The Fight Over Fuel Efficiency for 2007’s Energy Bill

This is a guest post by Lorna Li, a dedicated a Green activist, rainforest crusader, social innovator, and technology enthusiast.

Recently, a large group of auto workers and dealers have broken from the industry in order to support the 35 mpg by 2020 fuel efficiency standard that is currently being debated by Congress. This is the latest high-profile group that has joined the ranks of a broad coalition of environmental organizations, student groups, musicians, and trade associations that have been lobbying Congress to pass a strong, clean 2007 Energy Bill.

Fuel efficiency has been one of the more contentious items on the legislative agenda this year, with the House and the Senate deeply divided over the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standard, a proposal that calls for auto manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency to 35 mpg for cars, SUVs, and light trucks.

The CAFE standard was, in fact, passed by the U.S. Senate in June. This is the first Congressional increase in fuel efficiency in 30 years. However, an alliance of the Big Three Auto Makers - General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler - are aggressively lobbying Congress to lower that standard to 32 mpg by 2022, stating that the higher standard is not achievable and could have deadly consequences.

The auto industry has argued for years that fuel-efficiency would compromise public safety due to the need to build smaller, lighter vehicles. However, according to Scientific American’s October 2007 article Saving Gas and Saving Lives, new engine and transmission technologies could enable manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency without significantly cutting vehicle weights.

The concern for passenger safety may be a thinly-veiled concern for maximum shareholder equity and short-term profits. Reminding us that the auto industry has, in the past, balked at implementing seat belts, airbags, and anti-lock brakes, Adam Lee, third generation auto dealer, makes this personal plea in his 3-minute video clip.

“My family has been selling American made cars since 1936. My livelihood and the livelihood of over 350 employees who work for us depend upon the success of the automobile industry. Today that strength is severely compromised by the lack of fuel-efficient cars and trucks customers want to buy. …

Without a 35 mile-per-gallon mandate, I’m afraid, global warming and our dependence on foreign oil will continue to get much worse in the long run. And, in the short run, I’m afraid I’ll be stuck with a lot full of cars that no one wants to buy or even worse: This country will no longer have an American auto industry."

35 mpg by 2020 versus 32 mpg by 2022

For a casual observer, 35 mpg by 2020 versus 32 mpg by 2022 doesn't seem like a big deal at all, until you do the math.

In their report titled Energy Bill Must Guarantee Real Oil Savings, the Union of Concerned Scientists calculated the difference between the 2 fuel efficiency proposals:

Barrels of Oil Saved Per Day:

  • 500,000 Auto Lobby Proposal
  • 1.2 Million Senate CAFE Compromise

Consumer Savings at the Pump:

  • $11 Billion Auto Lobby Proposal
  • $25 Billion Senate CAFE Compromise

Emissions Reductions

  • 85mmt CO2 Auto Lobby Proposal
  • 206 mmt CO2 Senate CAFE Compromise

The 35mpgby2020 group states various reasons why the higher fuel efficiency proposal must be included in the 2007 Energy Bill. They say:

  • A 35mpgby2020 fuel economy boost would create 241,000 jobs in the U.S., including 23,900 in the auto industry in 2020.
  • Without fuel efficiency gains, Detroit stands to lose $3.6 billion if gas prices stay high.
  • According to UMTRI research, raising fuel economy fleet wide to 35mpgby2020 would boost domestic automakers' profits by $12 billion through 2018.
  • The National Academy of Sciences says our automakers already have the technology to get their cars and light trucks to average 35mpgby2020 without sacrificing vehicle size, safety or horsepower.
  • An increase in fuel economy standards would save American 1.2 million barrels a day which is more than we currently import from Iraq.

Fuel Efficiency and Renewable Energy Must Go Hand in Hand

Gas prices keep going up and up. Fuel efficiency and more renewable energy are the safest alternatives available that can help the United States break free from the vicious cycle of oil supply and demand. Another "Green" provision at stake in the 2007 Energy Bill debate is the Renewable Electricity Standard, which calls for 15% of U.S. electricity to be derived from renewable sources.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists analysis of Renewable Electricity Standards, the RES provision stands to invigorate the alternative energy sector and create new, well-paid jobs in wind and solar manufacturing.

A 15% shift towards renewable sources will generate thousands of megawatts of clean electricity, which will displace reduce the consumption of natural gas, lower costs for consumers on their home heating bills and benefit industrial users, as well.

Furthermore, RES is also currently attainable - two dozen states that have already put their own Renewable Electricity Standards into place. In fact, many states have moved to establish standards of 30 percent or more—demonstrating that the 15 percent plan proposed in this bill is an achievable compromise that all states can meet.

As oil prices continue to skyrocket, fuel efficiency and renewable energy are the 2 cleanest solutions to America’s rising energy needs, that stand to free us from dependence on foreign oil, and the vicious cycle of oil supply and demand.

What you can do to support a strong, clean 2007 Energy Bill

1) Support auto industry workers by sending this letter to Congress in support of 35 mpg by 2020.

2) Support a strong, clean Energy Bill that includes both the 35 mpg CAFE standard and 15% Renewable Electricity Standard by signing this petition for a strong, clean 2007 Energy Bill.

Lorna also founded Mariri Magazine - a journal about the rainforest, and writes about online marketing for environmental and social activism on Green 2.0 Marketing. She also covers Web 2.0 startups, events and new technology on Lorna currently supports a coalition of environmental organizations that is lobbying Congress to pass a 2007 Energy Bill that effectively addresses global warming and energy security.


35 mpg,I'm not impressed.I own a 1988 ford
festiva and with an ethos product I am getting
45 to 49 mpg.Mind you, this is 20 year old
technology.Laws and standards will not do it
for us,there are always loopholes.Climate change
demands that we abandon fossil fuels altogether.

Until recently I was the very happy owner of a 1993 Suzuki Swift 1.3 litre 5 speed manual transmission with only 89,000 miles on it. it ran perfect and even with the AC on (I live in Florida) at 60 mph highway speed I still got close to 40 plus mpg with it. Then a moron in a big van rear ended me at a red light. Even though the damage was not extensive the Insurance company totaled the car because the labor and parts were more than the blue book value of the car. I took the check bought a used Ford Escort sedan with a manual transmission and still get about 30 plus mpg. I gave the Suzuki to someone who needed transportation and they are still driving it. However fossil fuel powered automobiles are absolutely not the answer to our transportation needs and we all will get out of them whether we want to or not.

35 mpg, I'm not impressed. A Boeing 777 gets 60 miles/gallon/passenger.

Would it be a good thing if I could wave a magic wand and have all cars on the road get over 40 mpg ?

What would happen? I think the price of oil/gas would immediately drop, right ? I believe this would allow China and India to grow even faster. It would encourage people in the US, Australia and GB to live even further away from jobs, schools and other necessities of life. Then, as real oil supply accelerates it's decline, wouldn't we be even more in trouble than we are now ? I'm just asking.

yes, and oil demand is only one layer of the problem of the automobile dominated landscape. We'd be better off if we abandon the car and the suburbs entirely. However, it will never happen since American suburbanites find this automobile dominated lifestyle so happy and satisfying ;-)

However, it will never happen since American suburbanites find this automobile dominated lifestyle so happy and satisfying ;-)

For some, currently, yes. The issue of the unsustainable, suburban, drive everywhere, for everything, all the time lifestyle - will work itself out. Just not necessarily in a good way.

Perpetuating and encouraging this unsustainable system now will only make for more people getting 'worked out'.

I simply don't see much evidence for anything changing in my neck of the woods. It's still build for cars only. The local development boom is still happening. It's like a huge wheel that got spinning fast and can't be stopped. In any case, people here haven't got the message yet.

And I don't think much will change even if the price of gas is $10. They will still drive. They will still buy trucks and SUVs. They can afford it. Why should car companies make smaller vehicles when people want bigger vehicles? I think the breaking point is far higher than most people think it is.

And I don't think much will change even if the price of gas is $10. They will still drive. They can afford it. I think the breaking point is far higher than most people think it is.

You are probably correct. In many places, people have no choice but to DRIVE EVERYWHERE for EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME. Those places will suffer a big quality of life hit as prices continue to rise. Larger and larger percentages of income spent on feeding their automobile prosthesis and less on food (probably eat just as much only lower quality/variety), entertainment, education, etc.

Case in point, an article in today's local paper:

Yep. But, the media does a disservice by characterizing $3 gasoline as "expensive". As Matt Simmons like to point out, at $3 a gallon gasoline is probably the cheapest liquid anything that you can buy. Cheaper than coffee at 7-eleven, cheaper than bottled water. As far as utility, I'm guessing most people put a higher value on gasoline than coffee or bottled water.

By saying that it is 'expensive' implies that it might come down in price someday. It won't (at least not without a major recession) and individuals and communities that are counting on it 'going back to normal' are going to be in a world of hurt.

Bottled water is less than 3$ a gallon. It's only if you want the bottle as well as the water that it costs so much. You can buy gasoline for 14$ a gallon if it comes in 1 gallon containers.

How much do you get back if you return the bottle?

Depends on if you will sterilise if first...

"I don't think much will change even if the price of gas is $10."

This is true for some. But others will be priced out of the suburbs at $5 gasoline. Many are at the breaking point financially.

Frankly I'm surprised that so many families continue to find the suburbs appealing. I have a typical 40 to 45 hour per week job, a house and 2 kids. We live in town- 5 blocks to work, 6 blocks to the grocery store. Farthest trip we take in a typical week is about 3 miles away for the rare trip to Lowe's or Walmart. We have a typical schedule otherwise with the kids in a few activities (dance class for my daughter, art class for my son). If you throw in haricuts, dentist and optometrist appointments, school functions, visiting family, then we really feel crunched for time. I'm lucky if my friends and I get out on my mountain bike once a month (we swear every spring that we're going to do it every week). I don't know how suburban families do all this if you throw in an additional 1 or 2 hours a day in the car. Plus the average American supposedly watches 4 or 5 hours of t.v. a day. I just don't see how this is possible.

If the price of gas is $10/gallon, we can expect the
price of oil to be around $250?

At that price, expect 'de-industrialization'!

Possible market dislocations & collapses, etc.

from The Freezing Point of Industrial Society, the numbers below are peculiar. The mathematical progression is NOT a straight line function in the long run, but an exponential one of some sort once the decline begins or demand continues to rise. There is no analysis of this fact in the article by Schuant. The last increases were AT THE PLATEAU. The analysis does not assume the now evident downturn in supply will necessarily continue (see graph below). Rising demand in China and India’s growing demand are also omitted from the author’s analysis on price. The fact of the matter as it now appears is that 2007 will NOT end at $78/bbl as expected by Schuant’s extrapolation, but is likely to end closer to $90-100+/b. If we are at ‘plateau’ and demand in China (growing) and US (flat) continues pretty much the same, it seems like the logical extrapolation is to say, ‘the price of oil can be expected to go up by a third given essentially the SAME conditions, or worse if the decline in production is more significant.’ So, if things don’t get worse, 64:95 is the same proportion as ~95:142. So there’s my prediction, best case scenario for the price of a barrel of oil by the end of 2008: $142 USD. Of course, a depression would bring that number down, but otherwise it seems likely to be higher if the global economy hangs together and things stagger forward in a roughly similar way. Global warming is a factor, as is the economy, declining dollar, etc. But as soon as a serious drop in world oil production occurs (see graph) as indicated by studies such as that of Energy Watch Group (and others), then the price can be expected to begin a different trajectory. The first year of that move will immediately take us, in my estimate, above a 50% increase above the previous price (~60:90), from what have been averaging over the previous years as about 33%; then we can get a sense of a possible trajectory. It seems modest to assume the beginning of such a trajectory to be at least 75%:--that’s the minimal move, where it remains non-exponential but increases at roughly the same rate as the previous year’s jump.

So there you have the MINIMAL case, and a more explicit one, primarily based on math holding most global variables constant. Where the author of The Freezing Point of Industrial Society, mentions that Some are even fearing a rise to $250/bbl in the next two years, I have provided a rational explanation for that case, and it is a modest one requiring only the continuation of present trends of a non-exponential sort. Please check my math if so inclined and see if it holds up.

You didn't udnerstand the purpose of the article, nor read it properly.

The key point was not price, but fuel affordability. If you country is on an average income of $20,000 and fuel is $2/lt, then you're in an equivalent position to a country with an average income of $25,000 and fuel of $2.50/lt; fuel is equally affordable in each country. Where that's not true is as the article noted, in countries rich enough to absorb some high petrol prices, and countries poor enough that the price is irrelevant because all their money goes on basic subsistence.

The key point is that how much fuel we can afford is the most significant thing. So if economies decline and fuel price remains the same, its affordability decreases, and vice versa.

Whether the current decline in oil production continues or not is irrelevant to my analysis, since the important thing is fuel affordability. If demand > supply, then price rises and affordability drops; whether that's because demand has gone up or supply has gone down doesn't matter. We could in fact have supply rise, but because demand rises further, have a situation with higher prices than some alternate scenario of supply dropping, but demand rising not as much.

It's also irrelevant whether the demand comes from the US, China, or the Moon. On our current course, demand will certainly rise, and will at some point vastly exceed supply, thus dropping fuel affordability, and causing the destruction of our modern wasteful industrial economies; whether they're replaced with manual, mixed-industrial or ecotechnic economies remains to be seen.

The relation between demand and price is a funny one. If it were easy to guess the likely price from a particular level of demand, then oil companies and stockbrokers would always do very well. All we can say with certainty is that as demand rises, so too will price in a free market. If you honestly think that you can predict prices with that much certainty, then I recommend to you a career in the stock market, where you could become very wealthy.

It's also possible that in future government subsidies or taxes will affect the prices and affordability. Some governments may respond to peak oil by fuel subsidies, to lessen the economic impact and chance of recession from rapidly rising prices; other governments may respond to climate change and rapidly rising prices by instituting a carbon tax on each barrel of oil to destroy demand and/or fund non-fossil-fuel-based infrastructure. Their exact reactions are not predictable years into the future. These taxes or subsidies will of course affect the affordability of fuel.

In speaking of the price of oil being $78/bbl in 2007, I was speaking in the context of average per barrel prices in each of the preceding ten years, and thus of the average price over the year 2007.

You can say "math" as many times as you want, but it doesn't make your predictions any more likely in their precision. There are simply too many things which could be different. The US could bomb Iran tomorrow or Al Qaeda could sink an oil tanker, and the price of oil might leap to $150/bbl in a day. Or the EU could pay everyone who gives up their driver's licence 5,000 euros to do so, and the price might drop to $50/bbl.


That's one reason that CAFE standards are not as effective as a gas-tax.

If you tax gas with, say, 1US$/gallon then you will see that people will use less gas and the price of gas will drop (except for the tax part). So the total increase is maybe 80 cts.

Who pays the 20 cts/gallon?

Well, Saudi Arabia does. And Venezuela.

Probably China and India will start using more. But is that really a problem? At one point, they will also have to cut back.

Who pays the 20 cts/gallon?

Well, Saudi Arabia does. And Venezuela.

The larger share of the burden burden of a sales tax is borne by the by the party with the lower elasticity.

You may believe that there is no longer any elasticity of supply, and thus the supplier will bear the entire burden of the tax, because the suppliers are producing at capacity and that the capacity can no longer be increased.

You are forgetting half of the possible variation in the supply. The supply can be decreased below capacity to maintain the price that the producers receive thus pushing the tax burden onto the consumers.


That's true, but if the US would reduce its consumption, that would have a large impact on the market. And even KSA et al cannot hide it if they reduce output by that much.

It would risk the world asking KSA some hard questions and believe you me: As soon as this thing becomes clear, western countries will not be shy in taking measures, either political, economical or of any other kind.

KSA without the oil revenues is just a desert, you know. Even though the Arabs really like to see themselves as Nomads (*), most of them would just die without the oil money.

(*) Just like Americans would like to see themselves as Pilgrims. Nothing new here, please move on.

Gas tax in the United States? That would be the same time the GOP would declare for communism and incite the revolution. Any day now.

Gotta love the big three:

the Big Three Auto Makers - General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler - are aggressively lobbying Congress to lower that standard to 32 mpg by 2022, stating that the higher standard is not achievable

Right. So current Japan (avg 41 MPG) and Britain (Avg 39 MPG) exist in la-la land, with safety records the same or better than the USA. Anyone really believe this crap?

The Big Three make vehicles for markets with much average higher fuel economy such as the UK, but the fuel prices are nearly 100% higher. The vehicles the Big Three make in those markets are much more efficient, but forcing efficiency is a challenge when the US population can still burn gas at 15 cents a cup. Ford and GM are already moving towards integrating their European and North American operations, but making more efficient, lower profit margin vehicles for the US market is going to cost them and that is why they're fighting CAFE.

Ford's CEO Alan Mulally for example favours a tax to raise the price of gasoline over CAFE standards.

I would note Toyota is playing both sides of the fence on this.

There is not flexibility here; they cannot adapt.

"They"? Don't you mean "we"?

No, it's "they"; the problem is the auto companies.  Tied to UAW contracts which make small cars unprofitable to build in the US, they have to push their product mix toward high-margin vehicles to stay in business.  In a situation with cheap fuel and abundant parking, this has meant BIG.  And they are still doing their best to market BIG (GM's recent ad with the popping corn kernels turning into big SUVs is a case in point; GM doesn't lose money if its customers can't afford to drive what they've bought).

You see this in the lobbying.  The UAW's pet, John Dingell, has steadfastly opposed measures which would have forced the UAW to make concessions for the sake of economy.  (They're happening anyway, but only because there is no alternative and no faster than required to patch the immediate crisis.)

The US driver would do just fine with a smaller and more efficient vehicle fleet.  We did it before.

35 mpg will save half our fuel consumption, but the big question is: Will we be able to buy 10m barrels per day in 2025? Not! Don't forget that it takes at least 20 years to replace the fleet at 15m cars per year. There are still many cars built before 1987 that are still driving around.

Electric powered vehicles are the future. Just ask Bill Reinhart.

Hmmm.....congress looking at a 35 mpg target for about some 20-20 hindsight....look at what the auto manufacturers were able to accomplish after the oil shortages in the late seventies .....the target should be 50 mpg just to get back to where we were 25 years ago....seems like congress is hell bent on wasting as much oil as we can.

I wonder what laws congress would pass if they were on the Titanic.

Probably no music played by the ship's orchestra can be in a minor key.

I own a Suzuki Cappuccino. These small sports cars were built in 90s under the Japanese Kei class regulations.

It has a 3 cylinder, twin overhead cam, 12 valve turbocharged engine. It also has all wheel disk brakes, ABS, all round independent suspension and air conditioning...... With the limiter removed it will easily do 100mph and 0-60 in about 8 secs...Apart from being great fun it does a mighty 50mpg !!!

A number of other cars were built to Kei class regs including the Subaru Vivio which was a small four seat car.

So we already have the technology and know how to build smaller much more fuel efficient cars. We just don't use it and in fact, given electronic control systems have improved dramatically since the Cappuccino came out, I would think that over 50 mpg is now easily achievable.

Light cars, small efficient engines are the answer to the 35mpg by 2020 issue and its easy to achieve.

Holy crap dude that's HOT!!

I want one!!

And I think I can speak for the rest of My Fellow Amurrikans when I say that a good number of my countrymen/women want one too!!

Before I lost my Prius (handed it in really) to the repo folks, I was able to drive it around for a couple of years, and I noticed that good aerodynamics matter. Even at speeds in the 20-30 MPH range, open windows would make the MPG plummet. At higher speeds the aero factor is much bigger of course. Right now my vehicle is a small (250cc) motorcycle and the thing's really trying hard at 50 or 60 MPH because of the horrible aerodynamics. That same engine/drivetrain with good aero would be a real performer and would improve cargo carrying ability too.

It'll be worth less than a couple of horses and a plow!

Can you sleep in it?

Sad to say the Cappuccino was never imported into N America. However, I know of at least three that have been imported recently into the USA and two into Canada. In the UK there are about 250 left and in Japan about 400. There's a fair few in Australia and New Zealand and there's now one in China.

Yes it would be easy technically to meet the requirement. Here's an advertisement for my very first car - a 1978 Mazda GLC Sport:

Note the 46 mpg - it always got more than 40.

The trick is: The car weights only 700 kg (1540 lbs) and the engine is only 660cc.

The Japanese car sales market is about 5.5 m cars/year. About 2m of them are cars with this specification (Kei cars have a max weight, length and engine displacement) You get a tax relief for this.

So about 40% of the cars sold in Japan get 50 mpg already.

These cars are available and in large volumes. We don't need to wait until 2020.

Looks like a blend between a Miata and a Z3 roadster. I think there are plenty of people in the US that would buy one. Depends on safety standards though as to whether they could just start importing these into the US.

Seems you can get one in Canada through this importer:

The thing you have to remember is: It's all there, ready to go.

The question you have to ask is: Why is it not happening?

The north american autoworkers need to get more involved with fuel efficiency advocacy. Gas is only going to go up in price - we all know that. So, cars that are more efficient will be more desired in the marketplace. Cars that are less so will be less desireable. The EU and Japan make more efficient vehicles, so their autoworkers will keep their jobs as they will be busy making them. Less demand for American gas guzzling crap will result in more and more layoffs and bankruptcies.

This is painfully obvious stuff - econ 101 material.

The labour organisations should be screaming bloody freaking murder to build ever smaller and more efficient vehicles. They should be barking for the carmakers to build electric bikes and electric trikes. Someone will have to build them, and it makes sense for the autoworkers to do so. We're going to need a lot of them and fast: something industrialism is good at.

The automworkers and car makers need to realise they need to anticipate changes, not just react to them. The music industry crawled up its own arse, and look where they are now: dying - and all because they didn't adjust ther business to new technology and cultural envirnoments.

Same will happen to carmakers that don't get with the new programme.

Stuart Studebaker

Toronto, ON

Nope the US carmakers will keep on doing what they do ..... and because out here where I live you can have a huge ol' truck and not put that many miles on it, and find it extremely useful for hauling big/heavy stuff.

However, there's ALSO a market for the small, witty, effecient, things like electric bikes and utility machines built around the engine/drivetrain of my 250 Rebel. The builders of things like that are already tinkering away in garages and R&D bays. They may have grown up listening to their father b!tch about the working conditions at GM, or they may be laid-off GM workers, they may be a bored HS student or a bored 50-something.

The main barrier in the US is cultural. And that is breaking down rapidly in the face of Triple Yergin oil prices.

the irony of this 'car companies must adapt or die' coming from a man named Studebaker is amusing

I think the people in Congress don't yet "get it". If the world is already at Peak Oil, a MPG standard of 35 by 2020 may be too little, too late. And, switching from gasoline to diesel engines (which could be one result of the increased CAFE standards), would imply a major shift in fuel supply, much like that which has happened in Europe due to their large taxes on transport fuel.

Adding ethanol to gasoline reduces the real MPG, which implies that there might be two different standards, one for E85 and one for gasoline/diesel. Or, are we to continue to subsidize ethanol (from corn) by continuing to provide a MPG credit for producing dual fuel capable cars that can operate on E85? There have been reports that people are using less gasoline, based on credit card receipts. Yet, the EIA's weekly reports have not shown a decline in supplied quantities of gasoline and total demand for oil. Why aren't we already seeing some benefit from E85 or even E10 in terms of reduction in petroleum consumption and imports?

E. Swanson

I've no problem with 32mpg for all cars, SUVs, etc....

...provided that's the minimum performance for all vehicles and anything worse is taken off the road and scrapped.

Otherwise its just playing around the edges of the problem.

Retiring on-road vehicles is the elephant in the room. It will take time to get the law passed. Then it takes effect some time later. They begin making the cars and people begin buying. Ten years later the old cars are off the road and we are finally at 32 mpg or whatever, where we could have been by 1990.

But now it's 2020, and all cars from Japan are 60+ mpg plug-in hybrids. Once you are decades behind the curve, it takes a revolution to catch up. CAFE increases are not revolutionary.

It would be a joke if it were not so tragic.

35 mpg by 2020? We need to be talking in terms of 40-50+ mpg by 2010! If there is still even any gasoline available for automobiles by 2020, they're going to need to be able to use it at something more like 100+ mpg or they are not even going to be able to leave the driveway.

Passenger safety? You'll see huge improvements in that when the cars are sitting with empty tanks in the driveways.

The reality is that if the "Big 3" think that the best they can do is "32 by 2022", then I can confidently predict that they will become the "Big Zero" long before that. By that time, $100 of gas might not be enough to even make the trip from the driveway to the gas pump at 32 mpg.


I'm ahead of the curve I guess, with my Honda Rebel at 60-70 MPG but it gets better, because I might see about working at the local laundromat (I like laundromats, I'm weird) and if I have to get there at opening time especially, I'm probably going to go by bicycle, since that gets the body heat up, So, no gas used for commuting lol.

"Factor of Two: Halving the Fuel Consumption of New U.S. Automobiles by 2035" from MIT's Laboratory for Energy and Environment

The study uses three technology options:
(1) channeling future vehicle technical efficiency improvements to reducing fuel
consumption rather than improving vehicle performance
(2) increasing the market share of diesel,
turbocharged gasoline and hybrid electric gasoline propulsion systems
(3) reducing vehicle
weight and size

They draw the conclusion that to maintain current performance and double efficiency cars would require:
- 20-35% weight reduction
- large fraction of alternative powertrains
- an increase in cost of 20% per vehicle to achieve this

It is completely worthless except to project what Business As Usual may have looked like, unfortunately, given the assumptions by the authors.

The concern for passenger safety may be a thinly-veiled concern for maximum shareholder equity and short-term profits.

How's that profit-thing going? I mean really, who in their right mind would invest in US Auto Manufacturers?

Fuel economy standards won't mean shite when most people won't be able to afford new autos due to the economy tanking in the near future, so let's explore the fundamental issue of getting people out of their cars. I'm fairly certain this would be a whole lot more effective, then again this is a threat to the auto manufacturers and fuel proprietors...

Raising fuel standards is fruitless. Reducing dependency on the automobile by, let's say, 1 in 5 people would be a goal worth shooting for. Not that it'll ever happen, but if we can take a few million autos out of our daily energy equation a couple of times a week or more, wouldn't that be something?

I'm lucky enough to live in town and 8 miles from my office, where I can simply ride a bicycle or motorcycle to work, and let my vehicle sit for long periods of time. Fuel economy means nothing to me because I don't drive enough to where it hurts my pocketbook.

I get an ave. of 45MPG with my 2004 Prius.
I hear the next generation Prius will get upwards of 100mpg.

VW made a car that gets 235 MPG (1-litre car):

VW also has the Lupo 78 MPG:

There is also the plug-in hybrid:

I think it can be done. But will it solve peak oil?

Extending the efficient mobility theme, also consider electric boosted velomobiles, such as;

Go-One (video)

and Twike (video)

I get by on my 93-mpg Gas Scooter.

And I get by on my feet, bike, and train.

It's awesome, the train. I'm allowed to talk on my mobile while in it, I can be roaring drunk and it's still safe, if anyone is struck and killed by the thing it's because they leapt in front and wanted to die, and when I get to my destination some other guy parks it for me.

Burns no petrol at all. Unfortunately, the power station which gives it its electricity burns brown coal, but even so, it's still putting out less CO2 than a hybrid. And over time it'll end up being powered by wind and solar instead.

Cars suck, whether they're 10mpg or 100mpg. The best mileage is no car at all. So what you need is not to lobby Congress for better mileage standards, but to lobby them for better public transport networks, powered by renewable energy. That'll save you heaps more oil than any mielage standards - since anyway people respond to better mileage by driving more.

And I get by on my feet, bike, and train.

I lived in Germany for a couple of years and did not need a car. I was able to get most places by bike, walking, train, tram, bus or u-bahn. And it was cheap. You could get a month pass for less than $20 (student rates). As everyone knows, here in the US everything is designed around the car.

Trains were common, even near where I live and work N. of DC there was a small rail line that connected Frederick & Hagerstown and the small towns inbetween.

But then...

Competition and Decline

By the 1920's the H&F faced competition from two sources: the automobile and the Blue Ridge Transportation Company, a bus company owned by Potomac Edison. A gradual decline set in starting with the closure of the Washington Street line in Hagerstown and the end of Electric Park, both in 1927. In 1929 the loop line on Mulberry Street closed, and in the same year the Braddock Hotel burned and was not replaced.

After the beginning of the Great Depression things got worse. The Chambersburg, Greencastle and Waynesboro was shut down in 1932, and the Shady Grove line followed suit. Emory Coblentz was caught in the financial collapse of his bank, and was indicted (and later acquitted) on fraud charges. Having resigned from Potomac Edison and lost everything, he died in 1941, effectively destitute.

The reconstruction of US Route 40 to better suit the automobile took another toll. The new US 40 alignment between Myersville and Hagerstown crosed the H&F right-of-way at several pints. Rather than build level crossings, the line was abandoned, in 1938. Streetcar service in Frederick had already been terminated in 1937, and in Hagerstown in 1939.

In some areas you can still see where the railway line was. I guess it could be brought back...

Let's see collision test results on those vehicles...LOL!!! I can just see some soccer mom in a Denali sqwaking on her cell phone about Dancing With the Stars and plowing into one of these things cuz it wasn't visible. Ouch.

Two words:

Reactive armor

If we compare all vehicles to how they would survive against large SUVs, then we would forever remain mired in our oily addiction.

I love the whole idea of four ton battery powered soccer mom vans mixing it up with three ton SUVs!

If weight=safety then an SUV full of lead would certainly do the trick.

I think that's part of the philosophy behind the Tango.

Hi Lorna:

Thanks for doing this post and for working on this issue! There's nothing more important for responding to peak oil than improving auto efficiency, and I appreciate your and other activist's efforts on it. I encourage everyone to go sign the petition and send the letters.

There's nothing more important for responding to peak oil than improving auto efficiency

I'd like to hear more about why you think this. So, you believe that it is "the best response" to increase vehicle efficiency that will result in the trend in the graph below continuing such that 10-20 years hence we are driving 50% more than currently, only getting 40 mpg ?

I often hear intelligent, very well meaning people talk about doing this but I don't understand why they don't think this is equivalant to digging ourselves in a deeper hole. What is the end game here? Driving ever longer distances for everything but in more and more fuel efficient vehicles ?

See The Auto Efficiency Wedge for why I think what I think.

What would be your opinion on allowing automakers to factor into their CAFE numbers the gasoline equivalent of electric vehicles (seems to usually be ~150mpg) they sold?

Thanks, I remember seeing that now. Improved efficiency for buying time is valid. Is kicking the can down the road going to work this time though - for any appreciable length of time?

There is a clear divergence in how different communities are applying infrastructure investments now. I think it won't be too long before we see if it was wiser to invest in highway expansion and fuel efficient personal vehicles or in walkable communities and transportation diversity.

The corrupt congress is once again DOING NOTHING.

We need much higher standards that reflect this

Talking about saving a few MPG is pathetic! Idiots!

This bill, my understanding of it, is that it is getting CHOPPED.

UCS be damned! No sane suggestion will be heeded.

15% renewable? by when? I heard they've cut that.

Here's my response to the naive posts, comic relief:

Diesels get considerably better mileage than gasoline motors, but the 2007 requirement for ultra-low sulfur diesel pretty much killed diesel automobile sales in the USA. It's even hurt the truck manufacturers.

Just today I'm reading about how in Europe, it's required that trucks have urea injectors which reduce pollutants by approximately 90%. However, I've also read that many environmentalists are opposed to this idea because they think that people won't refill the urea tank. I find that incredibly short-sighted. You can put a sensor on the urea tank that starts flashing an annoying red light as it gets near empty, and eventually starts buzzing (like a seatbelt buzzer) if you ignore it indefinitely. You can also make it illegal for people to disconnect the sensor.

Urea is inexpensive - it's not much more than piss. Seems to me like a quick fix solution that actually works. At least it's better than continuing to drive gas guzzlers.


What makes you think EPA diesel fuel killed diesel sales? Does the fuel require a different engine?


Sorry I'm replying so late, I was out. Hope you get to see this response.

The new emission standards are so strict that most manufacturers of diesel-engined cars couldn't meet them. So the cars were withdrawn from the market. This really hit Volkswagen hard, since they sell most of the diesel cars in America. There is, for example, no 2007 VW Golf diesel - VW actually is now selling a 2007 gasoline substitute (which gets lousy mileage, I might add) in the USA only.

Read some of the trucking magazines. Nobody wants a 2007 diesel truck because they perform so poorly - the older trucks now go for a premium because they don't have to meet the stricter emission standards.

"Urea is inexpensive - it's not much more than piss."

It IS piss. Or at least the component of piss that makes it what it is and not just water. I want to know if you can take a leak into the urea tank and have it work right. It'd be great if you could just save your wizz and put it into your car. Pizz on pollution, man.

peak oil analysed.

Just the facts ma'm:

If you can get it in the US then great...



Read books. Read articles. Read everything you can ...

and then get back to me about the glorious future.

The current despotic government of Cheney and his
goal of plundering his way out of the problem--


IF the UCS ran this country we'd only be able to mitigate the disaster.

Light truck sales still outnumber car sales in the United States, and the domestic automakers account for 84% of light truck sales, but only 68% of car sales.

For some insight, see GM's sales information:

In October GM sold:
- 307,408 light vehicles total
- 111,738 cars
- 195,670 light trucks

Of those light trucks:
- 43,496 were 1/2 ton SUVs (Tahoe, Escalade, etc.)
- 66,133 were pickup trucks (Silverado and Sierra)

The vast majority of those using 1/2 ton SUVs could migrate to more efficient vehicles easily, eg. from a Yukon that gets 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway to an Acadia that gets 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

Also, the majority of light truck users driving those below the 1/2 ton size could use car-based wagons without much compromise, so there is lots of room for improving Corporate Average Fuel Economy even without advanced technology.

It would shrink profit margins, but the new UAW contract could save them $1000+ per vehicle.

"The vast majority of those using 1/2 ton SUVs could migrate to more efficient vehicles easily, eg. from a Yukon that gets 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway to an Acadia that gets 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway."

The vast majority of those using 1/2 ton SUV's could migrate to VW Lupos because they're most likely using them as single-person commuter vehicles.

I was out doing errands yesterday and unfortunately it was the hour when kids come home from school, so I had to drive *very* carefully. In fact you have to stop completely when a school bus is offloading kids (and for good reason) so I got to watch the process closely. At an intersection here the school bus was letting off a lot of kids, and lo and behold, there were about 5 large pickup trucks there which various kids got into. Now, this area is kind of semi-rural so maybe those kids were in for several mile's walk otherwise, and I can hardly judge since I was driving a large pickup myself with just me in it.

We are down to the 1940s average of 10 or less vehicle miles per person per day around here. I don't know how many neighbors are putting in more miles, probably some, but in coming out here I've gone from at least 50 miles a day to less than 10.

A lot of people out here drive/ride little quads and things, some of which are street-legal and some are "offroad" licensed, instead of taking the big truck when they can avoid it. Harleys are also amazingly popular out here. It's hard to argue with something you KNOW you can get parts for, and amazingly they get good gas mileage. Harley-Davidson could sell a ton of those little 3-wheel Servi-cars in places like this.

One thing about rural/semirural areas at least this one: People drive more slowly. Does wonders for gas mileage right there. I promptly got a speeding ticket about one week after coming back here - driving a Prius with California plates may have been part of it, but being 14 over the limit sure didn't help. The already 50+ MPG on the Prius went to close to a 60 or so average. I've gone into Prescott the "front way" which means going through a 65 MPH speed limit zone on my little 250cc motorcycle and went slower of course, maybe 60, and it was OK. I'd have been turned into a grease spot on the pavement for daring to go slower in a major US metro area. There's a "back way" too, a little longer but the speed limit's 50 at most, and you get to see a horse and a cow and a ranch and a horse and some cows and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical & Flying Not Landing University and a horse and a cow .....

Not sure where I'm going with this post, just some local observations.

So true, but until a price shock happens what changes will be more than incremental? We're going to get slammed by fuel costs well before CAFE in 2020. Its going to be much easier to get those people into a (more efficient) vehicle that allows them to maintain the lifestyle they value in the short term, without sacrificing anything other than the perceived "image value" for some of driving a big truck-based SUV, which is starting to be looked down upon anyways.

Replacing sales of truck based SUVs with ~20% more efficient unibody vehicles nets the same kind of fuel savings as going from a conventional sedan to a hybrid or diesel. The narrow end of the efficiency wedge Stuart Staniford mentions further down, if you will. Without a price shock to make consumers more sensible (eg. buying VW Lupos) we'll be waiting for disruptive technology to be widespread, and only to make the same sized vehicles more fuel efficient (eg. the GM SUV 2-mode hybrid system).

Apologise for sounding like a doomster but are not arguments about fuel economy standards a bit like rearanging deck chairs on the Titanic. If there are any ICE driven cars around by 2020 it will be a miracle. In 5 years there will be well on the way out. We will have to move away from them as quickly as possible.

My feelings exactly...I just spent 4 grand completely rebuilding a 86 tercel[we have 3}new engine,front end ect.This will possibly be the last wagon I'll drive...35-37mpg,4wd,and its astounding what I can and have hauled in it.

That and a propane powered truck...Its in the works now..

My 2000 Chevy Metro (1 liter engine, 3 cylinder, 1000 CCs, 5 speed manual) gets 50 MPG highway and 40 city, has AC and a good crash rating. Top speed 87 MPH. Zippy, but slow on hills and passing, but who needs to go anywhere in a hurry, as that is mass racing to the grave. With a roof line 2 inches lower, it would get 60 MPG and 70 MPG with a diesel engine. Also, the car, engine, and transmission are simple, light, and have few parts. This means the oil consumption in manufacturing is low (less shipping of thousands of parts all over the world). This car has only 25,000 miles on it, garaged, and no rust, so you can imagine a nice car instead of an old junker. I like this car a lot, and I've owned everything from a 1952 Jaguar XK 120 to a model A Ford rumble seat coup. Europeans drive similar cars with 800 CC engines. Congress is playing tiddlywinks, so too are proponents of hybrids that don't do much better and consume much energy in production.

I mostly agree with you. For myself I'd much prefer something like the Loremo or VW 1-liter which are simply incredibly efficient and not hybrid. Hybridizing increases complexity (and cost) and with it the chance that something will fail. However, the big plus with hybrids is that they help establish demand and capacity for batteries and electrical infrastructure, thereby building the structure of future electric transport.

Lorna - I hope your efforts generate good response. I agree with posters here that think Congress should mandate 50 mpg. Jeez, we're talking about 12 years from now.

BTW, although I posted this last week it is relevant to your efforts. A coupla investors with assets exceeding $1.4 trillion (as of last week) agree with you on CAFE and 15% renewables and have told Congress so.

Here's their pdf letter to House/Senate leaders, and duplicated at this link:

Investors Seek Strong Environmental Measures in Energy Bill

(CSRwire) WASHINGTON, DC - November 15, 2007 - More than two-dozen leading investors, who manage retirement funds for millions of Americans, today sent a letter to Congress urging passage of a national energy bill that includes strong measures for expanding clean energy, reducing oil dependence and curbing global warming pollution.

The investors collectively manage more than $1.4 trillion in assets.

OK. It seems the news is full of stuff of late and I'm amazed at how foolish everyone is in wanting to gang up on the domestic auto industry. It's annoying me, so here it goes with a polite polemic:

I am aware of the discussions about peak oil, etc. I don't want to discount those arguments, but I'd like to point out some immediate realities that people here seem to be ignoring in their glee to pile on the 'Big Three'. To me, the obvious answer is just tax the crap out of gasoline and diesel to create a MARKET for smaller vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, etc. But, politicians don't want to be seen increasing taxes and suburban Soccer moms/Joe six-packs wouldn't want that either. Both groups seem intent on living in a fairy-tale land where the evil auto companies are keeping the cheap and easy answers out of sight. I don't think life is nearly so simple. As I understand it, the EU doesn't have fuel economy standards, they just tax fuel a lot, and charge different registration costs based on engine size, which rewards smaller engines and cars. The Japanese tax heavily and have some efficiency standards, based on weight, which is interesting. Here is a link to an article on the topic: (

I'm not saying the auto companies are angels, but at least beat up on them on legitimate issues. Gas prices were too low for too long and the big 3 were more than willing to sell more and more pickups and SUVs because people kept buying more and more of them. They were providing what consumers wanted at the time. Then prices spiked and profits disappeared. Were they short-sighted? Sure, but contrary to what I've heard in the past, the auto companies were responding TOO WELL to customer demand in providing profitable pickups and SUVs. (That's what people wanted, for reasons that I have never understood.) It takes several years (~5) to bring a new vehicle to market, so expecting the companies to be able to bring a whole new product portfolio of smaller cars and engines in a couple months isn't realistic.

That aside, let me continue:

1) As one other post mentioned, Toyota is against these standards as well as they sell plenty of fuel-inefficient vehicles here in the US, so it isn't totally fair to blame opposition on the 'Big Three Auto Makers'.

2) Fuel economy standards are set independently from emissions standards. This is significatn in that it is easy to reduce the amount of unburned Hydrocarbons and Carbon Monoxide emitted by running lean, and this decreases the amount of fuel used as well. But, if you run lean, your Nitrogen Oxide emissions go up and all three main constituents are regulated independently. (The off-road engine manufacturers have to meet a composite standard of HC/CO + NOx, which is easier.) You MUST meet emission regulations to be able to sell the vehicles (and safety standards) in the US. Period. If your fuel economy is lousy maybe you just pay extra, so emissions are more important than fuel economy.

3) Diesel engines run very lean, and while engine-out (before exhaust treatment) are lower than gasoline engines, there isn't an easy way to reduce the resulting NOx. Conventional catalytic converters depend on certain the right amount of all 3 emissions (HC, CO and NOx) to lower the amounts of all in the exhaust (part of the magic). Diesels also emit high particulates, which have to be treated as well. To meet 2007 (or 2008, I forget) regs requires particulate filters 'DPF' or 'Diesel Particulate Filter'. In 2010, NOx emissions will be much tighter and will require more aftertreatment systems. The Urea treatment system consists of an injector in the exhaust in front of a special catalytic converter. Simple right? Well, you have to keep the Urea from freezing, as it is an aqueous solution (33% Urea I think). Hmm, another catalyst, plus injector, plus tank, plus heater, plus engine controller development, software development, Gov't regulated diagnostic (check engine light) development, hot weather testing, cold weather testing, high-altitude testing, system calibration, emissions certification, etc. See how simple it is? Oh, and on top of that the more precise machining requirements for the high-pressure fuel systems makes the Diesel more expensive than gasoline as well, plus all the treatment systems I mentioned above.

So, to put it simply, there are trade-offs. Clean air or fuel economy (slightly unfair characterization, but you get my point), etc. I'd suggest you tell your Senators/representative to be truly bold and propose sharp increases in fuel taxes at the federal level. Even Ford's Mullaly (and Bill Ford, and Rick Wagoner) has talked about this. Anything else (like these fuel economy standards) is just shooting an already wounded industry, which admittedly may collapse for lack of oil in a few years anyway.

Sorry this was so long.

Hello C-M
Re Urea: Urea is used in solution as antifreeze on Danish roads in the winter. A 30% solution gives a freezing point depression to 10-15 F corresponding to minus 10 oC.

How much car is needed for the daily commuting of 1-2 people?

While obviously considered too small for the US, the just elected European car of the year 2008 the FIAT 500 is a good example.
A small 2+2 saloon doing 46 mpg (US) on petrol and 56 mpg (US) on diesel.

No new technology, but tried out drive train etc. Still with a large potential for reducing the consumption further. The car passed the EURONCAP crash test as best in class.

and crash test

kind regards/ And1

"It's annoying me..."

Too bad.

"They were providing what consumers wanted at the time."

Semi-bu!!sh1t. The car companies are not just some innocent by-stander in the rise of the SUV. They CREATED the demand for these piles of sh!t with multi-billion dollar ad campaigns which in wink-wink kinds of ways basically proclaimed through their sheer mass were the safest things on the roads - and you don't want to kill your children in little death traps do ya? Not that there was any truth to it - they were less safe than other alternatives - but they kept right at it. They promoted the penis-enhancing effects of SUVs, safety for the little lady and the young-ens - trail rated, you know. All the while in the background they were basically subsidized by tax loopholes (did you know you can write off a $60,000 Hummer for your business but not a $15,000 Ford Focus?) and lower emissions standards and non-compliance with CAFE for vehicles over a certain weight limit. It was a cold and calculated plan to hoodwink people into vehicles the could charge a higher margin on - damned be anything else. So let them burn in the hell they've created.

"I am aware of the discussions about peak oil, etc. I don't want to discount those arguments..."

I'd hope you won't "discount those arguments" because they're pretty damned good ones. Also made me wonder how long you've been on this site:

Member for
17 hours 22 min

Not long. Stick around a while, you might learn something.

Phew, thanks for getting that in. I was turning purple as I read the 'just giving them what they want' stuff.

I went through the 73 gas crisis and aftermath. Owned a couple of early Capris', 4 and 6 cyl versions. RX-7, Tercel . Then sat and watched as the SUV craze began. Just simply boggled the mind. Never have been able to stomach them, just a huge step in the wrong direction from the get go.

Just picked up a Nissan Sentra with the CVT. Rated 36 mpg, see if we can tag 40 with it over the holidays. Should be doable with just a little driving sense.

And yes there is no way I am talking family out of 100 mile trip to grandmas', sigh.


He's one of those people who think that because he has an opinion, everybody has to listen to it.

so expecting the companies to be able to bring a whole new product portfolio of smaller cars and engines in a couple months isn't realistic

On a crash basis, nine months should do it. All of the Big 3 have models they or partners sell in the EU & Japan.

I they lobbied for a, say, 7 year exemption where any car that meet Japanese or Eu safety & pollution regs AND was 33% better than CAFE could be sold here as is, that would simplify things. Otherwise some heavy OT for their engineers & testing labs. It is not as if any of the Big 3 sell quality products anyway. Do some mid-model year adjustments if need be.


It is not as if any of the Big 3 sell quality products anyway.

That isn't fair to many new generation domestic cars (Cadillac CTS, Saturn Aura, Ford Fusion, etc.), and the imports have had their share of issues recently.

I otherwise agree, but the automakers are already in the process of integrating European and North American vehicle line-ups more, albeit not at a crash course pace. GM already has shared vehicles (including a sedan offered as a hybrid and a small hatchback) between Saturn and Opel, while Ford has plans to bring over a light commercial van, a small wagon/minivan, a sedan and small hatchback at the minimum. It is fair to say they could do it in a hurry, since they've already got a good head start.

Champ-Man, a number of good points.

The problem with gas taxes is that the right-wing smear machine has made the word TAX radioactive. So while gas taxes is the most efficient mechanism to reduce consumption, it seems in all liklihood to be out-ot-reach. A good bit of the Big-3 support for gas (or carbon) tax is just an attempt to avoid CAFE, and higher taxes altogether. Now maybe someyear America will be ready for such a sensible solution, but at best that is several years off. Almost everyone on this site thinks crunch time due to peak oil will hit first.

The auto companies have been doing more than just responding to consumer demand. They actively influence demand with marketing campaigns. These have been actively promoting the American obsession with size and power.

I work in engineering. The paradigm that is promoted is best practice. Current near best new auto-milage is 50mpg. Add in thirteen years of technological advances, and a 50mpg standard (admittedly politically beyond the pale), is not unreasonable.

Stupid. Higher efficiency standards are just stupid. They don't discourage consumption. They meddle in the marketplace. Just stupid.

If you really want to reduce oil consumption then tax it to death.

Better yet, why don't you all advocate negative population growth, because that is the problem.