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Recently Senator Edwards, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, said he would increase CAFE to 40 MPG by 2016. The current standard is 27.5, so I thought it was a bold move. Then I read Obama's plan. He plans to increase CAFE 4 percent a year. His website says it's "a rate that the National Academy of Sciences has determined is possible without changes in vehicle weight, safety or performance." There is a caveat of "unless the experts at NHTSA justify a deviation in that rate by proving that the increase is technologically unachievable, cannot maintain overall fleet safety, or is not cost-effective."

Assuming it's compound interest, he's elected and re-elected, CAFE should be 37.64 in 2016. This is actually a few MPG's less than Edwards. However, Edward's plan does not have any requirement before 2016. Obama's plan could have a real impact on the way car companies design. The pressure of a yearly deadline for increasing CAFE would put improvements on the road sooner. Even if the improvements are small, they are still improvements that could otherwise be delayed in Edward's plan.

Hillary Clinton's energy plan is not out just yet. Obama and Edwards both support ethanol and flex fuels in different ways. So, I expect her plan to support fuel alternatives as well. There is very little cost involved in making a car flex fuel. Add the scale of every car being flex fuel, possible government subsidies and you get major benefits with no real cost at all. The energy bill has a CAFE plan of 35 MPG by 2020, so expect Clinton to say something above 35 MPG as well. The video above shows Obama at the opening of an ethanol plant.

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[Source: Grist]


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  • 18 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Phil, I think this might be it.

      "A variety of technologies to improve fuel economy are available for cars and light trucks. Many have been developed and are being implemented in Europe and Japan where fuel prices are much higher than here. Variable Valve Lift and Timing can reduce fuel consumption by 3-8%. Continuously variable transmissions can achieve another 4-8%."

      http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ocga/testimony/Fuel_Economy_Standards.asp
      • 7 Years Ago
      Phil, Actually, they might not be able to just make smaller cars. I was going to get into this when the energy bill went back before the senate Sept but there are really big changes in the new cafe. Car companies that make smaller cars won't have an advantage. It will account for that. They look at class and other things. That's why you are starting to see these caveats because there are real doubts about the changes being talked about.

      I think they know in some cases they are reaching for some major advances. It's almost a way to sneak in electric cars and hybrids by using CAFE. Without any kind of California like mandate for zero emission cars. That's the secret here. Someone wrote here, GM could sell a few Volts and not change CAFE at all and comply. That's the way I see it. Also, who knows what can happen in 10 years?
      • 7 Years Ago
      If he gets to be vice-president under hillary, how quickly will he call up Jeri Ryan and thank her for not engaging in a certain oral activity with her husband, which came out from sealed child custody papers, to spite the senate run of ex-husban Jack Ryan, which left no viable republican candidate to run against Obama.

      Illinois has 10% ethanol and the AKI has not gone up. (how about 90 mid-grade and 93 premium)
      So what ADM gives (ethanol has 100+ AKI), Exxon takes away (via cheaping out using a less refined grade of gasoline)
      • 7 Years Ago
      this is all well and good but what are they doing NOW? They are all elected officials. I don't exactly see them running through the halls of congress pushing their fellow legislators to enact this kind of legislation now.

      makes me think they are just pandering to the publics desires all the while knowing full well that they'll never get these kinds of regualtions in place.
      • 7 Years Ago
      if he get elected will he ride in one of these 40+ MPG cars and give up the bullit proof limo????.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Have these idiot candidates forgotten that it first has to go through Congress?? That is something out of their control.

      I say politicians spend more time on golf courses instead of trying to control the business world.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Should Congress's energy bill already be completed by the time they get into office should they get elected anyway? It sounds as if this could be a lot of posturing so they can say they were for stricter standards later that they know can't be approved. Additionally, if these standards were achievable why aren't the progressives in Congress already calling for them now?

      When there's two sides in Congress each usually starts with the most extreme so that compromise is reached in the middle. The 35 from the liberal side is already suppose to hurt manufacturers but car manufacturers know that change has to come so they will find something they can support too and a compromise will be worked out. I do some work with the AAM and thats how I understand this process to work.

      The best idea I've heard so far is to increase CAFE standards to the highest point that won't have the negative effects of plans that don't take into consideration auto workers and the state of the current auto industry.

      Also, I'm not really keen on relying on technology that isn't invented yet either - having standards that separates cars and trucks sounds like the smarter move.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm sure he'll ride in a hybrid, just like Harry Reid does...

      Honestly, this type of unrealistic posturing should be exposed for what it is and this "anything is possible if you wish hard enough" attitude means they will most likely be an ineffective leader. This country needs CAFE standards that are realistic and legislation that can actually get passed.

      CAFE legislation will get passed before the 08 election by Congress meaning all of this will be moot - it won't matter what a President can do if its a dead issue and we've moved on. We should be focusing on the House now. We should be focused on people like Pelosi who are pulling CAFE standards off the table because she doesn't want Democrats fighting with each other on TV.

      We have an opportunity because the auto industry is actually coming to the table right now and is supporting a raise in CAFE standards - and that is something we should consider and grasp. The reasonable standards they are agreeing to now are a million times better than the political posturing of any of these wannabe presidents.
      • 7 Years Ago
      40 mpg?

      Looks like we'll all be driving 1L turbo-diesels

      And there are many "real costs" in expanding the use of ethanol a fuel.

      E85 from corn is simply not a sustainable fuel source.

      Cellulosic ethanol appears to be stuck in the lab (if you thought ethanol from corn was expensive...)

      And what crop will be grown on hundreds of thousands of acres as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hmmm:

      "a rate that the National Academy of Sciences has determined is possible without changes in vehicle weight, safety or performance."

      Much of what I read here on ABG mentions the effect improved fuel efficiency can have on the three factors listed above. I find it hard to believe a 4% annual improvement can be maintained without, at minimum, making vehicles lighter. I'll even avoid the safety and performance discussion, for the moment.

      Does anyone have further info on the cited National Academy of Sciences documentation?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Let's not forget that all those ethanol-based jobs in the midwest are propped up by generous subsidies and a hefty protectionist tariff against imports. As an economic strategy, corn ethanol is highly questionable. Then again, so is protecting oil interests by sending the marines.

      Let's also not forget that car makers managed to subvert the spirit of CAFE by getting Congress to pass the E85 amendment. Every flex-fuel vehicle produced actually reduces real-world fleet average fuel economy, because the rules allow them to guzzle more gas without falling foul of CAFE or the gas guzzler law.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Bill (commment #4),

      A 2l turbo-diesel, installed in the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, is expected to achieve 40mpg city, 60mpg highway, and is a very reasonable sized car. There is clearly no need to cut that engine in half, since it already way ahead of the target. And VW hasn't even put in some of the mild-hybrid features that BMW has worked out, like not dirving the alternator all the time and stopping the engine when it doesn't need to run.
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