Automobiles’ Cleaner Energy Future
Environmentally knowledgable people are very disappointed by the Republicans calling for a review of Obama’s CAFE standards, which probably means trying to get rid of them. This was called for by one of Trump’s now infamous Executive Orders of two pages of enormous print size and Trump’s John-Hancock-beating giant signatures that looks like a picket fence. But I distract us.
The point of this essay is that auto technology advances and individual choices will actually determine what can be achieved, as it would have been anyway. Environmentalists are still part of the equation if they try to influence consumers to adopt the new technologies, and to make energy and cost saving auto choices and driving choices. Autos make up about a third of US emissions.
The Obama CAFE goals for 2025 were a maximum of 54.5 mpg, and an actual average of about 36s mpg over the present 25 mpg, when automaker’s goals of making lots of more profitable SUVs. This was worked out with auto maker’s cooperating with estimates of fuel economy advances achievable by then. Since nobody can really predict such things, the CAFÉ goals were going to be reviewed in 2017-2018, anyway. They can still be altered for 2022 to 2025.
As with all of Obama’s energy goals, they are being held up in court, also.
Trump’s claim that to institute a new regulation you must destroy two, doesn’t seem to hold up legally, since each removed regulation has to be replaced by a replacement regulation, with a similar goal.
The automakers are arguing that they cannot meet the original goals.
The real fuel consumption challenge is with the most gas guzzling cars, the SUVs. Yet the technology of coupling them with electric drive motors in hybrid cars is already in show rooms. Besides that, makers are already trying out variable compression ratio engines that get better mileage.
One of the best ways of getting consumers to pay a few thousand extra for fuel saving economy, is for the price of gas to go up. Also, if everybody can only buy from fuel efficient models, as with CAFE, there is no environmental prestige of being responsible, and also of fighting an administration that has sold out to big oil oligarchs. If California, New York, and ten other states can maintain their waivers under the Clean Air Act from the EPA to set their own fuel standards, then that is large enough to force automakers to create energy efficient models.
The price of gasoline is now below $50 a barrel, down from over $100 a barrel, from when Saudi Arabia stopped limiting their oil output. There were supposed to be two reasons for them to have done so. First, fracking of oil shale was increasing the US and Canadian supply, although at a price of around $75 a barrel. Saudi Arabia gets almost all of its budget from oil, and apparently had a stockpile of about five years saved up to cover its forthcoming budgets. Therefore if they let their oil freely and the price dropped, they could put American fracking out of business, and then be able to raise their prices again. They did not figure that the oil fracking industry would be able to become more efficient and reduce prices, in order to survive. With the Keystone pipeline, the Canadian tar sand oil will become cheaper and be exported.
The other Saudi motivation was to combat the Shia influence of Iran. Much of Iran’s budget is from oil, and reducing their income would weaken their sponsorship of war in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc. It many have helped President Obama getting a non-proliferation agreement from Iran, so that their sanctions could be relaxed, and they could get their $150 billion being held up in the West. The Russian government also ran with about half of its income being from oil. Could the Russians have been forced to back a sanction-relaxing American candidate for President?
The point of that long Saudi discussion is that their years of savings are probably running out, and they will have to get OPEC to restrict production again and drive the price of oil back up. If this occurs, it may give people who don’t need SUVs to have second thoughts about buying one, or to trade one for a more economical car. It may also encourage them to drive more economically, or even to car pool, or to group shopping trips. A two car family can also use the more economical one for the longer commute.
Finally, the coming technology of self driving cars has several economic possibilities built in. They can drive more efficiently, with interaction with other motorists and signals, they can move smoothly without stopping and starting, and eliminate the need to accelerate and pass, and then slow down again. More efficient unblocked routes can be used with cooperative driving. Locating car pool candidates can be done efficiently, and with efficient cost sharing.
Computerized auto self analysis can inform drivers of more efficient and cheaper driving possibilities, and save pollution.
So new technologies, and the fact that a majority of the public understands the needs of lowering admissions, can progress us into a better auto efficiency future.