Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Fuel Economy Follow-Up: Ah, Journamalism! (Never Trust Gregg Easterbrook Edition)
by Tom Bozzo
Kevin Drum reads Gregg Easterbrook ("Give Bush credit for his energy proposal") so that I almost don't have to:
Does 4 percent improvement per year sound too modest? According to the EPA, average actual fuel consumption of new vehicles sold in the United States is 21 miles per gallon. (The figure on the sticker in the showroom is often higher, but it is calculated under unrealistic conditions—no passengers or cargo in the car, air conditioner off, gentle acceleration, and no exceeding the speed limit.) Improve on 21 mpg by 4 percent annually for 10 years, and the number rises to 31 mpg. If the actual fuel economy of new vehicles were 31 mpg, oil-consumption trends would reverse—from more oil use to less. (Link omitted.)Were Easterbrook a journalist, he would have reported:
- Bush did not propose to increase fuel economy by 4 percent annually, but rather the fuel economy standards. (For the 2007 model year, those were 22.2 MPG for "trucks" and 27.5 MPG for "cars.")
- The Bush plan isn't for 10 years of annual increases. The fine print of the proposal calls for increases in the car standard from 2010 and in the truck standard from 2012 — seven and five years, by advanced mathematics.
- The truck delay reflects the phase-in of new truck fuel economy standards. Under those standards, for the first four years of Easterbrook's time frame, the truck standard would increase by 1.8 MPG by the EPA's reckoning. But the new rules actually cuts the standard for larger trucks relative to what is now known as "unreformed CAFE." (A primary motivation is to eliminate incentives to downsize such trucks, which is stupid for more reasons than I have time to consider this morning.)
- The WPE wants to do the same tricks for cars as trucks, which as I've previously noted can perform the regulatory miracle of making the standard appear to rise without requiring that vehicles actually increase fuel economy proportionally.
- Why Gregg Easterbrook would want to give George W. Bush a big sloppy kiss is left as an exercise for the reader.