AAM’s own assertion).

Read the rest of this entry »


Jenna Bush’s Green Baby Registry, and Mike Bloomberg Can’t Afford Something

August 18, 2007

Getting to Mayor Bloomberg’s money troubles in a bit — but first, we’re gonna run with the wild and unsubstantiated rumor that Jenna Bush is in the family way.

A staffer who works (worked?) for “Karl Ro-buh” (go see Tracy Jordan deliver the line here) just got engaged to Jenna Bush, and Wonkette has been running photos of how she’s gone with the max-coverage fashion choices lately.

So on the off chance they announce that they just can’t wait, may we recommend Ecobaby for washable cloth diapers. In lieu of gifts, you can simply make a donation toward offsetting the little rascal’s entire existence. Considering the little guy will get Secret Service transportation as well as lots of training in the Lincoln Town Car school of personal taste, we should all start planting extra trees now.

Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg is having one of those world-not-make-sense moments — he’s low on cash for his ambitious plan to green up New York City. The US DOT (spiritual home of the very first orange cone) cut Mike a check for $350M for his traffic plan — a couple hundred mill short of the suggested donation. Thoughtfully, they did stamp the envelope, saving NYC the business-reply charge.

Bloomberg was upbeat; it’s free money, after all. The big hurdle still to come is his punch-in-the-gut commuter tax on everyone driving into or out of Manhattan during business hours. Will it reduce commuters? Yeah, but it will also create a mad rush to get across the bridges by whenever they start taking the toll in the mornings. The idea behind the federal grant was that it would make dollar signs flash in the eyes of city and state officials, who would then be more receptive to Bloomberg’s controversial congestion tax.

It’s gotta pass votes in both the city and in Albany by March 31. This is a big deal — if this goes through, and works, it’ll be a foundation from which activists can push other cities to be agressive in attacking their own commuter cultures. That said, can anyone really see a congestion tax happening anywhere else (besides San Francisco, and then later, L.A.)? So this isn’t going to be a blueprint for the Phoenix/Indy/Jackson type of low-density city.


I’ll Hammer Out YOUR Bill in Conference….

August 7, 2007

…if you know what we mean.  Wait, oh come on, we were kidding….

They’re gonna hammer out a doozy in September, folks.

The House passed an energy bill that would make the energy industry produce 15% of all our electricity from renewable sources — solar, wind, etc. — by about a dozen years from now. (It also put some taxes on oil companies — $18 billion in taxes, actually.)

Meanwhile, the Senate passed an energy bill that would make automakers produce cars that get 35 mpg or more, also by about a dozen years from now.

So these two energy bills go to conference, and what will come out? Will the merged bill have the renewable-energy standard and the fuel-efficiency standard? Will it have the same standards (15% and 35 mpg), or will they be weakened?  Will it have only one of the two? Will it have (shudder to think) neither one?

George Bush says he’ll veto a bill that makes life hard on his poor, unfortunate, record-profit-reaping friends in the not-so-dog-eat-dog energy industry. And you can bank on that; GWB will never be disloyal to his truest constituency. He was willing to abandon the social conservatives to take care of the boardrooms in the immigration debate earlier this year, so he’ll have no problem squaring off against Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the same crew.

Will the dems back down in conference? Will they put out a weaker, watered-down bill to avoid the fight? Or will they force a veto? Will they back down after the veto? How long until the Democrats inevitably remember who they are, and cave in? After all, the DLC’ers are probably grouchy about the fact that the party can be tied to a piece of substantive legislation that doesn’t test at 100% among undecideds. Their chorus will eventually be heard, won’t it?

We shall see, at about the same time this godforsaken sweatbath heat snap finally breaks.


Hilarious

July 10, 2007

Filed under “contributing to the delinquency of elders:”

Our Prius-owning father and his Prius-owning neighbor have, thanks to Al Gore III, been inspired to race for pinks. That’s right, the retired theology professor and the Gilbert-and-Sullivan-loving former seminary student are gonna LINE EM UP.

It’s EIGHT CYLINDERS OF THUNDER — well, it will be, once the engines actually kick in, which should happen at 20 mph or so. Until then, it’s gonna be two whirring batteries of very quiet thunder.

Here’s hoping the nitrous doesn’t blow either one of them sky high. Get ’em Dad!