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This morning President Bush put pen to paper (no doubt one of those really cool American President pens) and signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, all 822 pages of it. As we all know by now, the pillar of the law is an increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 35 mpg by 2020. The increases will be built up over time beginning with the 2011 model year, which really isn't that far away. The measures regarding CAFE also don't apply fleetwide as one single standard, but will be adjusted based on the type of car or truck being measured. Nevertheless, after decades of nary a budge in this country's CAFE standards, an increase of some 40% is monumental and will likely begin immediately affecting the cars and trucks we buy.

We mustn't forget the path fraught with peril that this bill took to reach the President's desk. After being passed by the House of Representatives thanks to a compromise between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the bill moved to the Senate where it was voted on twice and failed before a large $21.8 billion tax provision was removed. Until that point, the President had promised to veto the bill. Without the tax provision, however, the bill was finally passed by the Senate, and then reapproved by the House just yesterday.

In order to meet the standards, we expect automakers to begin producing more mild hybrids in the near future, with full-on parallel hybrids being at least an option on most vehicles after that. The use of modern clean-diesel engines will also proliferate, especially in light-duty half-ton trucks like the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado that would have trouble meeting their own CAFE targets with traditional V8 engines. Then there's more exotic technology, like the series hybrid system being developed by GM for the Chevy Volt. If successful, expect other automakers to very quickly follow suit with their own series hybrid drivetrains. There's lots of simple and more complex technologies on the table that automakers will utilize to increase their CAFE rating, and no doubt the cost of developing these systems will be passed on to the consumer to some degree, as well. Supporters of the bill, however, remind us that reducing our dependance on foreign oil is a very good thing, and in the end, we only get one Earth on which to live.

[Source: The Detroit News, Photo by Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      damn...so much for freedom...
      enthusiests are going to buy cars with the performance they want, reguardless of what their fuel economy is. If they cant get them from american manufacturers, they'll buy european or asian. This is not what the american auto industry needs right now.
      • 7 Years Ago
      U.S. urban centers aren't nearly dense enough to make viable public transportation an economic reality. Most of them anyway, so you can forget that. And gas taxes are terribly regressive, that's why politicians don't pursue that angle. CAFE is the only logical path. Listening to all you anti-government whiners reminds me of 40 years ago when people preached the same tired gloom and doom. Fortunately now it's indisputable that CAFE laws work and we're all better of for them. Bring it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Wait, so you mean we're driving more than ever, plus there are more cars on the road than ever, yet we're still using more oil than we did 30 years ago? Get outta here!

        Seriously though, I won't do your research for you but a simple google search will bring up a regular salad of articles that will explain to you why CAFE laws help decrease oil imports. I didn't even really think that was still in doubt these days.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Julius @ Dec 20th 2007 8:56PM wrote:
        "... the result of CAFE has saved oil... but only in comparison to what things would have been without the law. Namely, CAFE laws only helped decrease THE RATE OF INCREASE in oil imports."

        Julius, if you think about it, the logical conclusion of your statement is: CAFE requirements did't go far enough. Following your train of thought, we should beef up the mpg requirements, not abolish CAFE. And that's why increasing them to 35 mpg is a step in the right direction of reducing foreign oil dependence.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Taken as a whole, the result of CAFE has saved oil... but only in comparison to what things would have been without the law. Namely, CAFE laws only helped decrease THE RATE OF INCREASE in oil imports.

        What it has NOT done is reduced the actual amount of oil imported/used - A STATED AIM OF THE LAW.

        So if the objective of CAFE is to reduce our usage of fossil fuels, taken as a whole it has failed - for that exact reason you mention: more cars, each driven further on average.

        And as CAFE is designed as an enabler for the American lifestyle (namely, reduces the consequences of consumption, rather than aiming to reduce consumption directly), even a 35 MPG CAFE average won't do much to reduce our fuel importation crisis.

        Note: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/hist/mgfupus1A.htm

        1975 - gasoline deliveries when CAFE passed: 2,436,228,000 barrels

        1985 - after full CAFE regs in place:
        2,493,361,000 barrels

        1995: 2,842,855,000 barrels
        2005: 3,343,131,000 barrels

        So - where did gasoline usage go down? Like I said, CAFE only decreased the rate of increase in gasoline usage, not decreased it overall.

      • 7 Years Ago
      "The measures regarding CAFE also don't apply fleet wide as one single standard, but will be adjusted based on the type of car or truck being measured. "

      If this statement is true and I understand it correctly, it makes a huge change in the law.

      Does this mean there is one standard for mid-sized cars, one standard for small cars, etc? That would mean that a car company would not have to build a small car to push the average up to offset the large sedans, but instead would have to have efficient cars in each category. It would mean that for every V-8 G-8, Pontiac would have to offer or sell a more fuel efficient version. This would be a major change that I would support. It would mean that people who need to haul around a bunch of kids would get more fuel efficient offerings to suit their needs, but if a company did not want to make econoboxes, because they are unprofitable, they wouldn’t have to.

      If autoblog could research this further, it would make a very interesting post.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The Freepress article explains that part a little better- yes, vehicle types will have to meet respective ratings. If that means Suzuki will have to meet a higher standard than Mercedes, I can't tell you (wouldn't seem fair, would it?). Further, the increments for the increases still need to be defined and agreed upon (to which end the kicking and screaming will continue for the next 15 years), so its unclear how tough the first step will be.
      • 7 Years Ago
      If fat people were the reason terrorists are able to attack us and kill our soldiers, i am sure you would be all over the clothing shrinkage law.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Because Canada and Alaska sure messed us up good...
        • 7 Years Ago
        The oil companies own us. Every one of us. If getting away from that is in any way possible, I'll put my money in and have a smile on my face.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Reuben @ Dec 19th 2007 12:25PM wrote:
        "Because Canada and Alaska sure messed us up good..."

        Right... because the US doesn't import oil from OPEC...

        "The United States imports about 2 billion barrels annually from OPEC nations..." That's a lot of money going to states that sponsor terrorists, or to states whose populations are sympathetic to terrorists.

        1) http://www.boomantribune.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2007/12/6/73256/8453

        2) http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/ipsr/t35.xls
        Calculation: =SUM(B18:M18)*30
      • 7 Years Ago
      So basically what this is going to do as I understand it, is throw us back into the 80s in a lot of respects. Asthmatic cars with no balls and no performance. No more STI or Evo, twin turbo V12 Mercedes, Z06 Corvette, Viper, or any other real performance car.

      Most of them (certainly the affordable ones) will be replaced with FWD sh*tboxes with 1.2L, 100hp weed whacker motors.

      Or am I not understanding the implications correctly?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I thought that STI hasn't brough big profits to Subaru.

        There are rumors that Subaru is developing a small RWD performance car for Toyota. That's the move in the pleasant direction.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I would like Honda to "regress" and produce a fleet of small and cheap performance cars like CR-X SiR (160hp).
        Does anybody say that there is no fun in driving CR-X?
        I often hear the opposite.

        I don't like that there is no choice of small and simple performance cars the CR-X size.

        • 7 Years Ago
        The same arguments (cars will be bad) were made when the clean air act was passed in the 60s. And sure, mid 70s cars did stink. Then ingenuity kicked in. There's no doubt that modern cars are better than cars of the 60s in performance AND pollution. Even mpg.
        Saying "there will be no twin turbo Mercedes, no Ferrari" is a red herring - none of those cars meet the current CAFE regs anyhow, but there's so few it's basically irrelevant.

        also regarding gas tax. Raising gas tax would reduce consumption. But there's a problem with this approach in that gas tax is regressive, it falls more heavily on poor people. I'm not poor, but I still think that's not really fair. And furthermore, with cars lasting a long time, poor people don't really buy new cars. So if we depend on gas tax alone to influence new car purchasing - the middle and rich folks who buy new cars will buy low mpg cars (excluding environmental concerns) since the gas tax wouldn't really sting that much relative to income. (unless it was $6 per gal or something like that) So the fleet mpg wouldn't really improve. that's the advantage of CAFE over gas tax.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Vincenzo, there are a number of low-powered cars that were good sports cars; the Mini you cited as an example, the Porsche 914 (in fact, most of the Porsches made before the 911 Turbo weren't terribly powerful), virtually every Lotus ever made, of course, the Honda S500/600/800, various Jaguars, MGs, Triumphs, etc. There are others, but that's all I can think of off the top of my head.

        But see, the fact that many of those cars were very successful race cars, or that they handle extremely well does not change the fact that most of them were gutless. And you know what? Gutless isn't fun. Being able to go around corners almost without having to touch the brakes is awesome. Taking well over 10 seconds to run 0-60 (a la the original Mini) is not. If it can't shove you back in your seat, as far as I'm concerned it doesn't have enough power, regardless of how good of a car it is otherwise.

        And what concerns me is that we're either going to regress (perhaps only temporarily) to a point where a car that is essentially a slug qualifies as 'fast' simply because it's faster than all of the other slugs (the example that comes to mind is the 1975-1981 Mercedes 450SEL 6.9, which was the fastest production sedan in the world at the time, despite only being capable of a yawn-inducing mid-15 second 1/4, or-perhaps a better example more in keeping with the high fuel economy requirements-the original GTI), or worse, end up with fuel cell powered performance cars.

        Admittedly, it could go either way... If this pushes diesel development, I'll be happy. But if we end up with a 2020 Chevy Celebrity, I (and, I suspect, many others) will be extremely displeased.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Absofreakinloutely. THIS is the answer. Pay per gallon. Want to pay less? Drive a vehicle with better mileage. Use the add'l intake of funds to actually build new roads - less congestion = less use of fuel. Also fund public transportation that actually works.

      Just try and find a politician on either side who has the necessary cojones to actually propose this, though....
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Don't forget to mention that it impacts the cars that we HAVE to buy...not necessarily the ones we WANT to...

      CAFE is like making people lose weight by only making skinny clothes
        • 7 Years Ago
        You don't HAVE to buy anything.

        It mandates a higher fleet average for each manufacturer. Translated, that means more high-mileage cars, and beter mileage for the trucks and SUVs currently manufactured.

        How can that possibly be a bad thing? Or are you just being alarmist?
      • 7 Years Ago
      There is another bill to bailout the SUV owners:

      Lawmakers in Washingon are near final agreement on a proposed $400 billion bailout of SUV buyers. The massive amount of debt taken on by drivers in an attempt to ensure that their vehicles are significantly bigger than their neighbors’ vehicles has resulted in millions teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. “We need to keep these people in their Hummers, at whatever cost to taxpayers” said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Paulson is expected to announce details of the plan as soon as Wednesday, said sources familiar with the matter. With more than 2 million drivers facing higher interest costs and the possible loss of their oil-company-friendly vehicles if they cannot meet the payments, the future of US overconsumption is at stake. The White House on Friday said it was appropriate to build a “bulwark” against the SUV sector’s woes. “After all”, said President Bush, “it would not be American for us to live within our means and be responsible for our own financial decisions. Those who failed to spend themselves deeply into debt should pick up the tab to keep real Americans riding high.”
      • 7 Years Ago
      That's the only thing about the dumbocrats, otherwise, absolutely nothing else that is good about them.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Bush is sure going to get respect driving in his Camry hybrid limo. Come on follow your example A-hole
        • 7 Years Ago
        LOL Nice one.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Nice. Well said!!
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'd like to see a Camry frame handle the weight of the body armor put on a Presidential Limo. There's a reason it gets the gas mileage of a tank...it's because it is one.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Putting a dollar of tax on a gallon of gas does more than increase the price of gas, It increases the cost of EVERYTHING we buy, it could send this country into a deep recession, its not such a brilliant idea.

      The cost of gas is high enough, look what its done to the economy, car and truck sales are way down.

      We need people to be better educated, the Ego has to go, If we drove smaller cars and smaller Suv's instead of Big Suv's we wouldn't have this problem, We'd all have cleaner air and be less dependant on the middle east.

      Don't blame Honda and Toyota for being first to the party, Other companies make economical cars they just choose not to sell them here.

      This bill has been signed and its a move in the right direction, but bills have been signed before then killed off by presidents years later on the quiet, so see if this stands the test of time, I doubt it will.

      Id bet most people in the USA have never driven a small car, Don't knock them, they can be fast, fun, practical and good looking.
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