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White House Looks to Cut Fuel Economy Standards (thedrive.com)
29 points by bryanrasmussen 65 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

> ... the federal agency projecting 10 percent of new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would have to be hybrid or plug-in electric to meet the standards. Under the Obama administration proposal, the figure would have been 61 percent.

I'm lost for words. Why accept the future when you can legislate yourself back into the past?

Seems to me that American cars are not competitive (outside of America) not because of excessive big government legislation, unions, liberals, George Soros or whatever. It's because they are large, fuel inefficient monsters.

But times have changed. It's kind of funny how the people introducing these changes do so under guise of "being more competitive", as if harking back to the "good ol' days" is anything other than rose-tinted mastrubaion.

CAFE's specific requirements are asinine, CARB is worse and automakers (rightfully) hate it.

It's not like the automakers don't see the writing on the wall. I welcome a do-over. The current rules are tied to footprint and vehicle classification. Optimizing for the current rules means making vehicles bigger and building small SUVs instead of wagons and hatches. That's not what you want to encourage actual efficiency. I'm not gonna restate the proverb about metrics and targets but if you make stupid rules and you'll get people playing a stupid game.

I welcome the current administration gutting the current rules. That would leave the door open for the next administration to sign a bill that implements what we've learned from hindsight. The writing is on the wall anyway. +/- one administration won't matter in the long term.

I'm not surprised, disappointed, but not surprised. I hope that, like the Paris Agreement, States rise to the challenge and issue their own standards. Considering that California is ~12% of the total USA population, car manufacturers would be hard-pressed to avoid that market.

Well there are otherwise intelligent people who have duped themselves to falsely believe there’s no significant difference between republicans and democrats.. and that therefore, their vote doesn’t matter. This is what we get for allowing that line of dumb thinking to persist.

2030 model year is 11 actual years away.

I am not sure what a typical "generation" of cars is these days, but even at 4 years per "generation" you are saying that the 61% goal has to be met within 3 product revision cycles. Is that reasonable? I don't know, but it seems pretty difficult to meet as a requirement.

Well, better just not try then, staying competitive is just too damn hard, where is the easy option? Oh, I see, bribe politicians.

Gotta keep giving those fat shareholder bonuses though.

I think it's reasonable to ask if it can actually be achieved.

Tooling and die costs, re-training of employees, mothballing of old plants, re-architecting of most of their car designs without sacrificing safety or fuel economy, plus the sheer amount of manufacturing of battery capacity you are asking to come online, are just a few of the costs and engineering issues that spring to mind.

Remember, Canada was going to implement the Kyoto Protocol - up until they realized it would be a 10% hit to Canada's GDP. Then they "re-considered": http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-pulls-out-of-kyoto-pr...

> Seems to me that American cars are not competitive (outside of America)

American cars are very competitive in china. They aren't competitive in europe and japan because of laws protecting their own car industries, smaller roads and expensive gas.

> It's because they are large, fuel inefficient monsters.

Which is what american people want. The top 3 selling vehicles in the US are all large trucks for a reason.

> But times have changed.

It hasn't. The top 3 selling vehicles in the US are trucks - Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram P/U.

You might not like it but you can't blame american car manufacturers for wanting to build cars that americans like.

There is a reason why small european car companies aren't doing well in the US. The markets are different.

Big cars and trucks sell immensely well in the US because of the effective subsidization of fuel, as well as anti-competitive behaviour in the light truck sector.

Virtually throughout the entire world, governments put taxes on fuel to address negative externalities caused by fuel consumption. As a result, most countries have much higher gas prices than the US, where in some places, is below $2/gallon. As a result, Americans buy bigger cars because they aren't as affected by gas prices as many other car markets.

Since the Ford Ranger met it's demise in the US, there hasn't been any significant light trucks sold in America because of CAFE regulations that treat full size trucks very differently from light trucks and cars. Car manufactures don't have any incentive to make light trucks because they're effectively counted as cars when counting fleet emissions where full size trucks get a pass.

> Big cars and trucks sell immensely well in the US because of the effective subsidization of fuel, as well as anti-competitive behaviour in the light truck sector.

No. Big cars and trucks sell well because we like big cars and trucks. SUVs, Range Rovers, Trucks, even humvees are what americans generally want. Or gas guzzling sports cars. Cars are part of american culture.

> Virtually throughout the entire world, governments put taxes on fuel to address negative externalities caused by fuel consumption.

No. Oil poor countries and regions put taxes on gas/cars in order to push the market towards smaller and more efficient cars that use less gas. We are oil rich and therefore really don't require such interventions.

> As a result, most countries have much higher gas prices than the US, where in some places, is below $2/gallon.

I know. I'm american. I know gas is cheap. But even when gas was expensive ( $4+ ), the top selling vehicles were trucks, SUVs, etc. It's not politically feasible in the US to push people to smaller cars. People will simply vote for politicians who promise lower gas and bigger cars. It's why even elon musk wants tesla to get into SUVs and trucks.

People think that the government supports big vehicles and cheap oil and that's why americans buy big cars and use lot of oil. You have it backwards. We like big cars and cheap oil and that's why the government supports big cars and cheap oil.

Firstly, $4 a gallon is not expensive. Secondly up until 2008 Europe produced pretty much the same amount of oil as the USA, parts of Europe are incredibly oil rich. Thirdly there are huge negative externalities to having such a ridiculously high volume of carbon emissions per capita[1][2]. You can't throw your arms up and say "oh it's just the American way, sorry environment/health, there is just no damn way we can stop the ridiculously disproportionate per-capita CO2 emissions! Sorry world, but we like our big ass trucks, what can we do about it? drive more fuel efficient vehicles? pffftt". I mean in what world is that a defense.

Because people like something doesn't mean it's OK, or action should not be taken to curb that like for the greater good.

1. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1S0SwXvk1C0D_VWLPlU2C...

2. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/mar/01/carbon...

>Firstly, $4 a gallon is not expensive

Yes it is. Just because someone somewhere has it worse doesn't mean it's not bad.

>You can't throw your arms up and say "oh it's just the American way, sorry environment/health, there is just no damn way we can stop the ridiculously disproportionate per-capita CO2 emissions! Sorry world, but we like our big ass trucks, what can we do about it? drive more fuel efficient vehicles? pffftt". I mean in what world is that a defense.

As much as you and I might not like it yes you can. Part of living in a society is putting up with societal norms. Taxes, indifference to dragnet surveillance, acceptance of fuel inefficient vehicles, a love of fast food, under-appreciation for small business, etc, etc. You can't hand wave away the majority opinion (or indifference) as hand waving.

If you don't like it then you have to convince a critical mass of people to work to change it.

> If you don't like it then you have to convince a critical mass of people to work to change it.

Great idea, lets convince car companies to sell more economical cars through regulations/tax breaks/whatever, and have them do the work to change public opinion.

Unfortunately the politicians who propose this tend to get replaced, due to lobbyism, and the average voter's general ignorance.

People don't want to face the fact that they're doing something bad. They want to live in la-la land.

I suspect that people tend to buy an automobile that they can afford and that's comfortably-sized for the infrastructure such as typical lane widths and parking spaces. In much of the US, that comfortable size is the Ford F-150 (a Hummer H-1 is too wide, a Toyota Yaris is unnecessarily small). In most of Europe and in some urban areas of the US, the infrastructure is smaller, so automobiles are by necessity smaller.

You think you want huge trucks and gigantic engines, because you've been indoctrinated by decades of focused marketing.

"It's MANLY to drive a big truck. Aren't you a MAN? Shouldn't you be driving a truck to show how MANLY you are?"

The Big 3 deliberately soul this up, because their profit margins on truck sales are huge, and because of CAFE exemptions that let them ignore fuel efficiency requirements.

Add to this a general misconception of "bigger is better", which pervades the American mindset, and there you are. Pointlessly big and inefficient vehicles, that really have no business in general traffic.

If you assume that hybrids and plug-ins can succeed on their own merits, how is this legislating yourself back to the past?

Argument is that you're creating an artificial market in the US that does not select against fuel inefficient vehicles. This creates a market in the US where car companies who do not push fuel innovation can compete in, but these companies would not be able to sell their cars elsewhere. I believe the argument of the GP is that, this is simply regulatory capture.

This proposal would still select against fuel inefficient vehicles, via fuel cost. Consumers do look at MPG, and will choose cars that are more fuel efficient over cars that are less so.

As the article says, the 45 MPG target would require 61% of all vehicles sold in the United States to be electric in slightly over 10 years. That target is so aggressive as to be ridiculous, and that's for a gain in fuel efficiency of about 1/3.

Just because emissions standards are needed does not mean fuel standards are. Customer can decide how important fuel consumption is when purchasing their cars, it's not a tragedy of the commons situation.

CAFE != any sort of reasonable or cost effective way of limiting CO2 emissions.

Less fuel burned DIRECTLY results in less CO2 created.

The cost of CAFE isn't proportionate to the amount of C02 saved. If you build exotic sports cars, for one example, you have to pay far higher CAFE penalties because of their worse MPG averages, yet your customers drive their sports cars far few miles and use much less fuel than the typical cars.

Worse, because you don't have any small commuter cars in your lineup, you have to pay more in penalties than another car company that does. Assume Company A specializes in SUVs, and sells 1M a year. It pays a big penalty for their poor mileage. Company B makes nothing but compact commuter cars that get high mileage, and pays zero in penalties for its cars it sells a year, as it should.

Now company C, builds SUVs with the same MPG average as company A, but has an licensing deal where company B makes 1M small high MPG commuter cars a year for C to resell under it's brand. Company C now pays little to no penalties, despite selling the exact number of gas guzzling SUVs as company A. And those small cars would have been made and sold by company C if the licensing deal didn't exist.

CAFE is a dumb law, and a bad solution to the problem of emissions. It's a big reason for the bankruptcy of US car companies during the last economic crisis. US car companies were bad at making small cars because their labor costs were so high, but they could make big SUVs and bigger cars profitably because labor costs were proportionately less.

CAFE would be much better if it simply applied directly to the car you purchased, regardless of manufacturer, and was an annual tax based on miles driven and MPG.

Paying the workers a decent wage caused the US auto industry to fail? It was about time, then.

Before the bankruptcy, the US Autoworker cost roughly $100 an hour. One hundred dollars an hour.

It wasn't cash compensation. I think they actually cost roughly $35 an hour in cash compensation (including payroll taxes and other direct costs). But the auto makers had to also ante up nearly twice as much more to cover pension and medical plan contributions for their workers, their families and their retirees.

Now, I'm not saying it wasn't their fault, at least at some level. Productivity has reduced the amount of worker hours needed per car for the last hundred years, and that, along with the rise of german and japanese car makers, reduced the size of the domestic car makers workforces.

In 1979 UAW membership peaked at 1.5M, in 2008 it was 650,000. The costs of covering the medical and retirement needs of 700,000 retirees is a lot higher proportion of your average wage with 650k workers than it was with 1.5M. Essentially management thought they'd never lose their massive market share, and didn't account for the ongoing march of increasing productivity.

However they got there, those costs meant that the more labor costs a car had in proportion to it's sales price, the less competitive it would be for US car makers. That eventually meant that muscle cars, trucks, and SUVs were their only profitable cars, while they got killed by the Japanese and europeans on small cars.

It's just another reason CAFE is dumb. Automakers never should have gotten credits for making small cars. It gave foreign car makers a substantial competitive advantage.

>Before the bankruptcy, the US Autoworker cost roughly $100 an hour. One hundred dollars an hour.

That is a misleading metric in this context. All employees cost significantly more than their direct paycheck, because of pension payments, healthcare and such.

$100 sounds very reasonable.

Not when your competitors pay $35/hour.

You're mixing up two very different things.

One is the hourly pay for a worker. The other is the total cost of a worker, including training, pensions, equipment, everything.

It's not a metric that usually talked much about, but it is an important metric, which should obviously be lower than the value created by the worker. Workers in a lot of fields cost 2-3x as much as their paycheck, but they create the value to offset that as well.

Probably meaningless at this point. The market is moving toward electrics/hybrids and I don't think cutting back on the regs will change that at this point, particularly given that California will maintain its own standards (along with other progressive states, most likely).

California has a great amount of leverage in emissions standards [1]. It’s possible only a few other largish states would need to join them (12 already do) to negate any slippage on CAFE standards at the federal level.

At the same time, it's unlikely automakers are going to move away from technology they've already developed to target meeting Obama-era emissions standards, and electric cars will only see rapid increases in manufacturing rates and sales (petrol costs are moving up again [1], and EVs are half the cost of petrol vehicles per mile to operate).

[1] https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/25/california-passes-new-ca...

[2] http://www.gasbuddy.com/Charts

It’s not just California, but Europe, Japan, China, ...

China, for example, is being very very aggressive in making EVs standard.

> California has a great amount of leverage in emissions standards

California can set their own standards but that is not really "leverage."

Every manufacturer already has all of the tech to meet the higher CAFE standards because they all sell in Europe which has even higher standards for a long time.

Manufacturers like big heavy fast gas guzzlers because they sell the best and make the most profit. They don't like fuel standards because they reduce profits, but if some jurisdiction puts in place fuel standards they have no problem building cars that meet them.

Increasing fuel standards are horrible for sales though because from a consumer perspective the new cars are worse than the old ones. Not exactly a great sales pitch.

Also, there have been rumblings of taking away California's power to legislate their own standards [1]. It is unfortunately clear to me that the penalty for people not voting the 'right' way will be high, whether it is in terms of tax burdens (SALT deductions limit), off-shore drilling (Florida exempted but not California), and emissions standards. Edit: 2018 elections can't get here soon enough, starting with the primaries next month.

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/trump-ca...

Yeah, "State rights! (unless inconvenient to our ideology!)"

Yes, California has the weight to throw around to ruin nice things for the rest of us, if they want to.

I'm still bitter that I can't buy the old gasoline cans that actually work anymore.

Some can have all the safeties removed with a knife.

I wonder what disaster prompted so much grief. Not like any kids would get very far trying to drink it.

As vehicle combustion has gotten cleaner, simple evaporative emissions of raw gasoline has become a major contributor to smog & air quality. Old style half-empty gas cans in a hot garage are also hazardous, and have blown up many a garage according to my auto mechanic father.

Yeah, the gas can stuff is insane. I ran out of gas a few months ago, and a friend drove to the gas station to grab a can and come to my rescue. Anyways, we spilled about 2 gallons of a 5 gallon jug before we figured out how to work the nozzle. If the nozzle wasn't pressed just right, gas would leak out of joints and threaded bits instead of the nozzle end. I threw the can away 5 minutes later at the gas station.

What impact will this have on my selection of cars over the next 20 years?

IMO, we might have a replay of what was going on in the early 2000s when iconic sports cars (IMO) such as Supra etc. disappeared and were replaced by body-on-frame SUVs. Even if you want to do the right thing and buy a fuel efficient car, you will likely take your life in your own hands for no good reason; [1] below shows nearly an entire family in a Fiat 500 killed when a drunk driver in a jacked-up jeep crossed medians and hit them head on. Edit: correction.

[1] http://www.statesman.com/news/local/driver-was-drunk-northwe...

Are there laws preventing people from doing things like lifting their bumpers above the average cars bumper height? It seems insane that I could lift my car until it effectively negates all the safety precautions and innovations built into todays vehicles.

This is probably reasonable. Economy, emissions, safety, and vehicle cost have trade-offs with each other. We're probably already beyond the point where it can be justified from a cost-benefit analysis.

The rest of the world is paying the price or even better finding ways to do it without driving the cost up.

That's not true. There is a cost to every regulation or it would already be a market standard.

But I didn't say there wasn't a cost, just that everyone else will be paying it and the cost may not affect consumers. Pricing doesn't just reflect the cost but other factors too.

We're adding larger and larger costs for smaller and smaller improvements (as is to be expected, you start with the low hanging fruit and then move up the tree).

Other countries are paying the price, but does that mean the US should? If it isn't worth the cost, why should the US follow other countries off the cliff?

One does not have to use an ICE. An electric car counts against the fleet economy and once they aren't a novelty and the production numbers hit millions the price should come down.

One reason to do so is so that North American auto's can be exported

Don't see this as Trump's doing, this is the American auto industry using Trump as their punching bag for something they've always wanted.

American auto companies do one thing well; large and loud. SUVs, pickup trucks, muscle cars. They lose when they compete against Germans for luxury and sport, and they lose when they compete against Japanese/Korea for economy and quality. (Yes yes, you will cherry pick a handful of cars to "prove me wrong" but this is a general sentiment that I think most car aficionados would agree with.). Tesla is an exception (everyone is afraid of them).

American auto will have a tough time turning around to "efficient and economical". Just watch any Dodge commercial; the entire brand is built around american over-consumption, it is fundamentally opposed to the new age of the automobile. This is their last ditch effort to stay in the game before electric takes over.

It's either this, or we have another recession while the auto market fails and people move to other industries.

It's absolutely Trump's doing. He is -more- than happy to oblige. Don't act like he's been bullied into this and he'd be much happier if we went all electric.

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