US Government Numb to Fuel Economy Issues

From the New York Times, comes this long and shocking story about the state of conservation efforts within the government.

According to the article, the EPA was granted the authority to impose efficiency requirements on automobiles by a Supreme Court decision that the Clean Air Act applies to carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA, acting on this mandate, sent an email stating that greenhouse gas emissions must be controlled by the government, and officials within the White House refused to read or acknowledge it. The EPA subsequently edited their report to not call for enforcing current pollution legislation as a means for controlling carbon emissions. The White House effectively ignored the Supreme Court decision on the EPA’s power, and the EPA rolled over.

The Bush Administration, according to the article, wants Congress to write a comprehensive law to address greenhouse gas emissions and not simply use existing legislation to act immediately. While newer laws might be more effective, it is unclear why older laws must be completely disregarded in the meantime, especially when the Supreme Court has already deemed them relevant. One must ask if this is just stalling.

The end result was that the EPA’s rather moderate proposal, that we could cost-effectively improve our automobile fleet’s average fuel economy to 37.7 miles per gallon by 2018, was rejected. In its place, Congress passed a new law mandating 35 mpg by 2020. The more relaxed standards correspond to a report by the Transportation Department:

The Transportation Department made its own fuel-economy proposals public almost two months ago; they were based on the assumption that gasoline would range from $2.26 per gallon in 2016 to $2.51 per gallon in 2030, and set a maximum average standard of 35 miles per gallon in 2020.

Anyone vaguely aware of Peak Oil should find that insulting. Right now, gasoline costs well over $4.00 a gallon, and is refined from our finite supplies of crude oil but our government is making projections based on gasoline getting much cheaper. Considering the assumptions they used, it is abundantly clear that the goal of 35 mpg by 2020 is woefully inadequate. The EPA figure doesn’t seem much better, and granted there are other ways to improve fleet fuel economy besides having it mandated by the government (if gas costs enough, consumers will do it themselves). However, if a government agency is going to do that calculation at all, it is appalling that they would make such irresponsible assumptions. Clearly, we are a long way from properly addressing either greenhouse gas emissions or energy conservation, and it doesn’t help to have absurd calculations and unread emails getting in the way.

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2 Responses

  1. […] policy is not unprecedented from the Bush administration. Last month, senior E.P.A. officials accused the Bush administration of pressuring them to remove their conclusion that greenhouse gases must be controlled from an […]

  2. […] Carol Browner Tapped as ‘Climate Czar’ Posted on December 15, 2008 by Rob Costa Along with Obama’s appointment of Stephen Chu to Energy Secretary comes word that he has chosen a so-called ‘climate czar’. Browner’s resume includes a record-long tenure as Administrator of The EPA. As the New York Times reports, she began the fight to regulate greenhouse gases as part of the Clinton Administration only to have the Bush Administration undermine the authority of the EPA and the Supreme Court. […]

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