Fuel Economy Advocates Fight Back in CAFE Probe

Last week, California congressman Darrel Issa opened his committee’s investigation into recently announced Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards leading into 2025, when carmakers will be forced to average an equivalent of 54.5 mpg across their light-duty lineups. “I am concerned about the negative impact these standards could have on the safety of automobiles, the possibility that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acted outside the scope of congressionally delegated authority and the lack of transparency in the process leading up to the agreement,” Issa wrote [PDF] in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last month.

The congressman and many of his Republican colleagues have been critical of the White House and EPA in their efforts to raise the fuel economy of American cars and of so-called “green jobs” investments like the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, which will dole out $25 billion in low-cost loans to clean vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers.

“Up until now, consumers have been either ignored or misrepresented,” said Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl in his testimony to the House Oversight Committee. “At the end of the day, they are the ones who will be asked to buy and drive the vehicles our government is potentially demanding the car companies build.”

But committee members were painted a very different picture in testimony last week from supporters of the mandate, including several NHTSA and EPA officials.

“The combined savings of the first and second round of light-duty standards over the lifetime of 2012 to 2025 vehicles will save drivers $1.7 trillion in fuel cost, reduce oil dependency by 12 billion barrels of oil, and cut heat-trapping pollution that drives global warming by approximately 6 billion metric tons,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Roland Hwang. “By 2030, the new agreement will provide the equivalent of a $330 tax rebate to every American household.”

Government officials also said that charges that the new standards would reduce vehicle size and make cars sold in the United States less safe, were unfounded. “There is a feasible technology path that the industry could pursue to meet the standards that does not require unsafe levels of mass reduction,” testified NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “We absolutely will not require any manufacturer to do anything that would have a negative effect on safety.” Studies have shown [PDF] that vehicle size is not necessarily a contributing factor in the seriousness of accidents, and recent evaluations of plug-in vehicles like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt—whose battery packs actually work to make the cars safer by lowering their centers of gravity—seem to confirm this.

Issa and his committee will continue to probe the CAFE program for evidence that the recently bailed-out American auto industry was somehow strong-armed into agreeing to the new standards. But for the congressman to have any success in his efforts, automakers effected by the compromise would likely have to join him in protest—and there’s no indication that that will happen anytime soon.

“Reducing fuel consumption and lessening the automobile’s impact on the environment is important to our business because it’s important to our country and our customers,” said GM in a statement this summer, shortly after the deal was announced. “While future fuel economy targets are ambitious, the proposed CAFE rule represents a national approach and provides regulatory certainty for our industry. Additionally, the proposed rule includes flexibility that recognizes consumer needs and potential changes in technology and economic conditions.”

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  • Samie

    While upcoming CAFE standards are not strong enough due to loopholes congressman Darrel Issa is beating a dead horse.

    And while we are at it, again, whats the fuss with low-interest government loans? That seems like a good way to use government, to help private businesses invest and develop better products.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    We have to have higher standards just to compete with European and China’s standards which are already higher than ours….


  • Charles

    1) Keep your hands off of what is in my driveway.
    2) There is no such thing as man made global warming.
    3) You have no right to control what car I buy.
    4) More government regulation is not the answer to anything.
    5) CAFE is just another liberal/communist/socialist plot to control the sheep.
    6) Let the market decide.
    7) What is next, the government telling me what light bulbs I can buy, oh wait, they have already done that.

    To Samie, see number 6, and the government never created a job. If it is worth investing in the private sector will invest. Government investment just distorts the market.

    To MrEnergyCzar, who cares what they do in Europe or China, this is the USA.

    So keep your liberal crackpot ideas to yourself. Your Obama is going to be a one term President.

  • Yegor

    Oh man, where do I start!

    Darrel Issa: “I am concerned about the negative impact these standards could have on the safety of automobiles”

    “despite pervasive opinion that larger and heavier (and therefore relatively fuel-uneconomical) vehicles are safer, the US traffic fatality rate—and its trend over time—is worse than that of other first world nations.”

    Read all supporting links for this statement in the above Wikipedia article! This is true! US traffic fatality rate—and its trend over time—is worse than that of other first world nations! And it is not that cars sold in US are worse crash test wise than the cars in other first world nation. No! In fact most of the cars sold in US are also sold in other first world nations. So what is the difference? Lax CAFE!!! Most of the cars in other developed countries are in the same weight class (because of strict CAFE in those countries): 1050 – 1300 kg. While in US cars are equally distributed in dramatically different weights: 1050 – 2100 kg. When 1050 kg car collides with 2100 kg car the damage is going to be 4 times worse for 1050 kg car with the higher probability of fatality. When two 1300 kg cars collide – the probability of fatality is a lot less. That is all the science to it. US traffic fatality rate went down a lot starting 2007 when oil prices started to go up and people started to buy smaller cars:
    Why? All because of the above science.

    The new CAFE (although because it contains lots of loopholes only by 2022) will finally push people to 1050 – 1500 kg weight class – it will lower US traffic mortality rate dramatically because most of the car would be in the narrower weight class.

  • Yegor

    Darrel Issa: “I am concerned about the negative impact these standards could have on the safety of automobiles”

    Oh man, where do I continue!

    “safety of automobiles”, and what about US economy safety? Emerging economies (China, India, etc) grow 10% per year. The number of cars in China grows 20% per year. More cars are now sold in China than in US. Global oil consumptions is growing. Oil price went up 100% in the last 4 years despite the continual global recession. What is going happen to US when gas price hit $10 per gallon? Recession! Huge one! Huge unemployment! To improve fuel economy – is the only way to prevent US economy meltdown.

  • Yegor

    Darrel Issa: “I am concerned about the negative impact these standards could have on the safety of automobiles”

    And what about US national security? Most of the profit from global oil consumption goes to the countries that hate US.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    To Charles, I care if we’ll be able to sell our cars to the Chinese and meet their higher standards. This isn’t politics, its about making cars that will be allowed to be sold overseas.

  • Yegor

    Having said all of the above the current CAFE is full of loopholes and has to be radically changed.

    A very simple regulation that would work would be to set a CAFE target for every year (For example it is 30 MPG for 2011 – EPA 23 mpg). And any car that do not achieve EPA 23 mpg should pay a penalty of $500 per 1 mpg under the standard. All proceeds from penalties should go on improving US oil depended economical security. It is simple and it will work – no loopholes.

  • Charles

    Just to make sure everybody knows, my earlier post was all sarcasm. I do not believe that anybody has the right to pollute my air because they want to drive a 6000 pound behemoth to the kids soccer practice or buy a cheap heat source that happens to put out a bit of light.

    The problem is that I have seen these statements posted in earnest by people who support the Darrell Issas of the world. I hope the 99% movement produces voters. The TEA Party folks vote. The reasonable people also need to vote.

    As for selling US cars to the Chinese and others (Japanese and Korans for example) we need fair trade agreements. As I have stated before fair trade means that tariffs should only be charged on cars that were not produced in factories that meet the importing country’s safety and pollution rules. It is not fair to kill your workers to build cheaper goods, or to put Hg into my air in order to have cheap power for your factories.

  • Pablo

    Let’s just work as hard as possible to improve our fuels efficiency.
    Let’s talk less about what we may or may not achieve.
    And to work hard we need ambitious goal that is on the perceived edge of our capability.

    We will never know our real capability if we do not really try. We may fall short, but also we may fall … long.

    Talking too much about a specific number (54.5) is only a distraction. Some people have economical interest to distract us deliberately with anything available to them.


    Hey Charles, SHUT THE F— UP! How about that? Go smoke a pole because obviously you don’t know what you are talking about. …Another DUHHHHHH REPUBLICAN.

  • Samie


    Your first statement seemed odd and inconsistent from other posts that’s why I did not respond. But again good insight because you need to know how other people think before phrasing an argument.

    I don’t know what your real view on government backed loans are but in my opinion it doesn’t seem like a market distortion. Example government sets new standards for higher fuel efficient vehicles, businesses need capital for R&D to transition to those new regulations. Put it another way government needs to encourage markets to innovation while reducing new regulatory burdens placed on industry.

    If we speak about market distortion, we technically could argue that CAFE distorts markets but we could also argue that hidden costs subsidized by government creates artificially low prices for our transportation system, thus again a market distortion. The problem here is that some politicians would love to remove distortions by CAFE regulations but will NEVER touch the hidden costs at the pump. That is why they pretend that there is never any hidden costs from anything. Political convenience, lazy conservatism in my view….

  • Bonaire

    Well, how about this. Let the market decide by:

    – remove oil company subsidies
    – remove corn ethanol subsidies
    – let oil companies fight for profits on the free market
    – let fuel prices rise based on lack of subsidies and imported oil prices

    In the end, we would have $5.00-6.00 gasoline. Then the market will decide that people want higher mpg cars, EREVs, BEVs and so on. The market should *react* to non-subsidized influences. Right now it is not a free-market, it is a contrived market based on what politicians were influenced by what lobbies. I’d love more EREV cars out there – Volts and all. Maybe add in a turbo diesel engine instead of gasoline. That will be the typical sedan in 2020, I believe. Some type of eAssist vehicle with battery and generator on board.

  • kballs

    What every car company that helped create the new CAFE rules thinks right now is that Issa is a complete ignorant moron, but they’ll never say it, any friend in Congress is better than an enemy no matter how stupid. In fact the stupider the better when you’re looking for a corporate mouthpiece.

  • Duude

    Consumers might save on fuel bills but spend exponentially more if they get into automobile accidents.

  • Yegor

    One more reason for better fuel efficiency is that the current high price of oil is driven by ever increasing global oil consumption. High price of oil drives up the price of corn because it is used to make an alternative – ethanol fuel. High price of corn in turn drives up the price of food:

    So now many people in undeveloped countries cannot afford food anymore!
    People die of hunger and you want to continue to drive gas guzzlers?

  • Shine

    What caused most vehicular accidents anyway? Is it the size of the car or the irresponsible drivers. http://mossnylaw.com/

  • johnlwheeler2

    2 things you, God loving Angry old white man, the earth is round and circumvents the sun.I am really sorry that all of the universe will not now or never will it circumvent you and there by the earth. I am very sorry to be the person to inform you of these truths. Your wife can get pregnent if she is raped. I am sorry I can not expain that she could Die, do to complications from that pregnancy. I am sorry I am not giving you the scientific statistics you needed to understand. You would need a basic understanding of science. Reading, Writing and rithmatic(arithmetic) from a school that only teaches creationism not Darwins theory of evolution complicates your ability to comprehend basic science theories. Know that your President Barrack H. Obama will try and help you the best he can. He has a program to re-educate people who need modern skills for living wage jobs but its not going well because people are set in their way’s. It is hard for some to accept that a meter is approximaly 39″. Also we need to give up our Standerd tools we do not need 1/2 inch wrenchs any more because there is no such thing as a 12.7mm wrench. May I suggest that you watch The News Hour on PBS its at 7pm in most markets. Lay off Fox news Rush,and Glen for a while. Also have a hart to hart with your higher power, you might be misunderstanding what you are reading in the Bible. Your statments sound like you are angry things are not the way you like them as in the past. There for instead of accepting the things you can not change you get made and stubborn. Example you say 1) Keep your hands off of what is in my driveway. I say when you change your oil do not dispose of the old oil in a maner that it will end up in our water way’s Damn Regulations but I like to Fish with my chidren and granchildren. You 3) You have no right to control what car I buy. Me you are right, but when it starts leaving a quart of oil on the sreet every month then we have a problem.