While the President’s call for the authority to reform CAFE standards for cars in the way he did for light trucks does not inspire much confidence given their lackluster performance on pickups and SUVs, the preliminary details of his plan are actually quite intriguing. Here’s what our research director David Friedman had to say about the President’s plan:
“This could be the breakthrough we have been waiting for on fuel economy. The president joins leaders in Congress calling for increasing the gas mileage of cars, SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks to 34 mpg by 2017. This is the equivalent of a four percent improvement per year. However, this will only be a breakthrough if the president and Congress work together to pass a law guaranteeing that this goal becomes reality, while avoiding loopholes and escape clauses. They must also work together to continue these improvements beyond 2017. Only then will we be able to reduce our oil dependence, save money at the pump and put the auto industry on the road to recovery.
“According to UCS research, if this fuel economy goal is required by law, it would save 550,000 barrels of oil per day in 2017, more than we currently import from Iraq. The increase would also cut global warming pollution by 95 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in that same year. This is equivalent to taking 14 million of today’s cars and trucks off the road.
“UCS analysis also shows that producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2017 would cut our projected oil demand by 1.5 million barrels per day in 2017, reducing our oil dependence by 6.4 percent. If 18 billion gallons came from corn ethanol, then the remaining 17 billion gallons must come from cellulosic ethanol or other renewable fuels by 2017. These fuels must be produced without polluting the air, water and soil. If the president’s renewable and alternative fuel goal is met primarily with ethanol, it would reduce global warming pollution by 160 million metric tons in 2017, the equivalent of taking nearly 24 million of today’s cars and trucks off the road.
“If alternative fuels are made from coal instead of renewable resources, the president will not stop the projected growth in carbon dioxide emissions from cars, light trucks and SUVs. Instead of cutting global warming pollution, making gasoline or diesel from coal would double the amount of global warming pollution produced from gasoline today.
“To address global warming, the president needed to go much further. We must set an overall cap on global warming pollution for the entire economy. This step will complement policies that directly address transportation, electricity and other sources of pollution. For example, we need legislation that would require utilities to produce 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2020. The renewable electricity standard is the best way to cut power plant emissions, reducing emissions by 434 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking nearly 63 million of today’s cars and trucks off the road.”
Of course, there was also a quick mention of supporting plugin hybrid development (the Big 3 are asking for $500 million for battery research), which if funded would benefit both plugin hybrid and non-plugins alike, as more cost-effective, compact, and efficient battery electrical energy storage and output technologies is a hurdle that all hybrids need to overcome for better efficiency and more market penetration in the future.
It’s going to be interesting how all of these proposals come out in the wash with a new Congress and a ton of political momentum.
Posted by: ScottN