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Obama’s Fuel Efficiency Policy In Tatters

October 1, 2016

By Paul Homewood 





WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration today finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025.  When combined with previous standards set by this Administration, this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.






August was the biggest month ever for U.S. gasoline consumption. Americans used a staggering 9.7 million barrels per day. That’s more than a gallon per day for every U.S. man, woman and child.

The new peak comes as a surprise to many. In 2012, energy expert Daniel Yergin said, “The U.S. has already reached what we can call`peak demand.” Many others agreed. The U.S. Department of Energy forecast in 2012 that U.S. gasoline consumption would steadily decline for the foreseeable future.


Source: Constructed by Lucas Davis (UC Berkeley) using EIA data ‘Motor Gasoline, 4-Week Averages.’


This seemed to make sense at the time. U.S. gasoline consumption had declined for five years in a row and, in 2012, was a million barrels per day below its July 2007 peak. Also in August 2012, President Obama had just announced aggressive new fuel economy standards that would push average vehicle fuel economy to 54 miles per gallon.

Fast forward to 2016, and U.S. gasoline consumption has increased steadily four years in a row. We now have a new peak. This dramatic reversal has important consequences for petroleum markets, the environment and the U.S. economy.

How did we get here? There were a number of factors, including the the Great Recession and a spike in gasoline prices at the end of the last decade, which are unlikely to be repeated any time soon. But it should come as no surprise. With incomes increasing again and low gasoline prices, Americans are back to buying big cars and driving more miles than ever before.


It should not take a genius to work out that the more fuel efficient a car is, the more you are likely to drive it.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Public permalink
    October 1, 2016 11:27 am

    The Khazzoom–Brookes postulate at work:

    In short, the postulate states that “energy efficiency improvements that, on the broadest considerations, are economically justified at the microlevel, lead to higher levels of energy consumption at the macrolevel.”–Brookes_postulate

  2. Gamecock permalink
    October 1, 2016 1:22 pm

    ‘It should not take a genius to work out that the more fuel efficient a car is, the more you are likely to drive it.’

    Jevon’s Paradox. Has been known (outside of Washington DC) for 150 years.

    ‘this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads.’

    Who needs technology when one can, with the stroke of a pen, double fuel mileage.

  3. October 1, 2016 1:40 pm

    It looks to be tracking the economic recovery after The Crash. Fuel efficiency is great, but it happens all by itself via free enterprise, it does not need regulations or millions spent in govt research organisations.

  4. Broadlands permalink
    October 1, 2016 3:18 pm

    Peaks in barrels per day in the US? What about the rest of the world?

    The rate of increase in the global population peaked in 1987 (when CO2 was 350 ppm).

    The rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 had a peak in 1998 (El-Nino “boosted”?) It has had another peak this year… El-Nino “boosted”. Both natural events.

    Atmospheric CO2 is now 50 ppm higher. That’s 100 billion metric tons of CO2…to capture and store? In thousands of years?

    Are “we” controlling the climate by controlling the news about it?

  5. John F. Hultquist permalink
    October 1, 2016 4:03 pm

    What ‘climanrecon’ wrote about economic recovery is relevant.

    An aspect of this is the housing recovery and, related, the cost, congestion, and crime of the urban center. In the last few years there has been considerable increase in home building in the wildland–urban interface (WUI), commonly pronounced “woo-E.” There are wildfire issues in the US western states, but this also means a longer drive to grocery stores or other activities. Many of the new homes are occupied by folks that have left the large cities. In our area that means folks from Seattle/Puget Sound moving 100 to 150 miles east. However their friends and other contacts (preferred doctors, lawyers, children/grandchildren) are 3, 4, or 5 times farther away than before the move. Use the following coordinates in Google Earth to see what the “WUI” looks like.

    47.800593, -120.646833

    A search using the images tab and “wildland–urban interface” will have about half of the results showing forest fires.

  6. October 1, 2016 4:11 pm

    Some little known facts about Obama’s new standards. 1. It isn’t really 54. The way it is calculated is artifical. The equivalent ‘real’ EPA sticker milage is about 1/3 less. 2. It varies by vehicle ‘footprint’. 54 is not the fleet average. It is the highest mpg for the smallest vehicles. More Obama greenwash.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      October 1, 2016 7:06 pm

      Thanks for the info. Prompted a look, found a 2012 article with a chart at the end.

      I do some hiking in the Cascades of WA State but mostly I go to do trail repair, re-routes, or new trail work. Only high wind and lightning will get us off the trails. Thus frequently it gets a bit messy.
      Many of us come with a spare box of clothing, boots, other gear, backpacks, and such. Carpooling is encouraged. Roads to trailheads are mostly unpaved, steep, muddy, or dusty.
      My car choice for such trips is an all wheel drive Subaru Outback but other brands of a similar nature and size are common. Two or 3 folks means a tiny car doesn’t serve the purpose well. We had to push a 2 WD out of a nasty spot a few weeks ago. Mine averages about 27 mpg and newer ones get 31 highway.
      That’s fractional change per year so they might get to 35 or 36 by model year 2025. Subaru may have an all-electric crossover utility vehicle in 2021 and/or hybrids before that. Seems these are so the company can meet the overall standards.

      • October 2, 2016 12:23 am

        JH, glad you found this. I could have been clearer for others. Footprint is conceptually just ‘set a vehicle down in sand’ like the Olympic long jump. Then measure the XY area between the four tires imprint in f^2 or m^2. Small cars have a small footprint, Big SUVs and pickup trucks have a big footprint. The new Fuel Effiency standards are footprint ‘normalized’. So big vehicles with big footprints are automatically excused for not being as fuel efficient as little vehicles with little footprints. Hence the ’54 mpg equivalent’ Obama BS which is smallest footprint normalized.
        The CAFE fleet average is calculated as a harmonic average of sold footprints, another little known CAFE fact. Run the math on that additional ‘cheat’ and grok the harmonic result.

  7. DreadUK permalink
    October 1, 2016 11:50 pm

    “It should not take a genius to work out that the more fuel efficient a car is, the more you are likely to drive it.”

    This is the wrong argument for sceptics to make. We, like any other member of society, recognise there are genuine pollutant’s that emerge from exhaust pipes, CO2 not being one of them.

    Irrespective of the political motivation behind increased efficiency of motor vehicles (which is a good thing) and any transparent manipulation of the numbers to suit a political agenda, we sceptics must be seen to support fuel saving. For no other reason than it’s right.

    If people are driving more because cars are efficient and fuel is cheap, that’s good for business. People using cars to generate business, grocery runs in the car with more groceries than can be carried on a bus, local transport of goods and services that would otherwise use trains and take more time to reach their destination etc. I’m sure you can all think of more. But the fact is, we too support the reduction of noxious gases from exhaust pipes.

    We might participate to encourage car sharing and walking buses to save fuel, it doesn’t mean, however, that we abandon our contention that CO2 has nothing to do with climate change. It just means we don’t like diesel soot and NO2 wafting through the atmosphere.

    We are undoubtedly closer to our AGW colleagues than we often think. The only difference between us is a trace gas, CO2, nothing else. Agree with them on everything else and the battle to persuade them that CO2 is a good gas becomes that much easier.

    • Will Janoschka permalink
      October 2, 2016 5:29 am

      What are you doing today that truly sets a workable example for what you proselytize ‘others should do’? Who is ‘we’?

    • Gamecock permalink
      October 3, 2016 2:45 pm

      ‘We, like any other member of society, recognise there are genuine pollutant’s that emerge from exhaust pipes, CO2 not being one of them.’

      ‘But the fact is, we too support the reduction of noxious gases from exhaust pipes.’

      Dude, it ain’t 1968 anymore. Get a grip.

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