Thursday, September 24, 2009

New DOT and EPA Program Criticized by Environmental Groups

Remember that proposed fuel economy program from the DOT and the EPA? Remember how it promised to curb greenhouse gas emissions and put a dent in our foreign-oil purchases?

Well, according to Time magazine, some environmentalists aren't too happy about loopholes in the program that weren't publicized in the press release.

Loopholes like:
  • Electric car makers will get credits that apply to their overall pollution targets. But the electricity that powers the car comes from power plants that emit carbon dioxide, and this CO2 is not factored into greenhouse gas calculations for such vehicles.

  • The flex-fuel credit still stands, allowing carmakers to build gas guzzlers provided the guzzlers can run on E85 (a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). This credit reduces the corporate average fuel economy target for manufacturers of these cars by 1.2 mpg.

    What makes this credit pointless, says Time magazine, is that only 1% of the gas stations in the country sell E85, and that number isn't expected to go up soon.

  • Carmakers will get carbon credits for selling their most fuel-efficient vehicles in California and other states that had adopted separate standards before the program was proposed. If a manufacturer had already been prepared to sell in California even without the credit, it now stands to earn a credit just for doing so.

    There's something inherently wrong with that. Not because the carmakers will benefit from fortunate timing, but because California's standard should be the nation's standard. Meeting it shouldn't earn anyone an extra gold star.

  • Manufacturers that sell less than 400,000 vehicles a year will have to live up to a lower EPA standard.
More loopholes -- and benefits -- will surely emerge as the plan gets closer to implementation.

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