56 mpg? Impossible!
The debt ceiling is a big fiasco. But other things are going on in the world of US Government. One issue is the proposed increased in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards being pushed by the Obama Administration. The current standard is 34.2 mpg which became the rule in 2009. The new CAFE standard sought by the President would be in the mid-50s mpg by the year 2025. (I’ve seen a few different numbers for the actual standard, but it ranges right around 54-56). Since climate change is going to be cause serious harm in the next century, tackling the sources of GHG emissions must happen now. And cars are among our most serious GHG problems.
Naturally, this is causing disdain among many anti-regulation conservatives and consternation among all of the nations auto companies–whose general reaction to any change regarding cars is consternation. It is also being praised by environmental groups and tech-based innovation folks. This is no surprise and is certainly not news. It’s also worth noting that the United Auto Workers support the increase.
Today, I had to read the editorial from Reason.com (Free Minds and Free Markets) written by Shikha Dalmia, titled: The Coming Autopocalypse.* In the piece, Dalmia essentially claims that the auto industry CAN NOT meet these demands, and trying will result in many deaths, lost jobs, wasted money, government bailouts, etc. That might be the case if we continue to seek mpg increases by decreasing auto size (the standard method is to reduce vehicle size and weight).
But Dalmia, in explaining how 56mpg could never be a reality, makes this claim: “The 56-mpg-mandate will require a total, top-to-bottom overhaul of cars. Every part of a vehicle from its transmission to its engine would have to be replaced.”
When I read that, I wanted to say to Dalmia: Yes, this is true. Everything about cars IS going to have to change. Exactly. Spot-on. This is what we need to do if we are going to continue to rely on the single-occupancy vehicle. And we are going to continue our love affair with cars. So what are we going to do? Well, the author seems to know where we should start.
Earlier in the article, Dalmia writes: “Not a single car—big or small, hybrid or non-hybrid—currently delivers this kind of mileage (with the exception of electrics).” Again, exactly. What to Dalmia is just a parenthetical is likely the near-term answer**.
I’m not sure what the best way to go to about re-hauling the American vehicle is, be it CAFE standards, or some other regulatory mechanism, or just letting the auto companies deal with the issue, but it seemed worth addressing the fact that, what Dalmia finds to be the problem-everything must change-might actually be the solution.
*Can we please ban the use of “pocalypse” or “mageddon” as an addition to anything someone might not like? You may not like debt, or increased fuel efficiency, or snow, but it will likely not result in something equivalent to, you know, the apocalypse.
**To which one might say: But where can I charge an electric vehicle in this country? Well, by the end of 2011, you can go to one of the 800 Walgreens that will have EV charging stations. That is a remarkable commitment. I might just have to break something so I can get a prescription filled by my local Walgreens.