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May 19, 2009

Comments

//then it makes sense to take steps to ensure that the transition to more expensive gasoline is as gradual and painless as possible.//

This is not obvious to me. In what way is gradual less painless? The pain would start sooner. Instead of one big adaptation there would be many smaller ones. But it is not obvious that big is worse than many. And you appear to assume that making the change now will diminish the size of the price increases that come later. This is not a given.

//"This has the effect of preserving consumer choice," said the official. "You can continue to buy whatever size car you like, all cars get cleaner.""//

Except that monster SUV's will no longer be made so you can't choose them. Clever official isn't he. You can choose anything you want from this reduced number of choices.

Well, it's the famous Ford choice: I sell cars of any colour, provided it's black. ;-)
Just wait for GOP claims that this (of course deliberately) undermines national security because it does not explicitly exclude military vehicles like main battle tanks from those emission standards.
I think a gradual approach is the only way for the standard US resident to get used to it longterm. Otherwise a temporary drop in oil prices (or change in administration) will have people falling back into their old habits in no time.

Government regulations on fuel efficiency are unacceptable.
This is the US government's way of keeping America competitive with the Japanese.Let them fail, for goodness sake. Failure teaches lessons the old-fashioned way.

That's people driving a lot more miles, actually: It's already been demonstrated empirically that people respond to lower fuel expenses by driving more. The CO2 reduction will be considerably less than projected.

d'd'd'dave: your new motto should be: "Tiny inconveniences to me are unacceptable, even if they endanger our long-term national security. I want my Chevy Yukon."

By the way, this method gives plenty of people time to buy fuel efficient cars on their own terms (me thinks most people will have another car sometime between now and 2016, even without this mandate) and gives Detroit enough time to start preparing.

Unless companies have magically lost their ability to innovate, you should still have most of your choices. Perhaps you may not be able to purchase an urban dreadnought. If that really bothers you, then see my first paragraph for why you can drink a tall, cool glass of STFU.

Man, you're really starting to slip as a troll...

That's people driving a lot more miles, actually: It's already been demonstrated empirically that people respond to lower fuel expenses by driving more. The CO2 reduction will be considerably less than projected.

Of course, this assumes the price of gasoline doesn't go up.

Kind of a huge hole in your argument...

d'd'd'dave, to answer your question (" In what way is gradual less painless?"[sic] -- I'm assuming you meant less painful.): gradual is less painful because you are not left with the prospect of trashing a lot of new cars in order to meet the standard.

Cars do not magically appear in new models each year. They have to be designed, and the tools to make them built, first. And that applies not only at the auto manufacturers, but all the way up the supply chain. That takes time -- and while you can cut down the time with a crash project approach, that ramps up the costs real fast.

And the same approach applies to people who buy cars. If you just bought a car, part of the decision may well have involved the gas mileage of the car and the cost of gas. If gas prices are set to go up, you might make a different choice among the options available. Having the price of gas go up gradually means that you have time to get thru your new car's useful life before replacing it with a different model. If the price was merely raised abruptly, you get either the pain of paying more for the same amount of gas, or of buying a new car (more efficient) before you have used up your old one.

Clear?

$600 over the life of the auto loan won't begin to approach the savings in fuel costs over the same period. This is a big win for consumers.

Gradual adaptation is also easier because over time people make lots of decisions besides what car to buy that affect how much they drive. If they move or change jobs, for example, commute distances might, at the margin, have some effect on those decisions.

In other words, there is time to absorb the change.

WJ

In a gradual situation the manufacturers are forced to retool many times and each time carries a cost. In an abrupt situation, the manufacturers can retool once and be done with it.

//Having the price of gas go up gradually means that you have time to get thru your new car's useful life before replacing it with a different model. If the price was merely raised abruptly, you get either the pain of paying more for the same amount of gas, or of buying a new car (more efficient) before you have used up your old one.//

Obamas new rule does not address the price of gas. It only addresses the fuel efficiency and emissions. Prices may go up or down, either gradually or abruptly.

Still not clear.

"Except that monster SUV's will no longer be made so you can't choose them. "

Not so. All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard.

"In what way is gradual less painless?"

You answer your own question:

"Instead of one big adaptation there would be many smaller ones."

"But", you say:

"it is not obvious that big is worse than many."

Actually, in general I'd say it is. Especially when what you're talking about is changing people's habits and expectations.

"d'd'd'dave: your new motto should be: "Tiny inconveniences to me are unacceptable"

I'd say odds are roughly even that dave doesn't drive an SUV. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. He's just making a point.

"The CO2 reduction will be considerably less than projected."

Two words: gas tax. :)

//Not so. All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard.//

You have made my point.

//"it is not obvious that big is worse than many."

Actually, in general I'd say it is. Especially when what you're talking about is changing people's habits and expectations.//

You have offered an assertion, not a proof. The question of whether one big one is better than many small ones depends on the size of the transaction cost. There are many things in life where one big one is better than many small ones. For example, when having blood drawn it is better to be poked by the needle once and use that needle to fill many tubes rather than do a fresh needle poke for each new tube. If an ATM has a $1 transaction fee it is better to draw a large amount rather than many small amounts.

//Not so. All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard.//

You have made my point.

This doesn't make any sense, d'd'd'dave.

Government regulations on fuel efficiency are unacceptable.
This is the US government's way of keeping America competitive with the Japanese.Let them fail, for goodness sake. Failure teaches lessons the old-fashioned way.

Posted by: Dale

What makes this unacceptable? Are you also opposed to government regulations that forbid casual burying of toxic waste on private property? Or government regulations that ban CFC's?

We import less oil, and our cars will be more attractive to foreign buyers where the cost of gasoline is even higher. We damage the environment less.

The SUV argument is absurd in any case - demand for them plunged in the era of 4 dollar a gallon gasoline, and folks are wary of gas guzzlers when they know that high prices could return at any time.

But - if progressives like it then GOPers are against it. Wake me up when they stop acting like small children.

"This doesn't make any sense, d'd'd'dave."

It makes a great deal of sense. There are these things called "laws of physics", which automobile designers are constrained by. You can make a big car which produces arbitrarilly low levels of some polutants, but if it's going to run off hydrocarbons, and CO2 is one of the polutants being limited, what's really being limited is your energy budget for moving the car around. Ditto for mileage standards.

And you can't arbitrarilly reduce that, for a given weight of cargo and volume of interior.

"This doesn't make any sense, d'd'd'dave."

It makes a great deal of sense. There are these things called "laws of physics", which automobile designers are constrained by. You can make a big car which produces arbitrarilly low levels of some polutants, but if it's going to run off hydrocarbons, and CO2 is one of the polutants being limited, what's really being limited is your energy budget for moving the car around. Ditto for mileage standards.

And you can't arbitrarilly reduce that, for a given weight of cargo and volume of interior.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore

So, why don't you tell me which laws of physics are being violated by 'arbitrarily low emissions'. Which laws, precisely, are being violated by a monster SUV meeting these emission standards in particular?

This is one of the dumber things you've said, quite frankly. Along with other statements of yours, it makes me think that you've no training in any remotely difficult science, or traditional engineering, or mathematics. Even though it's quite obvious that you think you do. Let me guess: you've had some sort of classes in the inaptly named and rather easy discipline of 'computer science'.

//This doesn't make any sense, d'd'd'dave.//

It is improbable that someone will be able to design a 42 mpg monster SUV. So to say "All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard." is the same as saying it will probably never happen.

//This doesn't make any sense, d'd'd'dave.//

It is improbable that someone will be able to design a 42 mpg monster SUV. So to say "All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard." is the same as saying it will probably never happen.

Posted by: d'd'd'dave

Uh, d'd'd'dave? Saying that a 42 mpg SUV is 'improbable' doesn't have much to do with emission standards. Two different issues, i.e., this comment doesn't make any sense either. Secondly, I don't believe that these new guidelines are calling for vehicles in that weight class to have an average of 42 mpg.

And finally, there are these things called batteries ;-) Stick those in your monster SUV, and mpg goes out the window.

Do you have anything other than what appear to be completely autonomic objections?

And finally, there are these things called batteries ;-) Stick those in your monster SUV, and mpg goes out the window.

It becomes miles per kWh, which is going to (in most places) translate eventually back to some quantity of CO2 per mile.

And yes: more efficiently than you'd get from burning gasoline. I think that point has been firmly established. But it doesn't make driving electric cars free of emissions by any stretch.

You can get the electricity from nuclear sources, or solar or whatever[1]. The point being that expecting the emissions to fall to zero is about as nonsensical as to suppose there shouldn't be any CO2 emissions just because you happen to be a living organism.

More realistically, very low emissions is certainly doable in terms of expected performance. I don't the naysayers here have any real objections; indeed there's a quality to their comments that make me think that they are operating on autopilot.

[1]I am not, in fact, a very big fan of electric cars. There are some fundamental limitations to batteries that make them a not terribly realistic option for living up to the performance metrics of gasoline. If Brett wants to know what they are, I'll be happy to explain the basic physics to him ;-)

This is one of the dumber things you've said, quite frankly. Along with other statements of yours, it makes me think that you've no training in any remotely difficult science, or traditional engineering, or mathematics. Even though it's quite obvious that you think you do. Let me guess: you've had some sort of classes in the inaptly named and rather easy discipline of 'computer science'.

Sigh. This looks like pointless abuse to me. But to try and salvage something from this paragraph, let me say: being an expert in a "difficult" field does not mean that one's policy understanding is worth anything. I've heard some profoundly stupid policy suggestions uttered by highly regarded mathematics and other academics. Such experts may be less prone to certain types of analytic errors, but that doesn't mean that we should discard the opinions of people who do not come from what you consider to be difficult fields. Finally, the notion that all of computer science is "rather easy" is just stupid. There are some bright computer scientists and some dim ones; there are parts of the field that are easy and parts that are really hard.


It is improbable that someone will be able to design a 42 mpg monster SUV. So to say "All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard." is the same as saying it will probably never happen.

Do the new emissions standards mandate that every single vehicle get 42 mpg? Or are they fleet wide restrictions that mandate that on average, all of the vehicles sold by a manufacturer must get 42 mpg? I can't quite tell based on the news accounts I've read. In the fleet wide case though, there'd be no problem will selling a 15 mpg SUV. The manufacturer might have to raise the price and use the extra cash to discount more efficient vehicles in order to meet their fleet wide requirement, but that's just the free market at work.

"It is improbable that someone will be able to design a 42 mpg monster SUV. So to say "All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard." is the same as saying it will probably never happen."

So be it.

"You have offered an assertion, not a proof."

True enough. Let me try again.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that fuel prices actually do go up enough to make a dent, in a time frame that makes sense to even discuss. Let's say, the next 5 or 10 years.

If over the course of that five or ten years, more fuel-efficient cars are available because of mandatory emissions standards, folks will have the option of buying one of those cars, which will help mitigate the impact of the higher fuel price.

If more fuel-efficient cars are not introduced into the market over that time period, they'll have fewer options, and some of them (the folks who either can't or aren't inclined to drive a Prius or an Insight) will have to pay the higher prices.

So, not as a general rule, but in the case we're actually talking about, in my very humble opinion it's likely that introducing more fuel efficient vehicles into the marketplace will make higher fuel prices easier to deal with, overall.

Not for everyone, but overall.

If, in fact, the fuel prices actually do go up.

So, not really a "proof", but an assertion with an explanation of why I think it's likely to be true. Given what we're talking about that's probably about as good as it will get.

In any case, I believe the primary goal here is to reduce overall emissions. That will either strike you as a good idea, or a stupid liberal do-gooder exercise in futility, but it's the liberal do-gooders who are driving the bus right now, so it's probably gonna happen.

Having more fuel-efficient options in the market ahead of a rise in fuel costs (if that should happen) is just kind of a bonus.

In a gradual situation the manufacturers are forced to retool many times and each time carries a cost. In an abrupt situation, the manufacturers can retool once and be done with it.

A big change may involve immediate redesign expenses that incremental changes would not. Also, you make it sound as if the incremental changes will each be surprises, rather than part of a package. That would make them much easier to plan for that you suggest.
I know it's easy to assume that American auto manufacturers are too dumb to read the newspaper, understand the changes that are coming, and plan for them. In fact, Im not sure that the preponderance of the evidence doesn't support that theory. Nevertheless, in these hard times it seems like we should avoid undue pessimism.

Sigh. This looks like pointless abuse to me.

Really? Look what I am responding to:

It makes a great deal of sense. There are these things called "laws of physics", which automobile designers are constrained by.

Now that looks like pointless abuse to me. I am merely making the point that if you're going to spout off with vague and sneering assertions to chastise someone, you better be able to back up your talk with specifics. Brett can't, obviously. He seems to be unable to rid himself of either the notion that I am some sort of a liberal, or that 'liberals' are baffled by hard science. Sorry, maybe that's not the way you would handle the situation, but imho, Brett really doesn't understand anything unless it's put into terms of 'mines bigger'. Which it most assuredly is in this case ;-)

But to try and salvage something from this paragraph, let me say: being an expert in a "difficult" field does not mean that one's policy understanding is worth anything. I've heard some profoundly stupid policy suggestions uttered by highly regarded mathematics and other academics. Such experts may be less prone to certain types of analytic errors, but that doesn't mean that we should discard the opinions of people who do not come from what you consider to be difficult fields. Finally, the notion that all of computer science is "rather easy" is just stupid. There are some bright computer scientists and some dim ones; there are parts of the field that are easy and parts that are really hard.

Oh, I agree with you completely. But that's not where Brett is coming from. He wants to employ some Franfurtian bullshit to leave the impression that he is knowledgeable about these matters, that he has some sort of expertise.

No, he doesn't.

Finally, in regards to 'computer science': people like Brett like to fall back on this as if they possess some sort of 'leet skills, just because they can code, or have some sort of certification. They don't. Coding, writing apps, administering a database is not in any charitable sense of the word 'science'. Computer science is a very real discipline, of course, but to do it, you've actually, you know, got to be doing research. Finally, at this level, 'computer science' doesn't use a lot of math, and it's not very difficult. I've seen double-E majors switch to compsci because it was easier, I've seen physics people switch because it was easier, or math guys . . . but I've never seen a compsci student switch to, say, analytical chemistry because it is easier.

Bottom line: if you attempt any cheap shots off someone because of their supposed ignorance, you better make very sure that they actually aren't far more knowledgeable and competent than you on that particular subject, that they have no patience with this sort of immature and uncivil tactic, and that they have no compunctions about exposing you for the poseur you are.

Word to the wise, Brett.

There are these things called "laws of physics", which automobile designers are constrained by. You can make a big car which produces arbitrarilly low levels of some polutants, but if it's going to run off hydrocarbons, and CO2 is one of the polutants being limited, what's really being limited is your energy budget for moving the car around.

I have no desire whatsoever to crunch the numbers, but I suspect that we are very far away from the limitations imposed by physics. Hybrid tech, lighter materials, increased engine efficiency, improvements in other systems (eg transmissions), better traffic engineering, etc are all promising. As are plug-in electrics.

We put men on the moon. Doubling the gas mileage of a given vehicle over 10 years or so seems like a surmountable obstacle.

Government regulations on fuel efficiency are unacceptable.
This is the US government's way of keeping America competitive with the Japanese.Let them fail, for goodness sake. Failure teaches lessons the old-fashioned way.

I believe old-fashioned folks called this teaching method "The Great Depression".

"I know it's easy to assume that American auto manufacturers are too dumb to read the newspaper, understand the changes that are coming, and plan for them."

Sadly, too true.

BTW, not for nothing, but I gotta say "retooling, reshmooling".

Ford sells, today, a diesel Fiesta in the Europe that gets 65 mpg. They won't sell it here because they think noone will buy it, or they won't make money on it.

MB and VW already do very well with diesels here, and Honda and Nissan are considering introducing diesels here in 2010.

Check it out:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_37/b4099060491065.htm?chan=autos_autos+--+lifestyle+subindex+page_top+stories

I'm sure there are lots of business issues to sort out, but Ford could put a 65 mpg subcompact in the market here more or less at will. They make them now, as in today.

The SUV argument is absurd in any case - demand for them plunged in the era of 4 dollar a gallon gasoline, and folks are wary of gas guzzlers when they know that high prices could return at any time.

one would think so, and yet just last fall prior to all the bankruptcy talk, we saw a surge in truck and SUV sales (as soon as prices fell) and still today, despite the many market difficulties in the whole market, SUVs and trucks are not the "untouchables" they were at the height of gas prices.

why is my blockquote tag disappearing? hmmm ... above 1st para, is a marc quote

"why is my blockquote tag disappearing?"

typepad is hungry today

Is there a fundamental right to large and inefficient vehicles? Is it one of those penumbral things in the constitution? It probably doesn't matter. I can't imagine the new standard will defy the laws of physics, though it may make the bigger vehicles' prices go up more than others. I don't see a problem with that. Life's full of imperfect choices. We could let the market sort it out in disastrous fashion, or plan ahead.

One side note that I'm surprised none of our more technical commenters has brought up is the reduction in fuel use attained by relatively small increases in the MPG of the most inefficient vehicles versus that attained by relatively large increases in the MPG of the most efficient vehicles. We basically measure mileage upside-down in the US. Really, we should be looking at GPM to figure out how much fuel we could save by driving a more efficient vehicle some number of miles.

And, yeah, gas tax. You could do that and likely get better or, at least, more predictable results in reducing fuel consumption. It would still have to be phased in not to further damage the economy in the short term. Can anyone think of a reason you wouldn't ultimately end up in the same place with more strict mileage mandates or higher gas taxes? Or a combination of both?

"Finally, in regards to 'computer science': people like Brett like to fall back on this as if they possess some sort of 'leet skills,"

But, of course, I'm not, nor have I ever claimed to be, a computer scientist. My formal education is as a computer engineer, which is to say, the hardware end of things. With a second major in human biology. (I'd meant to pursue a career designing medical equipment.) But I ended up working as a mechanical engineer due to family matters interrupting my senior year.

Nothing 'leet' about my skills, but they are relevant.

"Ford sells, today, a diesel Fiesta in the Europe that gets 65 mpg. They won't sell it here because they think noone will buy it, or they won't make money on it."

I was under the impression this was due to a difference in US and European polution standards for diesel engines.

CAFE and SUV's for some reason always remind me of this George Will column. At one point he also cited a study to show that as the efficiency of a vehicle increases, so do the number of miles driven. Brett is likely correct that the results realized will be much less than anticipated.

One side note that I'm surprised none of our more technical commenters has brought up is the reduction in fuel use attained by relatively small increases in the MPG of the most inefficient vehicles versus that attained by relatively large increases in the MPG of the most efficient vehicles.


My thought exactly. See this demonstrating the importance of increasing the efficiency of the most inefficient vehicles (assuming annual miles are the same).

Along this line of thinking, why is there a tax credit simply for purchasing a hybrid? what if you owned a 2006 Jetta Diesel? Why does that help the situation?

We should target drivers of old, inefficient large cars that drive lots of miles. In particular, drivers that HAVE to drive lots of miles. Give them an incentive to actually retire the car and drive something else. But you have to get it off the road. It doesn't work to have the new Prius owner trade in their four-year-old Corolla.

And, as the average Prius owner makes $100k per year, it is questionable whether increasing standards via hybrids really helps the common person when gas prices spike again.

Policy doesn't seem to match the objective here.

Is there a fundamental right to large and inefficient vehicles? Is it one of those penumbral things in the constitution?

What if you only ride it for a few miles on weekends? A friend owns a Prius and she drives it all over the place. She commented to me a while back that her gas bill is less but a lot more comparable to "before Prius" because she drives more miles. And her prior car got around 25 MPG.

And what about the cost of manufacturing the Prius? No way a Prius pays off very quickly with that factored in.

And why, pray tell, are we increasing the cost of vehicles during a recession in order to improve efficiency of the internal combustion engine? Why not give manufacturers the option to opt out of CAFE so long as they put $1,300 into an account set aside for R&D into hybrids/alternative energy etc.?

If this new CAFE is anything like what we already have, it really won't do anything in the short run. Over time, yes, but not in the short run.

I drive a 12-year-old pickup with over 200k miles on it. Hypermiling, I can get close to 20 on the highway. I can't afford a Prius. Plus, according to dust to dust , I am actually saving the planet by continuing to drive my truck so long as it remains in good working order.

I was under the impression this was due to a difference in US and European polution standards for diesel engines.

Of course, that can be mitigated, but it's another cost. Add in the expense of either importing engines from Europe or building an expensive new plant in Mexico during these tight times, and also the American public's lingering perception of diesel engines as noisy and dirty.
I don't think any of those individually would be insurmountable, but together they're posing a problem.

At one point he also cited a study to show that as the efficiency of a vehicle increases, so do the number of miles driven. Brett is likely correct that the results realized will be much less than anticipated.

It's tough to tease out all of the factors here- of course, people who have to drive long distances buy more fuel efficient cars- I traded a F150 for a Impreza when I had a 120mi commute.
Effects over time are also hard to tease out- the growth of suburbs and exurbs was both cause and effect of increased fuel efficiency.

And there are also unseen effects behind people driving more eg do they have a wider range to look for work, leading to an more efficient labor market?

Finally, if this is caused by gas pricing (and not eg ease of use due to fewer refueling stops), it'd be easy to combat with a gasoline tax. 20% increase in efficiency, 20% increase in gas price via taxes, hopefully little change in behavior with a 20% reduction in gas usage- saves on emissions, saves dependency on bad oil states, etc. Spend the tax money on incentives, particular for low-income folks with inefficient cars.


A better policy would be a heavy gas tax, and use some of that money to help poorer people hit hard by the ensuing high cost of gasoline.

Would a gas tax still be politically untenable if a lot of people got a fat "gas tax rebate" every year?

"I was under the impression this was due to a difference in US and European polution standards for diesel engines."

Could be. If that's the case, Ford should get off the dime, because VW and (to a lesser degree, due to the price point) MB are about to eat their lunch.

VW now has a diesel Jetta that is legal in 50 states and is one of the cleanest motors around. They will be offering a Golf with that same motor in the next year or two.

MB diesels, also very clean now.

My guess is that if Honda and Nissan are going to put a diesel in the market, also likewise.

My point overall is that it shouldn't require a comprehensive retooling effort for any of the American auto makers to put a fuel efficient car into the domestic market.

Chevy Malibu, Silverado, and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Sierra, Cadillac Escalade, and the Ford Escape SUV are all available as hybrids. Some of these were put in the market simply by licensing Toyota's "last year's model" hybrid technology.

Most domestic manufacturers have auto models currently in production for foreign markets that offer very good gas mileage. That includes diesel models, but also plain old gas models.

It's actually not that freaking hard of a goal to achieve.

The point about getting the real gas hogs off the road is apt. There is as much, if not more, bang for the buck to be had in moving from, frex, something that gets 11 mpg to something that gets 20, as there is in moving from whatever you have now to something like a Prius.

Maybe give folks a rebate or tax break based on the relative change in gallons per mile when they buy a vehicle, whether its new or used.

Whatever gets it done.

New bloggy rule: Never cite certified nitwit and serial liar George Will in support of any position.

e.g., Somebody ditching their Expedition for a Jetta TDI will not triple their driving in response to tripling their fuel mileage. It's simply not going to be the case unless they also unveil the 72-hour day and a new set of roads and highways free of traffic and in wonderful condition. As we found out with $4.50 gas last year, driving is a good deal less elastic in response to market forces than econ 101 rejects like Will surmise. It *is* likely to have an impact on one's next vehicle purchase, though.

re. modern diesel technology, with the promulgation of low-sulfur diesel fuel regs in the States we can finally use the most advanced European technology here, previously unworkable with our old high-sulfur diesel. As a result it's not unthinkable that we'll see the return of diesel cars in significant numbers. That's probably one area where the Fiat-Chrysler buyout makes sense, as they'll have a direct pipeline to the latest engines.

One problem with diesel is that when trucking recovers from the recession the cost of diesel fuel will again go up relative to gasoline, so the cost-benefit becomes murkier versus gasoline. Our refineries are configured to maximize gasoline output, and produce proportionatly less diesel.

Stripped of all links and html? What gives?

CAFE and SUV's for some reason always remind me of this George Will column . . .

One side note that I'm surprised none of our more technical commenters has brought up is the reduction in fuel use attained by relatively small increases in the MPG of the most inefficient vehicles . . .

My thought exactly. See this demonstrating the importance of increasing the efficiency of the most inefficient vehicles . . .

Plus, according to dust to dust . . .

New bloggy rule: Never cite certified nitwit and serial liar George Will in support of any position.

Yeah, whatever. I didn't "cite" and I must have missed the memo appointing you Bloggy Czar.

I actually didn't cite the Will column re driving more miles. But see Kimberly Strassel, WSJ, 2001 observing that a 50% increase in efficiency was essentially wiped out by a doubling in miles driven between 1970 and 2001.

And nobody is discussing how increasing the CAFE standards makes cars less safe.

How so?

And nobody is discussing how increasing the CAFE standards makes cars less safe.

"But see Kimberly Strassel, WSJ, 2001 observing that a 50% increase in efficiency was essentially wiped out by a doubling in miles driven between 1970 and 2001."

A: Cars became more efficient.
B: People drove more miles.

Is it possible that there are causes for (B) other than (A)?

"How so?"

The typical argument is that automakers met their CAFE obligations by using lighter materials, which were not as strong and/or resistant to impact damage, and so more folks were injured.

I'll let bc take it from there.

I actually didn't cite the Will column re driving more miles. But see Kimberly Strassel, WSJ, 2001 observing that a 50% increase in efficiency was essentially wiped out by a doubling in miles driven between 1970 and 2001.

What you've got there is correlation. Now, do you have anything that indicates causation? Anything that indicates that people would not have increased their miles driven even if efficiency had not improved?


And nobody is discussing how increasing the CAFE standards makes cars less safe.

I'd like to see your argument here fleshed out. My initial thought though is that while CAFE standards encourage lighter cars, lighter cars are not much more dangerous in and of themselves. The real danger comes from having such a wide mix of vehicle weights on the road. If you could magically replace all heavy passenger vehicles with lighter equivalents, you'd end up with fewer traffic deaths and you'd put an end to the heavy vehicle arms race ("I have to get a heavy vehicle because other people have one and without one I won't survive a crash").

But, of course, I'm not, nor have I ever claimed to be, a computer scientist. My formal education is as a computer engineer, which is to say, the hardware end of things. With a second major in human biology. (I'd meant to pursue a career designing medical equipment.) But I ended up working as a mechanical engineer due to family matters interrupting my senior year.

Nothing 'leet' about my skills, but they are relevant.

Iow, my guess was dead on. And no, you had no idea what you were talking about when you so snidely informed me of the existence of the laws of physics. And you knew you had no idea what you were talking about. Nor are your skills, insofar as I can tell, relevant - you certainly haven't given any explanation or examples as to why that would be.

Going back to the main issue, there isn't any particular reason to think that the new emissions and mpg requirements are particularly onerous. Indeed, I heard one auto exec on NPR today claim that most of the 'new' technology needed was off the shelf. Their big worry was whether or not the public would buy these go-buggies. A concern that I find difficult to dismiss, actually.

A bit off topic.

Low emissions of poisons is good. Clean air is good. Fuel efficiency is desirable. I don't disagree.

I stumble when the discussion turns to what then should we do.

I tell myself to try emitting less and to be more fuel efficient. Consider those elements when I make my next car purchase. Walk and bike when I can, etc.

Where it breaks down is this notion of WE. This notion that I have decided something so WE should do it.

I think of conflicts that occur sometimes between siblings - related maybe to birth order. The eldest may act as if all should do what the eldest has decided to do. The youngest might chafe under this regime. The eldest is tempted to think he/she knows better and that his/her way is best. It probably is sometimes. Other times the course the eldest prefers is just one among many acceptable courses. Yet the eldest may be blind to the distinction between what's best and what is merely his/her preference.

I have a notion that the youngest, in this example, would be more sensitive to I vs WE. The youngest would tend to see WE as what someone else (ie the eldest) thought he/she should do. Whereas the eldest would be more likely to think of I and WE as interchangeable. If the eldest thinks it's a good idea than we should all do it.

I guess where I'm going with this is that I have a notion that progressives are more like the eldest sibling and I am more like the youngest sibling. There are some things that nearly all would agree we should do the same (ie restrict by law or regulation). There are some things that nearly all would agree should be left to individual taste. My notion is that progressives put a larger part of life in the restrictive/conformist box than I am willing to do.

So, often when I comment here, I'm thinking such and such doesn't seem like a good idea to me because it doesn't seem like it needs to be restricted. This is taken by someone else to mean that I would restrict it in another way. Or i'm against the environment if I am not willing to restrict it in just this exact way.

I guess my default is that I would allow more personal freedom than XYZ position that is being offered.

I'm sure someone will respond that a complex society needs structure that laws and regulations provide and blah blah blah.

My answer is yes, but it needs less restrictions than you think. Many of your restrictions are preferences not necessities.

I am not directing this at anyone in particular. Perhaps no one will care anyway.

Two reasons not to convert "all at once"

1. It can't be done. The new stuff will require a lot of new capital plant; you simply can't, say, replace all gasoline engines with diesels all at once. You're going to have to allow a "ramp up" time.

2. It wouldn't work. New technology has bugs. With gradual introduction, you can bash them a few at a time.

Also, what's the fascination with inefficient vehicles? Why is a 15 MPG SUV inherently better than a 40 MPG SUV? I see no basic problems with making a 40 MPG SUV with performance equivalent to current models.

"The real danger comes from having such a wide mix of vehicle weights on the road."

I'd say there's something to that.

What I notice is that the vehicles on the dangerous end of the mix of weights are the vehicles that are built on truck chassis that are used as passenger cars. I'm talking about SUVs, Hummers, and "pickup trucks" made by automakers like Cadillac and Lincoln.

What I also notice is that the efflorescence of trucks being used as passenger vehicles is driven not by CAFE standards or other government action, but by the fact that they were aggressively marketed by the automakers because of the very high margins they could make on them.

That, and the fact that some folks just get a kick out of driving the biggest, most aggressive, most wasteful thing they can get their hands on.

Chacun a son gout.

The only thing CAFE contributed to that was not including SUVs and similar vehicles in the regulation.

Somebody left the barn door open on that one. Time to close it.

"So, often when I comment here, I'm thinking such and such doesn't seem like a good idea to me because it doesn't seem like it needs to be restricted."

You know, I'm actually sympathetic to this in a lot of ways.

But the problems I see with taking a "let it be" attitude are these:

1. In 1950 there were about 150 million people in the US. Now there are 300+ million.

2. Some public actors bring resources to the table that are many orders of magnitude greater than others. When I say "many" I mean "many". There needs to be a referee.

Regulation etc is a royal PITA. Laissez faire is worse.

That's my take.

Geez, I was ready to hit the sack and then I check in on this thread, immediately seeing three of the first four comments are blatant mistruths and exaggerations.

Leading off, d'd'd'dave: "Except that monster SUV's will no longer be made so you can't choose them. Clever official isn't he. You can choose anything you want from this reduced number of choices."

This is false and reeks of some paranoia. (But that's OK, d'd'd'dave, remember, a little paranoia is a good thing).

Speaking for what I sell, Chevrolet SUVs will be around at least until I retire in 20 years, probably longer. The 35.5 mpg threshold is for new passenger vehicles and -- key distinction -- LIGHT trucks by 2016. Chevy's light trucks already get an industry-best 26 mpg, closing that 9.5 mpg gap in seven years will happen with GM's superior truck technology.

GM could be closer to that gap already if it had made it a prior, just as it would have more competitive hybrids if it had made that a priority a decade ago. GM is now paying dearly for its lack of vision and let's-stick-with-what's-making-money-now attitude of the past.

On the other hand, to its credit, Chevy's car lineup is nearly at the 35.5 threshold now. Most consumers will be shocked to learn that the Detroit dinosaur produces cars that average a tick under 30 mpg.

What's more, the roomy Chevy Impala gets better gas mileage than any six-cylinder that Toyota, Honda or Nissan offer. But the long-held bias (hardly unjust) against domestic makes obscures this fact and America's insistence on Japanese superiority for good gas mileage.

As for d'd'd'dave's fear of losing his monster SUV, the Tahoe and Suburban -- already made in hybrid versions, still expensive, but not nearly as much when they first were introduced a few years ago -- aren't going anywhere. These vehicles are not considered light trucks and will therefore be exempt from the 35.5 mpg. It was not stated in the WaPo story that Hilzoy linked, but my guess is the threshold for these big SUVs will be in the 28-30 mpg range, maybe less, which is not unreasonable nor unreachable in the next seven years.

An aside, d'd'd'dave: My beloved 1992 F150's transmission was starting to go at the start of this year. Because it was in otherwise good shape and the miles were unusually low (92,000), I used the princely sum of $3,000 dollars from the trade-in as a down payment on a 2001 Chevy S10 (60,000 miles) that cost $6,000. (Hey, the $80 payment over three years is all I can handle right now). I miss the throaty eight-cylinder, dual-exhaust roar of my baby blue F150, sitting up high with Danny or my Beagle, Hamilton, next to me on a weekend trip to the hardware store or White Clay Creek State Park. But I miss it less and less every time I fill up the six-cylinder S10, visiting the pump every other week, sometimes close to three weeks -- whereas Big Blue required a full tank every week. (Plus, I have a small extra cab now and the S10's forest green color is growing on me. See: Change can be good.)

Second up, Dale: "Government regulations on fuel efficiency are unacceptable. This is the US government's way of keeping America competitive with the Japanese. Let them fail, for goodness sake. Failure teaches lessons the old-fashioned way."

C'mon, Dale, this is the government's way of protecting and making the environment better. Even if I did not have a tree-hugger side and wished my wife would trade her Hyundai (by the way, its six-cylinder Sonata beats the Impala and its Toyota, Honda and Nissan counterparts in gas efficiency) for one of Dave's monster SUVs, I could see that.

Third up, Brett: "That's people driving a lot more miles, actually: It's already been demonstrated empirically that people respond to lower fuel expenses by driving more."

That has indeed been true in the past. But $4-a-gallon gas -- and the knowledge that it could return someday soon -- apparently scared the bejeezus out of the American driving public.

Numerous broadcast and print stories, almost always quoting AAA -- sorry, I'm too tired to link -- have reported that ever since the $4 mark has fallen to $2, people have continued to drive less (much of which is attributed to the Great Recession causing folks to stay home more and go out less).

Still, I think American drivers are much wiser about gas mileage -- both from a cost standpoint and how it impacts the environment -- than at any point in our history.

Three strikes, and I'm out.

Good night.

Bedtime

// fear of losing his monster SUV//

I never expressed a fear of losing monster SUVs. I don't care much if SUVs come or go. I merely referred to the specific vehicle type that Grist referred to when addressing his comment that I can still buy whatever type of car I want.

You have assumed too much.

My notion is that progressives put a larger part of life in the restrictive/conformist box than I am willing to do.

Ok, my first reaction is- the folks who want everyone in church, who want to legislate all kinds of morality, who want to maintain rigid gender roles, these aren't the people who you think of as restrictive? The ones who rooted for secret trials, secret evidence, and confessions gained under duress? The ones who made state secrecy a religion onto itself, these are not the restrictive ones?

I only write that first bit to highlight that I dont think we see the same things the same way. But that doesn't make either of us more freedom-loving that the other. You want the freedom to drive any car you want. I don't care that much about the car, but I do want the freedom to go outside without inhaling particulates and messing up my lungs. The "freedom" of not being taxed to support a war to safeguard a region supplying a resource that I personally may not be using.

I hear that kind of "we're for freedom" rhetoric a lot from both sides- each defines themselves as freedom-loving and the other side as controlling or conformist. I think that a big chunk of this is that we are jealous of the freedoms we exercise and not so much for those that we don't.

Case in point: I don't have any religious views or issues that I want to insert into or safeguard from the public sphere. I have no religious conflicts with what's taught in public school. I have no religious monuments to erect on public lands. etc.
So, insofar as Im concerned about religious freedom, Im concerned about: 1)the state staying as far from religion as possible and 2)safeguarding the civil rights of religious minorities to practice. The religious freedom of the majority aren't a big concern to me- they're already protected by the ballot box, by their majority position. And many of the "freedoms" they want seem to me like throwing their weight around, trying to get more at the public trough than minority religions could hope to get.

Religious conservatives are concerned about other things, and Im not so pigheaded as to not see how they can be phrased as religious freedoms. For example, if a student-athlete wishes to pray before a game, and most of his teammates wish to join in, it certainly looks restrictive to prevent them from doing so.
Of course, there's also a freedom for the student whose religion doesn't fit that group, a freedom to participate without unnecessary stigma. So neither side is purely "for" freedom and "against" conformity, it's just a matter of the framing.

I think it's very hard to genuinely see why the people who think differently from you do so, and it's therefore easy to fall back on negative projections- these people are trying to prove their manhood, those people hate the rich, these people hate the poor, etc (ve indulged in some of this myself above). It may be comforting, but it'll rarely give insight into what actually makes the other side tick.

Numerous broadcast and print stories, almost always quoting AAA -- sorry, I'm too tired to link -- have reported that ever since the $4 mark has fallen to $2, people have continued to drive less (much of which is attributed to the Great Recession causing folks to stay home more and go out less).

On All Things Considered today, they said that as gas prices have fallen consumers have returned to buying SUVs. So it's likely that any lingering drop in miles driven is not an effect of enduring fuel-consciousness - unless the people buying new cars right now are simply a very different demographic from the larger group that has reduced their driving.

You know, dave, you also can't buy a Sherman tank or a flying Jetsons car, but is it worth exercising this kind of "But what if I want to buy an X?" kind of sophistry over?

This isn't really a topical comment, but I'm putting it in a slightly older thread, so hopefully that's OK: after noticing that HTML seems to have been liable to disappear occasionally in these comments for the last several weeks, I am seeing NO html at ALL now - it's really irritating, for example when I blockquote.

"Iow, my guess was dead on."

Your guess that this electrical engineer/biologist was a computer programmer was "dead on"? I suppose, for very low values of "dead on".

My entire career has been as a mechanical engineer, tooling and product design, at an automotive supplier. I get Automotive Design magazine, the trade journal for automotive engineers, delivered to my desk. I think this is sort of vaguely related to the subject at hand, but what do I know?

Oh, and my lust for an SUV? I drive a 4 cylinder Chevy Tracker, gets fairly decent mileage for something with cargo space. What I really lust after is a station wagon, the class of vehicles CAFE did pretty much kill off, and for which SUVs were just an effort to fill the void.

"a freedom to participate without unnecessary stigma."

Not sure what that has to do with the thread, but I certainly can't support a freedom from stigmas. To be blunt about it, "stigmas" are just other people's freedom. You might have a right to do X, but that most assuredly does NOT imply a right to have other people approve of your doing it. You simply don't have a right to other people's approval.

People who want to do the unpopular need to grow thicker skins, that's all. Not to demand government regulation of other people's attitudes.

At last I found a still working link to that Doonesbury cartoon:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=104x2385701

My entire career has been as a mechanical engineer, tooling and product design, at an automotive supplier. I get Automotive Design magazine, the trade journal for automotive engineers, delivered to my desk. I think this is sort of vaguely related to the subject at hand, but what do I know?

Well then, using your vast expertise, tell me specifically which 'laws of physics' a 42 mpg SUV would violate. A further metaquestion: why do you keep ducking? You being such a dab hand at this sort of thing and all.

Well, of course, there's no "maximum mileage for SUVs" law, discovered by Newton centuries ago.

Rolling friction, that's subject to being arbitrarilly reduced, at the expense of a harder ride. (That "shock" the shock absorber is absorbing is work done by the engine.) But I don't think we can call a rail car an "SUV", so that's got it's limits.

So the remaining avenues for reducing energy consumption are engine efficiency, dictated by thermodynamics, and aerodynamics. I don't see engine efficiency increasing THAT much. Even electric vehicles have their efficiency limited by power plants and losses in the lines and charging process, and aren't hugely more efficient than gas engines.

So we're either going to reduce the maximum speed, or adopt a body shape with a radically lower coefficient of drag.

Implicit in this is the assumption that our "SUV" is capable of traveling at ordinary highway speeds, rather than being limited to 35mph.

So, it's all drag coefficient. Ordinary SUVs are in the neighborhood of .35 to .45, sports cars go down to about .25.

So, if you built an SUV with the proportions of a sports car, you might reduce drag by 45%, and it's not the only component of your energy budget. That doesn't get you where you want to go, and an SUV with those proportions, and the same cargo space, would be too long to park.

That's my reasoning.

Iow, Brett, you can't name any laws of physics that would be violated, and you haven't even run the basic first-order numbers. Frankfurtian bullshit indeed. Especially this:

Even electric vehicles have their efficiency limited by power plants and losses in the lines and charging process, and aren't hugely more efficient than gas engines.

Is just plain wrong. By the laws of physics ;-)

"Well then, using your vast expertise, tell me specifically which 'laws of physics' a 42 mpg SUV would violate."

I just always figured the problem was that they were big, boxy, and weighed a lot. That, plus the fact that people want to drive them like cars, with car-like pickup and performance.

What do I know, I'm not even a mechanical engineer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car#Energy_efficiency

Right. And since you want to do a more extensive comparison, why don't also include the inefficiencies associated with drilling for oil, and it's refinement into gasoline, and it's delivery to the pump? Compare like with like?

I repeat, for basic physics reasons, a battery/electric motor combination is much more efficient than a tank of gas/otto engine combination. Care to argue the point?

I just always figured the problem was that they were big, boxy, and weighed a lot. That, plus the fact that people want to drive them like cars, with car-like pickup and performance.

But why 42 mpg? Why not 39 mpg or 52 mpg? Or 102 mpg? Mumbling something about the 'laws of physics' with absolutely no quantitative analysis and then pegging this to 42 mpg is nonsense.

I repeat, for basic physics reasons, a battery/electric motor combination is much more efficient than a tank of gas/otto engine combination. Care to argue the point?

I'd like to see you substantiate the point.

Please use quotes when quoting people. HTML seems to be on the fritz, and I can't tell who is saying what.

Brett has some points, SoV. There are known inefficiencies in electric cars, and the reality of our grid as it exists is that roughly 70% of it comes from fossil fuel of one kind or another. I think it's a legitimate point, that electric cars have an effective MPG, or miles per gram of CO2 emitted, if you prefer, that's dependent on size, shape and speed.

Or, you can simply pish-tosh what he has to say. I mean, I'd suggest just not bothering to respond if that's your intention.

Carleton:

//Ok, my first reaction is- the folks who want everyone in church, who want to legislate all kinds of morality, who want to maintain rigid gender roles, these aren't the people who you think of as restrictive? The ones who rooted for secret trials, secret evidence, and confessions gained under duress? The ones who made state secrecy a religion onto itself, these are not the restrictive ones?//

Yes, I think they are undesirably restrictive.

//I only write that first bit to highlight that I dont think we see the same things the same way.//

I think you make a false assumption about what I would restrict.

//But that doesn't make either of us more freedom-loving than the other. You want the freedom to drive any car you want. I don't care that much about the car, but I do want the freedom to go outside without inhaling particulates and messing up my lungs.//

As do I. My comment about the SUV was re the fuel mileage restriction not the emission restriction.

//The "freedom" of not being taxed to support a war to safeguard a region supplying a resource that I personally may not be using.//

I agree.

//Case in point: I don't have any religious views or issues that I want to insert into or safeguard from the public sphere. I have no religious conflicts with what's taught in public school. I have no religious monuments to erect on public lands. etc.
So, insofar as Im concerned about religious freedom, Im concerned about: 1)the state staying as far from religion as possible and 2)safeguarding the civil rights of religious minorities to practice. The religious freedom of the majority aren't a big concern to me- they're already protected by the ballot box, by their majority position. And many of the "freedoms" they want seem to me like throwing their weight around, trying to get more at the public trough than minority religions could hope to get.//

I agree with all this.

//if a student-athlete wishes to pray before a game, and most of his teammates wish to join in, it certainly looks restrictive to prevent them from doing so.//

I agree.

//Of course, there's also a freedom for the student whose religion doesn't fit that group, a freedom to participate without unnecessary stigma.//

If the prayer is not official and is just something some (or even many) students do on their own then I line up more with Brett on this. He said //"a freedom to participate without unnecessary stigma." Not sure what that has to do with the thread, but I certainly can't support a freedom from stigmas. To be blunt about it, "stigmas" are just other people's freedom. You might have a right to do X, but that most assuredly does NOT imply a right to have other people approve of your doing it. You simply don't have a right to other people's approval. People who want to do the unpopular need to grow thicker skins, that's all. Not to demand government regulation of other people's attitudes.//

"I repeat, for basic physics reasons, a battery/electric motor combination is much more efficient than a tank of gas/otto engine combination. Care to argue the point?"

Viewed as an isolated system, yes, I agree. As part of a larger system, not so impressively.

Efficiency, of course, is not everything. But the electric SUV is going to take major advances in battery technology to be practical, and major upgrades to the electrical distribution system to be usable by a large number of people.

"Brett has some points, SoV. There are known inefficiencies in electric cars, and the reality of our grid as it exists is that roughly 70% of it comes from fossil fuel of one kind or another. I think it's a legitimate point, that electric cars have an effective MPG, or miles per gram of CO2 emitted, if you prefer, that's dependent on size, shape and speed."

Point one: the electricity need not come from a grid powered from fossil fuels (in fact, I'd guess that this is the way to bet.)

Point two: If you want to do this sort of analysis, you've got to apply it to gasoline as well. No fair just calculating efficiencies from the gas pump on; you've got to go all the way back to the source.

Finally, and this is what I really objected to: these aren't 'basic physics reasons'. That was pure snark, and from someone who frankly isn't competent to be making those sorts of assessments with me. That may work with what he regards as a typical 'liberal arts liberal'; it won't work with someone who has actual training and degrees in these subjects. That sort of thing really gets my dander up, especially since I'm a teacher who has to deal with this sort of wankery from certain students on a daily basis.

"I'd like to see you substantiate the point."

Dang. I just posted a little writeup, but I don't see this appearing in the comments. What's up with all the errors lately?

SoV suggests "a more extensive comparison" that includes "the inefficiencies associated with drilling for oil", etc.

The problem with that approach is that it invites rejoinders like: okay, what's the energy or emmissions cost of manufacturing batteries, for example? That way lies endless analysis.

Consider the simpler question: does a solar cell represent a net reduction in CO2? It takes energy to make the cell; the cell produces energy over its lifetime. If the cell eventually produces all the energy it took to melt the sand, etch the circuitry, etc., etc., then burning fossil fuels to make the cell is a net CO2 reduction.

Now, we have an upper bound on the total energy cost of making the cell: its price. If the installed cell costs $10, we can be sure that no more than $10 worth of fuel went into ALL the processes required to design it, manufacture it, transport it, and install it. If it produces $12 worth of electricity in its lifetime, then it reduces global CO2 emmissions by however many moles of fossil carbon atoms $2 buys.

Note that if fossil fuel is priced to INCLUDE the cost of externalities like CO2 emmissions, the price of the solar cell goes up, and so does the price of the electricity it produces. Its economic payback is still a decent short-cut to analyzing the "physics" of the problem.

I think the same handwavy analysis applies to cars. If we can make a more efficient car, at some extra cost, that SAVES MONEY over its lifetime, then we are reducing CO2 emmissions. If not, we will have to "sacrifice" by driving less in smaller cars.

--TP

"SoV suggests "a more extensive comparison" that includes "the inefficiencies associated with drilling for oil", etc."

No, I am suggesting that comparisons are apples to apples. You want to include efficiency costs going all the way back to the power plant for electric, but you won't do the same for gas, not even for getting it to the pump.

So stop trying to compare apples to oranges.

Let me repeat, btw: I'm not a big fan of the electric car, in fact, don't think it's going to pan out as promised for the next several decades, minimum. I just object to people throwing around phrases like 'laws of physics' and doing 'comparisons' that are anything but.

" ... but you won't do the same for gas, not even for getting it to the pump."

Huh? I'm fairly sure that the energy cost of delivering the gas to the pump is included in the price of the gas AT the pump. What am I failing to "include"?

--TP

"Point one: the electricity need not come from a grid powered from fossil fuels (in fact, I'd guess that this is the way to bet.)"

You have some other currently existing power source in mind; one that will support a multitude of electric cars?

"Point two: If you want to do this sort of analysis, you've got to apply it to gasoline as well. No fair just calculating efficiencies from the gas pump on; you've got to go all the way back to the source."

Sure, that's fair. It's not how MPG is currently computed, but I'm not all that attached to what metrics we use, as long as they're consistent and, as you point out, that we're comparing like things.

"You want to include efficiency costs going all the way back to the power plant for electric, but you won't do the same for gas, not even for getting it to the pump."

Sure. But then you've got to go the extra mile for your power source, which is going to include how many snail darters you've killed to get hydro power, how many tons of arsenic-laced tailings (this part I'm just making up; consider it a placeholder for the actual environmental impact) that you generate making solar cells, and how many cubic miles of useless waste you've generated mining coal, as well as the various impacts posed by nuclear, natural gas and wind power. Just to compare like things. Just to be clear: I agree with you on this point, but you've got to go all the way, if you want to say that you're going all the way.

"I just object to people throwing around phrases like 'laws of physics' and doing 'comparisons' that are anything but."

Fair enough. A little picky, terminology-wise (IMO), but fair.

"" ... but you won't do the same for gas, not even for getting it to the pump."

Huh? I'm fairly sure that the energy cost of delivering the gas to the pump is included in the price of the gas AT the pump. What am I failing to "include"?

--TP

Posted by: Tony P."

This fall into the category of 'not even wrong'. Efficiency costs are not price costs.

Just to be clear, by "laws of physics", I meant to point out that SUVs don't get lousy mileage because of somebody's whim: There are fundamental reasons why they get lousy mileage, which don't go away just because somebody passes a law. It's quite possible to pass mileage standards for a class of vehicle which, as a practical matter, amount to banning that class.

Sorry you thought it meant I was volunteering to do a Phd physics dissertation.

"I think you make a false assumption about what I would restrict."

Not necessarily you. "Conservatives". Part of the undesirable mental process is shoeboxing people, the more broadly the better.

I think you're sympathetic to my mental space here: the freedom to drive a SUV is not as important to me as the freedom to not structure a significant amount of our foreign policy around the supply of oil (including military costs). To someone else, the former freedom might seem larger, or the latter smaller (eg if they view those diplomatic stances as good in themselves or as necessary regardless of our oil consumption).

So I don't think you're more freedom-loving than me, just that you're weighing various freedoms differently.

""Point one: the electricity need not come from a grid powered from fossil fuels (in fact, I'd guess that this is the way to bet.)"

You have some other currently existing power source in mind; one that will support a multitude of electric cars?"

No currently existing power source will power a multitude of electric cars(and that's part of why I don't like the electric option.) The grid is stretched to capacity as it is. I strongly suspect that as more people feel the pinch, new power plants will come on line, but they will be nuclear plants, not coal-fired.

----

""Point two: If you want to do this sort of analysis, you've got to apply it to gasoline as well. No fair just calculating efficiencies from the gas pump on; you've got to go all the way back to the source."

Sure, that's fair. It's not how MPG is currently computed, but I'm not all that attached to what metrics we use, as long as they're consistent and, as you point out, that we're comparing like things.

"You want to include efficiency costs going all the way back to the power plant for electric, but you won't do the same for gas, not even for getting it to the pump."

Sure. But then you've got to go the extra mile for your power source, which is going to include how many snail darters you've killed to get hydro power, how many tons of arsenic-laced tailings (this part I'm just making up; consider it a placeholder for the actual environmental impact) that you generate making solar cells, and how many cubic miles of useless waste you've generated mining coal, as well as the various impacts posed by nuclear, natural gas and wind power. Just to compare like things. Just to be clear: I agree with you on this point, but you've got to go all the way, if you want to say that you're going all the way."

I'd go with a better efficiency analysis myself, but recall that it is Brett, not I, who insisted on this partial comparison. I'm perfectly happy with the original claim that electric is instrinsically more efficient at energy conversion than is a heat engine. The only reason this partial comparison got dragged in was so that Brett could save a little face.

----

""I just object to people throwing around phrases like 'laws of physics' and doing 'comparisons' that are anything but."

Fair enough. A little picky, terminology-wise (IMO), but fair.

Posted by: Slartibartfast"

Actually, if you look up above, you see the actually misinformed and ill-conceived snark from Brett was that:

"It makes a great deal of sense. There are these things called "laws of physics", which automobile designers are constrained by."

Followed by some bafflegab. This attempt at talking down to someone as a debate tactic by a person who is obviously unfit to make this sort of ploy is somewhat . . . grating.

"

Just to be clear, by "laws of physics", I meant to point out that SUVs don't get lousy mileage because of somebody's whim: There are fundamental reasons why they get lousy mileage, which don't go away just because somebody passes a law. It's quite possible to pass mileage standards for a class of vehicle which, as a practical matter, amount to banning that class.

Sorry you thought it meant I was volunteering to do a Phd physics dissertation.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore"

No, you claimed that getting an SUV 42 mpg was 'against the laws of physics'. Since then you've ducked, waffled, equivocated, done everything but admit that this just isn't so. Typical conservative ploy and response, actually.

"No, you claimed that getting an SUV 42 mpg was 'against the laws of physics'. "

Actually, he didn't. What he said was:

"There are these things called "laws of physics", which automobile designers are constrained by."

Semi-OT, but has there been an update by a blog owner recently about moving ObWi to a better platform? The fracking html stripping makes it impossible to follow a conversation because I can't tell who's saying what to whom. A few months ago there was some talk that a move was in the works. Is it still? Why is such a great blog using such crappy software?

And that, Slarti, was in response to my query to d'd'd'dave as to why we couldn't have those sorts of cars.

And why did you quote this as if it refuted anything I said, given that I just quoted it as an example of gratuitous and wrong-headed snark?

Is it still? Why is such a great blog using such crappy software?

There is a process underway. It's taking some time, unfortunately, but typepad is making us all quite angry. FWIW.

"What's up with all the errors lately?"

Would that it were only lately.

"Not sure what that has to do with the thread, but I certainly can't support a freedom from stigmas. To be blunt about it, "stigmas" are just other people's freedom."

I agree in normal social settings, but I don't agree where the government is involved; I think the government has a positive duty to provide it's services in a manner equal to all citizens. Providing a public education with a tacit Christianity because most of the public is Christian is not acceptable to me on those grounds.

Consider a prison- we could argue that, being prisoners, these citizens ought not be catered to. But conveniently for the majority, they won't be asked to eat fried cockroaches or cat stew. Whereas, to Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu prisoners, they may be asked to eat food they consider repugnant or go hungry unless their specific dietary requirements are met.
It becomes a de facto endorsement of the majority position in the delivery of a service provided by the government.

"So the remaining avenues for reducing energy consumption are engine efficiency, dictated by thermodynamics, and aerodynamics."

Lightweight materials. Transmission efficiency (eg using CVTs allows engines to stay at their peak efficiency RPM). Hybrids (sort of "engine efficiency"). Tire-pressure monitoring systems. Regenerative braking. Computerized highway systems to allow closely spaced travel (thus drafting).

Engine efficiency is "dictated by themodynamics", but that suggests that we're actually up against themodynamic efficiency limits in production car engines- but this isn't the case afaict (eg wikipedia).
For example: camless, computer-controlled camshafts might squeeze addition efficiency out of production IC engines.

"Efficiency costs are not price costs."

Bafflegab.

What does the phrase "efficiency costs" mean, exactly? What is the difference between "price costs" and just plain "costs"?

--TP

"Just to be clear, by "laws of physics", I meant to point out that SUVs don't get lousy mileage because of somebody's whim: There are fundamental reasons why they get lousy mileage, which don't go away just because somebody passes a law."

Too bad we can't pass a law of physics. Something involving perpetual motion would be nice.

"And why did you quote this as if it refuted anything I said"

Um, because it does?

You said that Brett said x, but he really didn't say x, as I've shown. Now, he might have said something non sequitur, but that's another matter.

"You can get the electricity from nuclear sources, or solar or whatever[1]. The point being that expecting the emissions to fall to zero is about as nonsensical as to suppose there shouldn't be any CO2 emissions just because you happen to be a living organism."

SoV, what does are you trying to say here? I can't wrap my head around this comparison.

"Um, because it does?

You said that Brett said x, but he really didn't say x, as I've shown. Now, he might have said something non sequitur, but that's another matter.

Posted by: Slartibartfast"

I know this might be difficult for you to follow, but if d'd'd'dave says that 42 mpg SUV's with low emissions is 'impossible', and I ask why, when Sebastian says 'because of these things called the laws of physics', he is in point of fact endorsing that view.

If you don't get it, you don't get it, and I don't know what else I can say.

"

"Just to be clear, by "laws of physics", I meant to point out that SUVs don't get lousy mileage because of somebody's whim: There are fundamental reasons why they get lousy mileage, which don't go away just because somebody passes a law."

Too bad we can't pass a law of physics. Something involving perpetual motion would be nice.

Posted by: hairshirthedonist"

Notice btw that Sebastian is still saying this. I'm guessing no matter what mileage SUV's are theoretically capable of, he's going to say that it's still 'lousy mileage'. Which isn't even hiding behind a nonstatement of the 'laws of physics' any more; that's hiding behind semantics.

"I know this might be difficult for you to follow, but if d'd'd'dave says that 42 mpg SUV's with low emissions is 'impossible'"

He didn't say that. You've put 'impossible' in quotes, but you're not quoting him because he didn't say it.

I know this might be difficult for you to follow, but please try and actually read what others have written, and try to respond to what they've written, rather than what you've made up in your head.

I don't normally speak to people this way, but this seems to be your way.

...and why on earth are you referring to Sebastian? He hasn't commented. Perhaps you're thinking of Brett?

They're two people I wouldn't tend to confuse, but that's just me, maybe.

"

"Efficiency costs are not price costs."

Bafflegab.

What does the phrase "efficiency costs" mean, exactly? What is the difference between "price costs" and just plain "costs"?

--TP

Posted by: Tony P."

Exactly what it means, and how it is traditionally used. If 100 joules of energy goes into a system and 60 joules of usable output, say mechanical motion comes out, then the system is 60% efficient. There could be efficiency costs from basic thermo, there could be efficiency costs from poorly lubricated mechanical linkages, or hysteresis losses.

Really, this isn't tough concept.

Saying that this is all 'priced' into the cost at the pump isn't even using the same units, i.e., it's not even wrong.

"...and why on earth are you referring to Sebastian? He hasn't commented. Perhaps you're thinking of Brett?

They're two people I wouldn't tend to confuse, but that's just me, maybe.

Posted by: Slartibartfast"

Sorry, Brett, not Sebastian. But since you seem to be disinclined to follow what was actually said, I really don't see why I should continue to point out the patently obvious.

Particularly when I use paraphrases, and then you say that wasn't actually what was said. No duh. That's why they're paraphrased, and indicated with single tics.

So in an exchange like this:

d'd'd'dave: "Except that monster SUV's will no longer be made so you can't choose them. "

russell: Not so. All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard.

d'd'd'dave: You have made my point.

me: This doesn't make any sense, d'd'd'dave.

d'd'd'dave: It is improbable that someone will be able to design a 42 mpg monster SUV. So to say "All carmakers have to do is design a monster SUV that meets the emissions standard." is the same as saying it will probably never happen.

Brett: It makes a great deal of sense. There are these things called "laws of physics", which automobile designers are constrained by. You can make a big car which produces arbitrarilly low levels of some polutants, but if it's going to run off hydrocarbons, and CO2 is one of the polutants being limited, what's really being limited is your energy budget for moving the car around. Ditto for mileage standards.

So, no, you're right, the word 'impossible' was not used - maybe that's why I indicated that with the tics. It's also very easy to see who was claiming what would 'violate the laws of physics', i.e., be 'impossible'.

If you persist in your misunderstanding, I don't know what else I can say. I'm stuck with either thinking you don't have good reading comprehension, or that you're being dishonest. In neither case would I want to continue this conversation. Sorry, but you don't really give me a lot of choice with your behaviour.

"In neither case would I want to continue this conversation."

Yay!

SoV, may I suggest you tone things down a bit? You're coming across as condescending and arrogant. And it is not really helping your case.

Also, might I suggest that you stick to quoting rather than paraphrasing other people's comments? In my experience, people who study mathematics often have some difficulty accepting the fact that a single natural language statement can have multiple interpretations and that one is less likely to recognize the existence of these other interpretations when one is arguing with the statement's author. I've found quoting people's exact words to be very helpful when honing my arguments...the practice often helps me avoid submitting comments that present powerful counterarguments to arguments that were not actually raised.

If you've convinced yourself that Slarti lacks "good reading comprehension" or is "dishonest", then I respectfully suggest it is time to take a break from this discussion. I'll vouch for his honesty and his generally good reading comprehension.

"Saying that this is all 'priced' into the cost at the pump isn't even using the same units, i.e., it's not even wrong."

Uhm, "miles per gallon" is a measure of efficiency. Different units. Must be not even wrong.

--TP

Are "price costs" something like the infamous "solar sun" that Harlan Ellison jokes about the producers of "The Starlost" adding to his script?

"Are 'price costs' something like the infamous 'solar sun' that Harlan Ellison jokes about the producers of 'The Starlost' adding to his script?"

He wasn't joking.

"On All Things Considered today, they said that as gas prices have fallen consumers have returned to buying SUVs. So it's likely that any lingering drop in miles driven is not an effect of enduring fuel-consciousness - unless the people buying new cars right now are simply a very different demographic from the larger group that has reduced their driving."

Warren: That is indeed a strange paradox. People are driving less, but consumers are less fearful of going back to driving SUVs (although not to where they were at the peak of earlier this decade, which we will probably never see topped).

I think enduring fuel-consciousness is definitely a factor for folks driving less. More so, however, is probably recessionary worries and realities.

Speaking for my family, we take fewer day trips to Philadelphia, about a 40-mile drive, and keep postponing visits to D.C. and NYC. This will be the second summer in a row we do not take a weekend vaca at the Jersey Shore. Last summer, we enjoyed an overnight stay at Hershey Park, but will probably forgo that this year.

Right now, it's all about keeping our home. (I haven't missed a payment yet, but have dodged a couple near-misses. June's will be another: With $200 in the bank, and $1400 due on the 1st, we need an increase in traffic -- to what has been a horrible May so far, what should be one of our best months -- and I need to sell 5-7 cars by month's end, nine selling days, to make up that $1200 deficit.)

I suspect low- and middle-class families are going through the same thing to varying degrees. All of which makes driving to unnecessary places unlikely or impossible.

Yet, as you heard on All Things Considered, many consumers are no longer fearful of buying an SUV. It was this time last year -- and lasting throughout 2008 (with the credit crunch being a huge factor) that my customers did not want to go near an SUV, to the point where our used-car buyer stopped purchasing them. That started to change as the New Year commenced.

Most SUVs -- new or used -- cost significantly more than cars. Those affected most by the Great Recession are no longer buying the sport utilites (in many cases, increasing bad credit and bankruptcies simply make it impossible). So, in that sense, there has been a demographic change.

Still, I think $4-a-gallon gas changed attitudes like no event has in my 30-year driving lifetime (to what degree is open to debate). It used to be customers would rarely ask about the gas mileage of anything. Now, whether they're buying a car or truck, more ask than don't.

An aside: I'd hate to be at a Pontiac (one of the brands GM is eliminating) or Chrysler (going through bankruptcy) dealership right now. Every time word of dealerships closing (ours should be safe, but there are no guarantees) or bankruptcy dominates the headlines, our Chevy new-car side is barren: April and May being simply awful, when those months traditionally kick off the selling season. Thankfully, I am in the used-car department, but as I noted above, our business is down as well, most of that attributible to the recession and banks tightening their lending requirements.

And so it goes.

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