Thursday, July 28, 2005

EPA Report on Auto Mileage

This is from this morning's New York Times. Where there are ellipsis (...) I've skipped bits.

E.P.A. Holds Back Report on Car Fuel Efficiency

DETROIT, July 27 - With Congress poised for a final vote on the energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency made an 11th-hour decision Tuesday to delay the planned release of an annual report on fuel economy.

But a copy of the report, embargoed for publication Wednesday, was sent to The New York Times by a member of the E.P.A. communications staff just minutes before the decision was made to delay it until next week. The contents of the report show that loopholes in American fuel economy regulations have allowed automakers to produce cars and trucks that are significantly less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980's.

Releasing the report this week would have been inopportune for the Bush administration, its critics said, because it would have come on the eve of a final vote in Congress on energy legislation six years in the making. The bill, as it stands, largely ignores auto mileage regulations.

The executive summary of the copy of the report obtained by The Times acknowledges that "fuel economy is directly related to energy security," because consumer cars and trucks account for about 40 percent of the nation's oil consumption. But trends highlighted in the report show that carmakers are not making progress in improving fuel economy, and environmentalists say the energy bill will do little to prod them...

Eryn Witcher, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., said the timing of the release of the report had nothing to do with the energy bill deliberations...

While the proposed bill, as it stands, does offer limited tax credits for hybrid electric cars and advanced diesels, environmental groups object to extending mileage credits for vehicles that can be filled up with an ethanol blend instead of gasoline; many consumers who purchase such vehicles are not even aware of the feature.

The E.P.A. report illustrates what has happened as the industry has poured resources into S.U.V.'s, minivans and family-oriented pickup trucks, vehicle types with less stringent fuel economy requirements than cars. The average new vehicle weight has risen to about 4,000 pounds today, from about 3,200 in the early 1980's. At the same time, the horsepower of an average engine has roughly doubled over two decades, trimming four seconds from the time it takes for the average vehicle to accelerate from zero to 60.

The full article can be read here but it requires registration, which is free.

I have the sense that we're fiddling while oil burns. Our response to our oil dependence on many unsavoury parts of the globe has been to cut taxes, encourage people to shop more and do nothing, absolutely nothing, about encouraging conservation of energy. It was photos of President Bush holding hands with and kissing the Saudi Crown Prince this past spring that finally revolted me enough to get back into commuting by bicycle more and substituting the bike for the car when practical. I was ashamed to see our President sucking up to those who hate us. Which country provided 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers? (hint: it wasn't Iraq) Who does he think funds the insurgents trying to kill our troops in Iraq? How does he think Al Qaeda gets its funding? Bake sales? And now, as this bloated, worthless piece of legislation is about to get voted on, the EPA stalls delivery of a report that might be mildly embarassing to the Administration and Congress. They should be embarassed.


Anonymous said...


Bravo! Far too many U.S. citizens believe the adage of "sacrifice for thee, not me". But the Bush regime has raised the bar. While asking for the ultimate sacrifice from soldiers, who come from primarily disadvantaged circumstances, chickenhawk bastards like Cheney conveniently "had other interests" when they could have offered to be in harms way. I'm only surprised that the Bushies would even allow such a report to ever be published.

By the way, I finally rode into work today. In part, I credit your blog with resparking my interest in commuting (at least occasionally). More discussion on bikes next time.


Matt said...

My favorite Cheney episode is the timing of the conception of his first child vis a vis his elibility for the Viet Nam draft. As he himself said in a 1989 interview, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."

Here's the article link in Slate: Elizabeth Cheney, Deferment Baby

When it became clear that he was going to be eligible for the draft he apparently became seized with unbridled passion. What a stand-up guy. Then he had the balls to question Kerry's judgment and attitudes on national security last year.

michael said...

Nice post.

I think it's really annoying that they propose tax subsidies for people to buy cars (electric, hybrid, whatever), but don't talk at all about helping me pay for my bike.

It also seems to me that there is too much attention being to MPG and not enough to simple miles. If your car gets 20 MPG and that improves to 30, but you drive 10,000 you've only reduced your gas consumption by 167 gallons of gas. But if you leave the MPG alone and simply drive half as much you reduce your gas consumption by 250 gallons!

I'm also curious, if cars and trucks only use 40% of our oil where the other 60% goes. Seems likely to me it would be easier to find oil consumption recuction methods in that 60% than it would be to significantly improve MPG of the national motor pool.

Besides, most people who buy fuel efficient cars seem to then use that as their excuse to drive even more than they might otherwise drive.

Anonymous said...

Matt, you raise points the mainstream media refuse to review. If we as citizens take seriously the sacrifice our soldiers are making in the Middle East, we would reduce our consumption. Unfortunately for now, we have a group of chickenhawks and oil barons in power that only see things in the short term. These jokers got us into the mess we're in and they still don't get it.

It should be considered patriotic to bicycle to work, to use public transportation, and to telecommute. Employers should get tax breaks for encouraging this behavior. Tax credits for 6,000# vehicles should be abandoned. This won't happen until the sheep look up. Then it may be to late to do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons that I started biking all the time was that I had invested a large amount of personal energy arguing with friends about politics and the rights and wrongs of the war in Iraq. At some point in the discussion, it became clear to me that driving and my political views were incompatible.

All this talk about mpg, in my opinion, is so much peeing into the wind. Sure it would be nice if all cars got 40 mpg, but as Michael partially points out, it wouldn't necessarily conserve fuel because people could then use the extra money to drive more, or they will buy more merchandise that requires fuel to produce and will support a growing economy that takes more fuel to run. Gas mileage improvements also fail to address the fundamental problem that cars are much larger than their occupants, even when filled to capacity. Four large people weigh 1,000 pounds, but it takes a 4,000 pound car to carry them.

This post and commentary has provided me with an idea for a post of my own. Thanks for the high quality blogging Matt.