Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Looks like this game is played every year! See this post from last year. That was soon followed by this. The only difference is that this year the order has been changed. First came the NHTSA ANPRM, and then this CBO report. CBO says, as it had said last year, that gasoline taxes are better than CAFE from the standpoint of economic costs.
For one reason or the other, I have not yet finished reading the NHTSA ANPRM (Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making), which will lead to some changes in CAFE standards as they apply to light trucks (trucks, vans and SUVs). I will do so by tomorrow! Meanwhile, Danny Hakim writes about the ANPRM in NYT.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

U.S. Carmakers Slow To Join Hybrid Parade
Despite the technology's growing popularity, Detroit automakers seem to be playing catch-up again to their Japanese rivals, with no similar products expected from the Big Three until next year. But it isn't simply a matter of being caught flat-footed. U.S. automakers -- and some Europeans, as well -- remain skeptical about hybrid technology, and plan to approach it differently than Toyota and Honda.

Led by General Motors, Detroit will start offering hybrid technology in trucks before cars, concentrating on improving the gas mileage of some of the biggest guzzlers in the fleet. "I think what they're doing is actually going against the grain in terms of putting the hybrids in the worst fuel economy vehicles in their lineup, because that is where the consumer is going to see the greatest benefit," said Walter McManus, an industry expert with J.D. Power and Associates.

The differing strategies are laying the groundwork for a hybrid showdown in the marketplace. "Toyota will set the agenda on the car side, but it's going to be GM setting the agenda on the truck side," said Arthur M. Spinella, an auto industry consultant with CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore. "There is going to be quite an intense little battle between the two of them, and everybody else is going to be sucked into their wake on this one whether they like it or not."

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

So, I told you to keep an eye open for at least some development on the new form of CAFE standards. After some delay, NHTSA has announced that they will go after a modest reform of the standard for light trucks. The statutory language binds them from doing anything to the cars. I will go through the report tomorrow, and flesh out the details. However, expect this to be only a mild wiggling in the narrow space offered to NHTSA by the language of the law. In general, I would not expect the fuel economy standards to be raised by more than a mile or two per gallon over 2-4 years period (2009-2012). So, this is not going to be anything major.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

A consumer writes: U.S. automakers turned backs on us

The Prius is among the lowest-emission, most efficient vehicles on the planet; when the gas/electric hybrid minivan is made available in this country we intend to have one as well.

The automakers in this country have had the technology to build such cars for many, many decades, but have refused to do so. Congress recently had the opportunity to increase the CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards minimally; it caved in to intense lobbying from both the auto and oil industries, with the complete backing of the Bush administration. That's who turned their backs on America, not the buyers of foreign cars.

And lest we forget, the Bush administration, soon after taking office, ended funding for gas/electric research and production, instead claiming that hydrogen fuel cells were the wave of the future. Perhaps this is true, but hybrid technology is available now.

Two points:
One is that Detroit may not be producing hybrids because they do not know how to produce them. This may sound strange, but think of it this way. Toyota and Honda came up with Hybrids about 5 years ago. Generally, all the auto makers are within one or two years of each other. So, don't you think this five year lag may have something to do with Detroit not investing in hybrids initially, and then falling back seriously?

Secondly, while purchase of more fuel efficient vehicles is to be applauded, we must think about how much we drive, how we drive and when we choose to drive.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

CO2 reduction absorbs 50% of manufacturers' R&D spending

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

From the Arizona Republic: Fueling our future: High on hydrogen (?)

Monday, December 08, 2003

This news about pull-out of MBTE from gasoline causing the fuel price to go up by up to 40 cents is interesting. It will be neat to follow up and see if this has any effect on the gasoline consumption in NY and CT.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I think that Warren Brown and this quote from NHTSA administrator Runge are spot on. Driver behavior and negligence may be more responsible for accidents and deaths on highways rather than inherent safety of the vehicles.

The Times article put it this way: "Many safety experts cite several reasons the United States has fallen in the rankings, despite having vehicles equipped with safety technology that is at least as advanced as, if not more than any other nation. They include lower seat-belt use than other nations; a rise in speeding and drunken driving; a big increase in deaths among motorcyclists, many of whom do not wear helmets".

Yes, big SUVs hitting cars at crushing speeds generally leads to deaths in the cars. But, according to NHTSA, that type of accident accounted for 4.5 percent of the deaths in 2002. Also involved in a number of those SUV-car crashes were people, sometimes in the SUVS, sometimes in the cars, sometimes in both, who were driving drunk or under the influence of drugs.

That is why it was gratifying to read Runge's overall assessment of what is the biggest cause of highway deaths during holidays and throughout the year. Said Runge to the Times:

"We have the safest vehicles in the world, so when you consider where we fall in the scheme of things, we can't blame the vehicles.

"We have a unique fleet in this country," said Runge, referring to the mix of light trucks and passenger cars sharing the nation's roads. "We're addressing that. But we could have the perfect vehicles, and until we address the human factors we're not going to change our ranking."

Disclaimer: All opinions are personal and in no way affiliated to any other person, group or an institution.

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