Saturday, August 13, 2011

Putting More Golf Carts On The Road Is Not The Answer

Few inventions have given people more freedom of movement and mobility than has the car. We Americans are known for our deep abiding love of our cars and can be seen displaying such admiration most summer weekends at various gatherings and shows where folks gather to show off their restored, customized or souped up hot rods. We proudly boast of being “certified car nuts.”

Ever since the oil embargo of 1973 though, our cars have been under assault. The greatest of these assaults seems to be coming from environmentalists claiming how dirty the exhaust is from fossil fuels and how the car is causing the planet to warm up too much. Joining in with the assault is the Environmental Protection Agency as they pass regulation after regulation in the belief they are going to improve how the planet cares for itself and “save mankind” from ourselves.

The Muscle Cars, those high compression, large cubic engine monsters we saw back in the 1960’s are long gone as regulations were set in place to begin lowering emissions from the tail pipe. As the government mandated fuel economy standards were set in place and regulations set on what could be emitted from the tailpipe, we saw Detroit struggling to keep up and build in the technology Congress mandated.

We saw catalytic convertors installed, smog pumps, EGR Valves, lower compression and all sort of power robbing extras placed on engines as the cars themselves began to shrink in size and weight in order to achieve government regulated Fuel Economy Standards. The 1970’s and early 1980’s saw Detroit turning out some pretty awful cars as they tried to compete with smaller imports from Japan and Germany and still provide Americans with the larger cars we wanted.

Technology eventually caught up with legislation and we saw some vastly improved cars coming out of the Big 3. Engineers discovered that replacing old reliable systems like carburetors with fuel injection and computerized engine management, emissions remained very low and some of the power we saw lost before was returned. The cars have remained smaller though, prompting many who sought larger vehicles to turn to full sized pick-up trucks and SUVs, that weren’t under some of the stricter standards seen in the passenger car.

It didn’t take long to see that putting such a mix of larger vehicles with smaller lighter passenger cars was deadly, especially for the smaller car occupants. The governments answer? Place stricter standards on pick-up trucks and SUVs to discourage the people from buying them, knowing the prices will increase just as did the smaller lighter cars as such standards were imposed upon them.

Barack Obama is only too willing to comply as he has announced further restrictive standards be placed on trucks and SUVs that Obama claims “will save businesses billions of dollars in fuel costs, help reduce oil consumption and cut air pollution.” His announcement claims,
“Big rigs or semis will have to slash fuel consumption and production of heat-trapping gases by up to 23 percent. Gasoline-powered heavy-duty pickups and vans will have to cut consumption by 10 percent, or by 15 percent if the vehicles run on diesel fuel.”
“The standards also prescribe a 9 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for work trucks, which include everything from fire trucks and concrete mixers to garbage trucks and buses,,,.”

The folly of such draconian fuel standards at the point in our struggling economy is demonstrated in that 14 Michigan Representatives, including members of Obama’s own party, wrote a letter expressing strong concerns over imposing such standards. Chief among their concerns is “overly stringent standards could add $10,000 to the cost of a new car” and “those higher costs can lead to job loss,” by as many as 220,000 jobs as people hang on to their older vehicles longer, lessening demand and causing auto makers (two of which we recently had to bail out) to lay off workers.

Further assault on our cars is coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as they have decided prematurely that ozone standards should be lowered. Ground level ozone when combined with the excessive hydrocarbons, especially oxides of nitrogen at the levels that was once being emitted from the exhaust forms smog when hit by sunlight. Exhaust Gas Recirculation and valve overlap in gasoline engines lowered the combustion temperatures in the cylinder to inhibit the production of NOx (oxides of nitrogen), greatly reducing the hydrocarbons once seen.

The EPA set an ozone standard of 75 ppb (parts per billion) in 2008 and ignoring their own policy of revisiting standards every 5 years, initiated a reconsideration of that standard and proposed tightening it to 70 to 60 ppb in 2010. Since ozone is also naturally produced in some regions of the country, meeting stricter standards would be very difficult in those regions as car owners would be who would have to suffer.

A study prepared by NERA Economic Consulting for the American Petroleum Institute states, “EPA’s assumed causal relationship between ozone and mortality has not been supported by EPA’s science advisors; The health benefits EPA attributes to the tighter ozone standard should are due to a slight reduction in particulate matter (dust), which already is regulated separately by EPA; and The EPA’s own data show that the benefits of the proposed ozone standard will not outweigh the costs.”

The costs? A further study by Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI estimates, “strengthening the ozone standard to 60 ppb could cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion per year between 2020 and 2030, and destroy 7.3 million jobs.”

Perhaps thinking they could combat the negative offsets; our illustrious government has been pushing for more EVs (Electric Vehicles) to be bought by us. While there is some truth in they don’t emit pollution while driving, they have their own drawbacks. One big drawback, Recharging requires more electricity to be generated which transfers the point of pollution to the generating plants increased output.

Careful study has shown recharging at night decreases ozone output, but was “shown to yield the highest amount of nitrogen oxides.” As far back as 1996, it was shown that the benefit of all electric care was vastly overrated.

In November 2010, the American Petroleum Institute submitted a letter to the EPA on their proposed Motor Vehicle Fuel Economy Labels that showed in an attachment that due to increased electrical generation, “sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels could be 10-11 times higher for electric cars than for gasoline-powered vehicles” over the life of the vehicles.

Since the oil embargo back in 1973, our cars have undergone significant changes. Finally, they have gotten better the past few years with the advent of new technologies. But, they still require gasoline, which seems to be the real target today. Every president since 1973 has called for an end to our dependence on foreign oil while keeping our own domestic oil reserves off limit to much of the drilling needed to recover it.

In actuality, we are trading our dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on foreign lithium to manufacture battery packs for the electric vehicles that have yet to match the range of our gasoline powered cars.

Things we take for granted in our cars now, heaters and power accessories, shorten the range of the EVs even further, creating more of an inconvenience if we wish to travel, especially during the winter.

Our power grid now can’t handle all of the electricity being generated efficiently. How much worse will it be once we have added hundreds of thousands more EVs to the mix?

The Obama administration was dealt a blow recently as a federal judge “threw out Obama administration rules that sought to slow down expedited environmental review of oil and gas drilling on federal land.” Hopefully, it will stand and we can see unemployed oil workers returning to work during these dire economic times.

But, the call for smaller lighter cars, trucks, SUVs and improved fuel economy standards remains.

Government wants you in this:

While many would rather this:

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