April 3, 2010

What Mileage Rules May Not Mean

Justin Katz

The Newport Daily News headline for this AP report pretty well captures the spin and points to the possible problem: "New mileage rules will save drivers at the pump."

The rules will cost consumers an estimated $434 extra per vehicle in the 2012 model year and $926 per vehicle by 2016, the government said. But the heads of the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency said car owners would save more than $3,000 over the lives of their vehicles through better gas mileage.

One would normally expect, as demand goes down, that prices would go down as well, owing to competition, but I'm not so sure that will be the case with a permanent reduction in the amount of fuel that people need for their cars. "Need" is the operative word, there. It takes a certain amount of infrastructure and investment to move gasoline from the ground to the pump, and since it's not a product that consumers will be able to go without, even with better gas mileage, providers may adjust prices upwards to make up the difference.

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We can expect the extra cost to be at least double what the government said. There is no longer any reason to believe any statistics they produce.

Posted by: BobN at April 3, 2010 7:25 AM

Questions are what are they using as a basis for the life of a vehicle and what is the base cost of a gallon of gas in the EPA analysis? Any estimate of additional deaths per year via car motor vehicle accidents? Thanks

Posted by: Bob at April 3, 2010 7:37 AM

The pipeline and other overhead is relatively tiny considering the amount of fuel moved through it. Reductions in demand of a couple percent mean absolutely nothing in the scheme of things...even more so when over the period of years.

This is that "conservation" which Dick Cheney told us would not be a good idea. Of course, the words conservation and conservative are related - or they are supposed to be - but in this case we seem to have the complete opposite!

I suppose you support "incremental" change just like the health care bill? (incremental, as defined by what Bush/Cheney and Newt did with CAFE standards, means ZERO).

To further educate the masses, let me offer the following tidbit. Regulation of air pollution and energy efficiency is worked out in a very cooperative way - involving the very engineers who end up building the products. Sure, the CEO's would rather sell Hummers loaded up with power everything, but the regs require something called BAT. That stands for Best Available Technology. Rather than being pie in the sky, BAT means "what you can do realistically given the tools you have to work with".

The same goes for power plants and most other sources of emissions. They are required to build them to a relatively high standard given whatever technology is currently available.

Posted by: Stuart at April 3, 2010 10:02 AM

The lie is bigger than the lowball estimate of added purchase cost. Vehicle mileage requirements are based on a footprint calculation - the bigger the footprint, the more gas they can swill. The vehicle mix of Government Motors, roughly 50:50 cars to SUVs/"light" trucks, is treated preferentially compared to companies with a more efficient mix of smaller vehicles. Who says our socialist overlords aren't looking out for us?

But wait. Size does not equal safety. Whether you consider the IIHS vehicle loss ratings or the work of people like Thomas Wentzel, P.E., you find that light trucks (which are heavy and inefficient) are the most dangerous to drive, followed by SUVs. The sense of invulnerability conferred by sheer mass and wagon-on-stilts height is illusory. These results are tallied for real world driving and aren't an absolute measure of safety, but are realistic. Vehicles with the best ratings in the IIHS studies? Year after year, they include Corvettes and Porsches - 3200# high powered cars - ones that will be treated adversely in the silly footprint-adjusted mileage standards. Because of the way they are driven, these are outliers. Wentzel notes that well-engineered mid-sized sedans are are among the safest vehicles you can buy and they certainly aren't outliers.

If you want to argue about how safe SUVs are, argue with the IIHS and their real world facts, not with me. Facts are stubborn things.

Posted by: chuckR at April 3, 2010 10:19 AM
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