Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Obama's Got Gas

The Obama administration has released its new CAFE gas mileage requirements for auto makers, and they're pretty intense. 39 mpg for cars, and 30 mpg for trucks.

As many articles have already posted, this puts the onus on manufacturers, not consumers, which is the problem. We can have manufacturers make small, efficient cars all we want, but consumers won't buy them. They never have. We have always, ALWAYS bought the biggest, most inefficient car we could. It's the American way, seemingly.

In Europe, where gas prices are somewhere around $4,567 per liter, efficiency is very important to the consumer, so cars sell well. Diesel cars, which usually get well north of 40mpg, are unsellable here because consumers have bad perceptions on diesel and we have high taxes on the fuel aimed at truck drivers. Why not just ditch the diesel tax and encourage diesel cars like the SEVENTY-NINE MPG Volkswagen Lupo Diesel. Or the slightly larger Polo which knocks out nearly 60mpg on the highway.

This regulation does absolutely nothing to deal with these fundamental economic problems, which dooms it to failure. Instead, since we're dealing with fleet average, we'll get the same gas guzzling cars everyone wants now, AND lots of crappy efficient cars no one wants to drive. Even worse, the manufacturing of those useless cars will use up MORE RESOURCES needlessly, which is the exact opposite of what everyone wants to achieve. And since those crap cars will be likely sold at a loss, it will drive up the costs of all the other cars, which will simply put a damper on car sales and thus the economy.

I want to be very clear on this, and this is a truism recognized by all the major oil companies, which is why they don't give a rat's ass about alternative fuels: WE ARE GOING TO USE EVERY DROP OF OIL ON THIS PLANET. It is a fait accompli. Environmental issues are immaterial. Every bit of carbon locked up in oil will be up in the atmosphere sooner or later. We want to, nay, we need to target other aspects that can be changed. We do not need to continue using coal, for example. We do not need to continue burning so much natural gas. There are things we can do, but this isn't one of them.

Now, I'm going to go drive recklessly in my 20mpg sports car.

UPDATE: 20 Minutes later

I've been thinking over this a bit more, and the possibility that the Obama Administration is totally aware of everything I said is there.

It's so refreshing to be able to attribute intelligence and wisdom to our president. I forgot how it felt after the past eight years. But as I said, this bill will do little to stop our purchase of gas-guzzling trucks and sports cars, but what it might do is increase funding for all-electric cars. It's the best way to meet the standards. Sell an ∞mpg vehicle.

This would be fantastic. I could have an all-electric for trips to store, cafe, and about town, and my aforementioned 20mpg sports car for longer trips and suicidal moments of bravura. I think Tesla has proven there is interest in electric cars, and even GM's own EV-1 had its own fanatic following. If this is indeed the intent of the bill, it might just work.

Of course, we could also just end up with lots of crappy, 1.2 liter three-cylinder econoboxes that get 45mpg, thus wasting time, money, resources, and people. It's quite a gamble.

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