Feds Set Standards--& Claim to Save You Money

While it will undoubtedly take a phalanx of lawyers, engineers, and quantum mechanics to figure this all out, today the U.S.

While it will undoubtedly take a phalanx of lawyers, engineers, and quantum mechanics to figure this all out, today the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established federal rules that set the first-ever national greenhouse gas emissions standards and for fuel economy. The rules start in 2012 and run through 2016. One of the good things is that this is single set of rules that must be followed rather than one from DOT, another from EPA and a third from the states.

Essentially, the rules require automakers to improve fleet-wide—as in passenger cars and light trucks—fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by some 5% every year.

B

The somewhat tricky part is that while the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regs have an estimated 34.1 mpg for an automaker’s fleet by 2016, the EPA gives credits for air conditioner improvements as regards its standards, but they don’t apply to NHTSA standards. But it seems that the bottom line is that to meet the greenhouse gas rule, by 2016 manufacturers must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. It seems that if all of the reductions came from fuel economy improvements alone, that would translate to 35.5 mpg.

Here’s the funny part in al of this. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is quoted as saying, “We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air.”

They are estimating a $3,000 savings over the life of a model year 2016 vehicle and that “upfront technology costs are offset by lower fuel costs” according to the news release from the EPA.

Somehow we’re guessing that unless someone discovers a flux capacitor or something, the technology premium is going to be a hefty one and so unless gas is really, really expensive, enough to make Donald Trump take public transportation, that $3,000 savings is illusory.