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California Hypocrisy



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California supports environmental regulation, just not the kind that affect them personally. Like taking shorter showers or watering your lawn:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Despite dire warnings of water shortages due to prolonged drought, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday rejected a plan to ration water in the nation’s second-largest city for the first time in 18 years.

The unanimous 15-0 vote against the plan marked a surprise setback for Los Angeles water managers, who like their peers in cities throughout California were directed to cut water use 20 percent this year under a drought emergency proclaimed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But David Nahai, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation’s biggest municipal utility, insisted that the proposal was not dead.

“The city must cut back its water use. There are no two ways about that,” Nahai told Reuters after the vote.

But, honestly, if the Los Angeles City Council can’t even implement this water plan, is there really a chance that President Obama’s cap-and-trade program, with its attendant skyrocketing energy bills, will ever pass muster?

Marc Morano Profiled in the Times



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An excerpt from the Times doing its best to hype Marc’s new venture before it launches:

In his work with Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Morano, whose thick build fills out his suit like a bulldog in a restraining jacket, did not hesitate to go after journalists he saw as biased. He promoted any study or statement that could be construed as cutting against the prevailing view that heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide contribute to global warming. Peter Dykstra, a former executive producer for CNN’s science, environment and technology unit, recently called him the “drum major of the denial parade.”

Mr. Morano may be best known for compiling a report listing hundreds of scientists whose work he says undermines the consensus on global warming.

But environmental advocates and bloggers say that many of those listed as scientists have no scientific credentials and that their work persuaded no one not already ideologically committed.

Mr. Morano’s new Web site is being financed by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a nonprofit in Washington that advocates for free-market solutions to environmental issues.

Craig Rucker, a co-founder of the organization, said the committee got about a third of its money from other foundations. But Mr. Rucker would not identify them or say how much his foundation would pay Mr. Morano. (Mr. Morano says it will be more than the $134,000 he earned annually in the Senate.)

Public tax filings for 2003-7 – the last five years for which documents are available — show that the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ExxonMobil Foundation and from foundations associated with the billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, a longtime financer of conservative causes best known for its efforts to have President Bill Clinton impeached. Mr. Rucker said Exxon had not contributed anything last year.

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PUMA Roadkill



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I Didn’t Think So



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The NRC didn’t take Bill Tucker’s double-dog dare from earlier this morning.

They renewed Oyster Creek’s license today.

The U.N.’s Global Green Raw Deal



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Day by day, our government is taking more and more control over once-private corporations, with plenty of green strings attached. GM will be required to produce more hybrid cars that people won’t buy. Employee compensation will be determined by federal fiat. “Everyone will be better off.”

Not surprisingly, the United Nations has just jumped on President Obama’s hybrid bandwagon, demanding yet another trillion dollars (coming mostly from you-know-who) to fund “A Global Green New Deal for Sustainable Development.” Translation: The U.S. will provide funds to poorer nations so that they, too, can tell their private companies what to make, whom to employ, and how much to pay them. The U.N. wants your money pronto, by the end of next year.

The U.N.’s “deal” really amounts to drastic interference in the development of other nations that are neither recipients of nor contributors to the cool Trillion. India’s Tata Motors has just unveiled a $2,000 mini-car, which could be a hit in a lot of poor countries. China’s Cherry is poised for a global pounce as soon as liquidity reappears. But the U.N. proposes to spend our money fighting “automobiles, which are environmentally harmful,” promoting instead a “shift to clean public transport” which they then call “clean fuel buses.”

Huh? So the UN is hoping to close developing markets in poor countries to developing producers in countries a tier or two up the economic ladder, and then substitute a nonexistent technology?

Our researchers are still busy at work trying to figure out what a “clean fuel bus” is. It can’t be one run on ethanol, because that takes more energy to produce than we currently get out of it. If it‘s run on electricity produced by solar panels, the physics become daunting. An array required to run just one bus for 100 miles per day would stretch over ten miles. And where would the energy come from at night?

Like Obama’s initiatives, the U.N.’s purpose is to provide “green jobs.” Nothing new here. Germany put in a similar program a few years ago, sending out an army of people otherwise employed or not employed to install solar panels. German taxpayers subsidized each of these 35,000 jobs at $170,000 apiece. Now the UN wants to do the same with your money — all over the world.

Worse still, the “Green New Deal” wants energy subsidies from you — called global “feed-in tariffs” — to boost inefficient energy sources. This reverse tariff would “overcome” the “difficulty” of noncompetitive energy, providing guaranteed purchase prices to producers in developing countries for a period of 20 years. The electricity would then be sold to final consumers at a lower price.

What’s the difference between a “feed-in” tariff and a real one? There isn’t one. It basically says that anyone who has cheaper electricity for sale across national borders need not apply. As is the case with Obama’s cap-and-trade energy taxes here in the States, the U.N. says their tax on us is “desirable on climate-related grounds.”

Nothing is new here. The U.N. is hoping for more green stimulus from an already overstimulating and intrusive president, and returning more of the same: higher taxes, and technologies that won’t work and that will cost a fortune.

– Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of the forthcoming Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know.

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Go Ahead, Close Oyster Creek



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Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big advocate of nuclear power. I just published a book called Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey and spend my time touring the country trying to convince people nuclear is the best thing that could happen for the environment, and debating those who want to see it banned from the planet.

But after listening to both sides of the argument, I’ve made another decision. I think the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should deny a license renewal to the 650-megawatt Oyster Creek Nuclear Reactor in southern New Jersey, the license for which is scheduled to expire today. And then let’s see what happens.

The NRC should also think careful before relicensing the 620-MW Vermont Yankee plant in southern Vermont — and Indian Point Units1 and 2, which provide 2,000 MW in Westchester Country, just north of New York City. Oyster Creek generates 12 percent of New Jersey’s electricity, the two Indian Point reactors provide 25 percent of New York and Westchester’s electricity and Vermont Yankee provides nearly all of Vermont’s electricity, making it the cleanest state in the country. (Coal-rich Wyoming emits more air pollution in a day than Vermont produces in a year.)

Closing all four reactors, of course, would devastate both the environment and the economy of the whole Northeast. But the point is this. All four of these are aging reactors whose growing vulnerability risks strangling the current nuclear revival in its cradle. There are now applications for 26 new reactors before the NRC, and the industry is straining to start new construction. Who wouldn’t be when existing reactors are making more than a million dollars a day? Nuclear electricity is nearly competitive with coal and natural gas and the economics can only get better if the Obama administration imposes a national carbon regime. Safety and operating procedures at nuclear reactors have improved so much since Three Mile Island that they now run nearly two years without shutting down.

Closing Oyster Creek, Vermont Yankee, and Indian Point, of course, would leave the entire Northeast importing electricity at exorbitant prices from who-knows-where along transmission lines that haven’t been built. Of the 5 million megawatt-hours of electricity generated last year in New Jersey, 3 million came from nuclear reactors — 675,000 of them from Oyster Creek. The state would have to fire up every aging coal boiler, or suffer summer brownouts.

New York City and Westchester would suffer a much worse fate without Indian Point, and Vermont would go from being the cleanest state to one of the dirtiest without Vermont Yankee. For years I’ve argued that the easiest way to absorb the loss of these reactors would be for everyone give up air conditioning, but that’s not likely to happen.

Anti-nuclear activists dream that nuclear and coal can be replaced by wind, solar, and other “renewable” things. That’s because nobody has seen what these plants would look like. A 45-story windmill produces 1 megawatt of electricity. Windmills must be spaced several hundred feet apart so they don’t interfere with each other. To replace Oyster Creek’s 650 megawatts, New Jersey would have to cover 300 square miles of land or ocean with 45-story windmills. Even then, they’d only work when the wind blows, which is about one-third of the time. To replace just one of Indian Point’s reactors, you’d have to cover every square inch of Westchester County or Long Island Sound. Windmills would work blanketing Vermont’s Green Mountains, but then the state could likely kiss its fall-foliage tourism goodbye.

Solar collectors face the same problem. In New York and New England, you could rely on them only for summertime peak loads, since there are too many cloudy days the rest of the year. California had big plans to build 500 MW of solar capacity in the Mojave Desert — until California Senator Diane Feinstein announced two weeks ago she would seek legislation banning solar collectors from the Mojave, with nature groups having suddenly realized what a 25- to 30-square-mile facility would do for the desert environment.

It’s the same everywhere. Environmentalists will support any form of energy generation as long as it’s over the horizon. Once it comes into view, however, they find it objectionable. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the most visible and vocal opponent of nuclear power in the New York metropolitan area, also opposes wind farms in Long Island Sound and off Cape Cod (where he summers). Breakthroughs in extracting natural gas from shale deposits have opened the possibility that the Northeast can once again become a producing area, but Kennedy’s group, Riverkeeper — the leading opponent of Indian Point — is already opposing that, as well.

Veterans of the nuclear industry say they are very concerned that relying on aging reactors like Vermont Yankee, Oyster Creek, and Indian Point is eventually going to lead to an accident, which will kill nuclear power in this country forever. What they want instead is new construction incorporating all the technological and safety improvements that have been made since we stopped building reactors in the 1980s. We should have built replacements for these reactors long ago.

So it’s time to call the opponents’ bluff. Let’s close Oyster Creek, Indian Point, and Vermont Yankee and see what life is really like without nuclear power.

– William Tucker is author of Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey.

I’ve Been Expecting This



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Vanity Fair drops its poor-selling Green Issue. Expect more of this. Even Time magazine will get it eventually.

Obama, Geoengineer



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The Associated Press reports:

The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

“It’s got to be looked at,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.”

Holdren outlined several “tipping points” involving global warming that could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of “really intolerable consequences,” he said.

That Giant Sucking Sound



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Is the UN, seeing a Doppelganger in the White House, trying to vaccum out the remaining contents of your wallet by seizing the crisis — as unsavory people tend to do — as an excuse to impose their long-held agenda of taking from and bossing around others.

After my weekly hit on WIBC’s “Garrison” in a few minutes, I’m flying out for a debate at Colorado Christian University tonite, then two townhall meetings with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) tomorrow, followed by a dinner talk to a policy group in that same land-o-lakes, then up to Duluth for a CFACT event the next day. Other than that, not much on tap. Given that posting a detailed analysis isn’t in the cards while I’m off enhancing my carbon footprint, take a gander at this plan for the “Global New Deal” . . . oh, wait, gotta throw “green” in there . . . the “Global Green New Deal.”

It ain’t pretty.

The plan appeals to FDR’s efforts at electrification as an analogy for its agenda — which is disingenuous, because the point of the green agenda is rather the opposite. What the two agendas principally have in common — marked as they are with market intrusions and power-grabs — is economic downturn.

Can’t say you weren’t warned.

Iran’s Oil ‘Discovery’



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I’m really not sure if this is true (coming as it does from the mullah-stream media), but Iran has announced that it has found billions of barrels of new oil.

Iran is reporting huge new discoveries of oil that contain “billions” of barrels of reserves, state radio quoted the managing director of the country’s National Oil Co. as saying today. 

Seyfollah Jashnsaz said Iran has discovered seven new oil fields in unspecified locations around the country.

“Billions of barrels of oil will be added to the country’s existing oil reserves,” he said in comments broadcast on state radio.

Iran-oil According to Jashnsaz, just one of these oil fields has 9 billion barrels of oil.

“Even if we make calculations based on the minimum 12% recovery rate,” he said, “it means that 1 billion barrels of oil can be recovered from this field alone.”

Alaska Senator Begich on Energy Policy



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Here’s an excerpt from an address Senator Begich gave on Tuesday to the Alaska legislature. Note the section on how little those in D.C. know about oil and natural gas:

Certainly high on my list is Alaska’s oil and gas industry, which has taken its share of lumps recently with the fall in world oil prices.

That’s why I was troubled by proposals from the national administration to scale back incentives designed to increase domestic oil and gas production which make our nation more energy secure. I told President Obama exactly that in the Oval Office a couple of weeks ago and repeated it to his budget director last week.

I am working with senators from states like Louisiana, Nebraska, Montana and Texas to educate the administration and members of Congress on the need for a healthy American oil and gas industry.

Certainly renewable energy and conservation must be an essential part of a national energy policy. But we can’t make the transition overnight as national decision-makers finally come to grips with the consequences of climate change.

In just the few months I’ve been in Washington, I’ve discovered there’s little understanding of how oil and gas production works.

My colleagues are amazed when I explain how Alaska is on the cutting-edge of production technology, using techniques like directional drilling to reach oil miles away with minimal disruption to the environment.

The bill Senator Murkowski and I introduced calling for directional drilling to reach the oil beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may just change the conversation on that controversial issue.

If that happens, it will be Planet Gore readers who are the “amazed” ones.

More Companies Lobbying to Hike Your Energy Costs



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Wednesday’s Oil Daily reports:

“We’re going to have to have higher energy prices,” said Michael Thaman, President of Owens Corning, the world’s largest maker of fiberglass insulation. “You can’t manage demand without talking about price and we’re living in a fantasyland if we think all this is going to happen at $1.89 a gallon for gasoline and 7¢ a kilowatt for electricity. We’re going to have to encourage a reduction in demand.”

As chance would have it, the “this” (the state “managing demand” for that which drives all economic activity – energy) that “has to . . . happen” would, by happy coincidence for Owens Corning, impose policies that force you to buy their products. The Owens Corning website blares: “Energy Efficient: We’re delivering solutions that improve comfort and support more responsible use of our natural resources.” Just not more efficient use of your personal resources because – like decisions about using natural resources — how those are used is apparently Owens Corning’s business.

So they’re pretty intent these days lobbying government to deliver to them new, unwilling customers, rigging policy to get you to buy Owens Corning products that you otherwise might decide didn’t make economic sense for your budget. World’s second-oldest profession, I tell you.

And of every penny you spend on their products, a portion of it goes to lobbying for higher energy taxes to force you into handing over more to the state and, in a convenient public-private partnership, to Owens Corning.

Wagoner’s Media Caricature



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Detroit, Mich. — No auto story seems complete these days without gross MSM malpractice, and the media’s summation of GM ex-CEO Rick Wagoner’s career in the wake of his removal by The Chosen One is a case in point.

Wagoner’s caricature neatly fit the Media/Washington/Big Green narrative that Detroit is a victim of its resistance to going green.

“Wagoner became CEO of the company in 2000,” went a typical dispatch from Politico. “He is considered responsible for increasing GM’s focus on trucks and SUVs — at the expense of the hybrids and fuel efficient cars that have become more popular in the last couple of years.”

The Wall Street Journal, in its news section, freely editorialized in the same manner. “Among (Wagoner’s) key decisions that hurt the company: a huge bet on trucks and SUVs that piled up on dealers’ lots unsold as high gas prices drove Americans to look for more fuel economy offered by rival companies.”

In fact, given the labor cost disadvantage that GM suffered, Wagoner might be credited with skillfully playing a bad hand. As my Detroit-based colleague with the Reason Foundation, Shikha Dalmia, wrote last week for Forbes, “out of GM’s top 20 ‘profit-contributors’ last year, only nine were cars — the rest were all politically incorrect SUVs and trucks.”

Indeed, Wagoner understood that UAW wage and benefits — coupled with restrictive federal CAFE laws that force domestics to make small cars in U.S. plants — made it unprofitable for the company to make small cars.

But it is also a flat-out falsehood to say that he built those vehicles “at the expense of the hybrids and fuel efficient cars that have become more popular in the last couple of years.” GM offers more hybrid models (30) than any other manufacturer. But — the popular Toyota Prius aside — most hybrids have been market failures whether produced by Detroit or the Japanese.

“GM sold less than 15,000 hybrids last year,” writes Dalmia, “and this year is going to be worse because industry-wide hybrid sales have dropped by two-thirds from their peak last year.”

Furthermore, Wagoner might be credited with learning the lessons of his predecessor Jack Smith who was at the cutting edge of electric car development with the 1996 EV-1, only to lose millions on the project when it found few buyers.

What Wagoner can legitimately be faulted for is not taking being more aggressive with the UAW (which would have resulted in crippling strikes), or axing more brands. His company’s ruin, however, is not for a lack of green foresight, but uncompetitive labor costs and a too-big corporate structure.

Sadly, that truth is a victim of MSM bias.

The PUMA and Procreation



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In case you missed Mark Steyn’s take this afternoon, he wrote over on the Corner that the PUMA . . .

 . . . is fine for mowing down grannies in the discount-aisle at Wal-Mart or for the nuclear space-laser lab technicians to get around the Nehru-suited villain’s secret volcano lair in a Roger Moore-era Bond movie, but not for much else.

There is a – drumroll, please – demographic element to the automobile question. Europeans often ask, “Why do Americans need those big cars?” The short answer is: Because Americans have kids and Europeans don’t. So Italians and Spaniards and Germans (and Japanese) can drive around in things the size of a Chevy Suburban’s cupholder because they’ve got nothing to put in them.

If you’re a soccer mom schlepping three kids plus little Jimmy from next door around, you need a vehicle of a certain size. In the old days, you could just toss ‘em all in there and they’d roll around as you took the hairpin bends in fourth gear. But now you can’t stick kids in the front and you need baby seats for the youngest and booster seats for the oldest and soon nanny-state regulation will require every American under 37 to be in a rear-facing child seat, which is a pretty good metaphor for where the country’s going.

And, if you mandate small cars and child-seat regulations, don’t be surprised if the size of the American family starts heading south, too. The difference between U.S. and European vehicles isn’t an emblem of environmental irresponsibility or American corpulence but of something more basic and important.

Planet Gore regular Mark Szekely, responding to today’s posts by Pollowitz and Payne, writes in with a complementary observation to Steyn’s concerning the relationship between PUMA-type vehicles and fertility rates:

The key question on the Puma is: Will it be a chick magnet?

Bob Lutz answered this question vis-a-vis the Chevy Volt.

I think not. Chicks dig horsepower . . .

Performance Vehicle or Pedicab?



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As Greg noted this morning, the New York Auto Show will feature the unveiling of Government Motors’s — er, General Motors’s — new prototype, the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), an electric vehicle developed with Segway. Essentially, the two-wheeler is a motorized rickshaw for use by the hip urban-mobility crowd instead of bicycles or motor scooters or pedicabs.

And, of course, the PUMA fits the government’s vision for the country’s largest automaker as a “green” company. No doubt the PUMA, if produced, could be a benefit against rising CAFE mandates, much as automakers are allowed to sell golf carts to satisfy California emission rules.

But less publicized is GM’s decision in recent months to eliminate its performance division — reportedly as a result of government pressure. Sports versions of vehicles — such as Cadillac’s V8-powered V-series or Chevy’s SS cars — will disappear from the company lineup, taking with them the sexy cache they often brought to their market segments.

Interestingly, Ford — the lone Detroit Three automaker not to take federal money — has conspicuously ramped up its performance division in recent months, perhaps angling for market share abandoned by GM as well as advertising itself as a performance-oriented brand. Ford is planning a sports version of its Taurus (the SHO) as well as mulling whether to bring in the 300-hp “pocket-rocket” version of its European Ford Focus.

Or maybe two-wheeled pedicabs are what make you salivate.

Current and Currency



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Yesterday, Interior Secretary Salazar made his first stop on a four-city tour to gauge public opinion on offshore drilling. A New Jersey crowd featured anti-drilling activists. The Wall Street Journal reports:

According to an analysis of federal data by Securing America’s Future Energy, a Washington-based group of business and retired military leaders that advocates increased domestic production, the offshore industry produced 10.2 billion barrels of oil between 1985 and 2007 with a spill rate of .001%. 

“I hope [the government] recognizes that we have a tremendous environmental record that they can look at,” said Denise McCourt, industry-relations director with the American Petroleum Institute.

But voices like Ms. McCourt’s were in the minority at the hearing. One group in the back rows held up dollar bills whenever pro-drilling speakers had the microphone, to show that “money talks,” members said.

The online version of the article does not include two paragraphs that the print version includes. The first paragraph says Sec. Salazar indicated that Interior will release final rules regarding offshore renewables (wind and wave) in a month or two. Salazar then claims that wind turbines off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, coal plants in the U.S. The second omitted paragraph quotes Revis James, of EPRI, who says that such a plan “might be theoretically possible” but that “in practical terms, it’s not very likely that it will be economical.”

For those playing at home: (1) In 2007, coal generated 48.5 percent of our nation’s electricity, while wind accounted for 0.77 percent. (2) Erecting turbines off certain parts of the East Coast doesn’t sit well with the locals.

I wonder how many of those holding up currency at the Salazar town-hall meeting in Atlantic City would look forward to getting their current from a forest of turbines off the Jersey Shore.

‘Carbon Price Signal’



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That is how Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, describes how Americans will view the higher energy bills they will face under the Obama energy plan:

“The carbon price signal created by a cap-and-trade system will encourage energy efficiency, the low-hanging fruit of greenhouse gas emissions reductions,”

Why not be honest and say, “the really, really high energy costs created by a cap-and-trade system will encourage energy efficiency because people won’t be able to heat their homes to the terrarium-like temperatures that President Obama enjoys in the White House.”

President Obama Signaling More Ethanol?



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Industry Week reports:

President Obama’s nomination of an alternative-fuels insider to a Department of Energy (DOE) post is the latest news that points to imminent large-scale production of ethanol made from non-edible plant sources (cellulose) in the United States.

On March 23 Obama announced his nomination of Steven Koonin, chief scientist at BP, to the Undersecretary of Science position, which reports to DOE Secretary Steven Chu. Koonin, a physicist, has focused heavily on alternative energy research since joining BP in 2004, and he and Chu previously collaborated on biofuels research through a BP partnership with academia.

The president and others see development of a cellulosic ethanol industry as crucial to meet the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandate for the transportation fuel industry to produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2012. Producers will make 11 billion of renewable fuels this year, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

GM in the News



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Forget taxpayer money used for bonuses — I want to know how much GM is wasting on this:

General Motors Corp. is teaming with Segway Inc., maker of the upright, self-balancing scooters, to build a new type of two-wheeled vehicle designed to move easily through congested urban streets.

The machine, which GM says it aims to develop by 2012, would run on batteries and use wireless technology to avoid traffic backups and navigate cities.

The struggling auto maker, surviving on a government lifeline, is looking to generate enthusiasm for its increasingly uncertain future ahead of the New York auto show this week.

GM has slashed product-development programs, advertising and spending on auto-show events. But it will take to the streets of Manhattan on Tuesday to show off a prototype of the vehicle, called PUMA, for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility.

The Segway Personal Transporter was launched with considerable hype eight years ago but practical issues prevented the scooter from becoming a mass-market product, including its relatively high cost and restrictions on its use in many jurisdictions.

GM is betting PUMA’s more car-like traits — an enclosed compartment and top speed of 35 miles per hour — will lead to better results. GM didn’t say how much the machines would cost, but research chief Larry Burns said owners would spend one-third to one-fourth of the cost of a traditional vehicle.

 

California’s Deal with EPA: Watch Your Wallets!



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Detroit, Mich. — An environmental watchdog group reported Monday that California and EPA have reached agreement in principle that auto fuel-economy rules will be set by the federal government — but according to California’s proposed regulations. The resulting hike over already-onerous federal rules, say industry analysts, could cost U.S. automakers billions more in regulatory compliance at a time when they are already financially insolvent.

“EPA is likely to follow historical precedent and federalize the state rules,” reports InsideEPA.com, thus resolving “the long-running fight over the state’s request for EPA to grant a Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gas emissions standards while retaining industry’s preferred compliance mechanism under CAFE.”

The auto industry had vigorously opposed California’s new GHG target, arguing that they are a de facto fuel-economy standard (since there is a direct correlation between mpg and CO2 emissions) and California only has the legal right to set air standards. Furthermore, granting California a fuel economy waiver would set precedent for an unworkable patchwork of state-by-state mpg standards that automakers would have to meet.

The compromise favors industry arguments, but at enormous cost. The federal CAFE mandate will now leap from a required 35 mpg by 2020 (just adopted in 2007 at an estimated cost to automakers of $85 billion) to a whopping 42 mpg — equivalent to European Commission mandates that even European automakers have been unable to meet despite $6-a-gallon gas prices.

Greens tentatively embraced the compromise, which comports with the EPA’s larger goal of regulating GHGs (which the agency has concluded “endanger human health”).

But Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R., Mich.) was alarmed by the proposal. “So we’re going to have a national standard, but California gets to write it,” said the congressman who has watched his state lose hundreds of thousands of auto jobs, in part due to the costs of previous CAFE mandates.

Philip Gott, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight, confirmed that the 42 mpg standard “would be da**ed expensive.” A recent Global Insight study found that California’s mandate “would increase power-train costs by 50 to 70 percent” — roughly $1,000 for small, large-volume vehicles and $5,000 for larger, luxury vehicles.

With GM and Chrysler dependent on federal aid for survival, Hoekstra fears the industry will have little say in the final rules. “The Obama administration fired (GM CEO) Wagoner last week,” says Hoekstra. “Is (new CEO) Henderson going to resist? I don’t think so.”

Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, fails to see the logic of EPA’s rush to harsher mpg rules. “It’s going to be much tougher for the automakers to meet a national standard based on the California rules,” he says. “It seems odd to me that the Obama administration wants to set rules that make it difficult for Detroit automakers to survive while at the same time loaning billions of taxpayer dollars to try to save them.”

“The best thing the administration could do for Detroit would be to ask Congress to repeal the higher CAFE standards and deny the California waiver,” Ebell continues. “Unless they do that, it’s not clear to me how Detroit can survive no matter how many taxpayer dollars are poured into them.”

– Henry Payne is an editorial writer and cartoonist for the Detroit News.

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