Most Applaud New Emissions Rules

Fuel consumption gauge

Yesterday the Obama administration set forth new national standards for fuel efficiency in cars and light trucks. The big news is a goal of a 35.5 mpg combined standard (which could be as low as 34.1 per automaker because of certain credits) by 2016, up around 10 mpg from the current one. Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will be cut by about 30 percent from 2012 to 2016.

Each carmaker will have a different target, based on its vehicle mix. The more small cars a company builds, the higher the target. Specialty companies like Porsche and Lamborghini get extra time to conform.

And, yes, your vehicle is going to cost more—as much as $926 more in 2016. But administration officials claim the average car owner will save about $3,000 in fuel costs over the life of the car.

Putting it in a wider frame of reference,

The rule estimates the cost of compliance for the industry at $52 billion over the five years of the program and calculates benefits at $240 billion. Those benefits include fuel savings, pollution reduction and reduced oil imports.

Others were quick to point out the downside of the new regulations: higher-cost cars mean fewer buyers; better mileage may encourage more driving, hence more pollution and accidents; reaction among car dealers was mixed. One editorial suggests that the new rules could paralyze the economy.

And there’s the continuing debate over how to credit so-called zero-emissions vehicles in meeting a company’s goal. The new regs put a cap of 200,000 per maker on these EVs (before the regs apply), so as to generate “some responsibility for the CO2 created while producing the electricity to charge them.” Automakers want no limits, claiming the utilities aren’t under their control and shouldn’t be. But there are ancillary emissions associated with EVs, and it’s hard to ignore them.

The good thing, most would agree, is that finally, after thirty-plus years, there will be a national standard that puts an end to the foot-dragging and denial of the auto industry—and the shifting and complex rule changes of the regulators.

The Canadians have adopted the U.S. standard and indicate that the next target of both Washington and Ottawa will be standards for large trucks and commercial vehicles, the heavy-duty polluters.

States like New Jersey with big air pollution problems welcomed the rules. California is patting itself on the back for setting the pattern on regulation. Carmakers, at least on the public record, are for it:

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three, Toyota Motor Corp. and seven others, praised the announcement. But it wants the government to start working on the rules for 2017 and beyond.

Now that is a good idea.

So what’s your reaction to all this? Will people drive more, buy fewer cars, save money, spend money, reduce pollution? How will the new regs affect you?


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  1. Wow 35.5 miles per gallon standard in only 6 years? I don’t know if the automakers can pull that one off. They are going to have to redesign their entire fleet of vehicles. I don’t know if they can make that cuttoff.

  2. @ randy
    Randy is exactly right on how unsafe, contaminating and crude older cars were as compared to today’s. He’s also right that government regs have been mostly responsible for the improvement. Well said!

    The auto industry fought any changes because of its commitment to a whole series of business practices that were anti-competitive and basically against the public interest. And there was no reason to develop better and safer cars when the public was satisfied with new tail fins every year.

    Now we have a whole cadre of people crying out against government regulation and government takeovers—as if their own personal liberties were at stake! The Obama administration, incidentally, was right to force reorganization on GM and Chrysler. They had violated their public trust by bleeding an entire industry to near-death.

  3. The “no” crowd is an interesting beast– Thousands of heads and no brains. Anyone here own a classic pre-1975 car? (Or remember owning them?) Constant and expensive tuneups, belching clouds of stinking exhaust (including lead), and terrible fuel mileage. The difference between then and now is government mandated fuel economy standards, which required the invention of things like engine management systems, exhaust catalysts, fuel injection systems, and exhaust oxygen sensors. Have you ridden around in a 1950’s vehicle? Hard dashboards, rigid steering columns, no seat belts, and hundreds of other safety hazards.

    The quality, driveability, safety and efficiency of your modern vehicle is a direct result of of these government regulations, which the auto industry fought every step of the way. And guess what? As a proportion of individual income, cars are cheaper than ever.

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