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Free Minds & Free Markets

Energy Efficiency Mandates Are Worse for Poor Americans Than Energy Taxes

Energy taxes are obvious to voters, while the effects of energy efficiency standards are sneakier

ManCrushedAlphaspiritDreamstimeAlphaspirit/DreamstimeWhen U.S. automakers met with President Donald Trump this week, they asked him to relax the vehicle fuel efficiency standards imposed by his predecessor. Just before Barack Obama left office, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a final determination that its Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standard of requiring fleet-wide fuel efficiency of 50.8 miles per gallon on new cars by 2025 was achievable. "At every step in the process the analysis has shown that the greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks remain affordable and effective through 2025, and will save American drivers billions of dollars at the pump while protecting our health and the environment," said outgoing EPA head Gina McCarthy.

Ratcheting up the mandatory energy efficiency standards for vehicles and appliances was a major part of Obama's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Department of Energy calculated that the Obama administration's energy efficiency standards would save consumers more than $520 billion on electricity costs by 2030.

But not all consumers are alike. In a new study contrasting the effects on consumers of energy efficiency standards versus energy taxes, the Georgetown economist Arik Levinson notes that both energy efficiency standards and energy taxes function as a regressive tax, taking a larger percentage of a lower income and a smaller percentage of a higher income. His analysis aims to find out which is more regressive—in other words, which is worse for poor Americans.

Levinson cites earlier research that estimates a gasoline tax would cost 71 percent less than the comparable CAFE policy per gallon of fuel saved. Meanwhile, a 2013 study calculates that CAFE standards cost more than six times as much as a corresponding gas tax for the same reduction in fuel consumption. In other words, if policy makers want people to use less fuel and drive more fuel-efficient cars, taxing gasoline is a much cheaper way to achieve that goal than mandating automobile fuel efficiency. Levinson concludes that "efficiency standards are, ironically, inefficient."

But would energy taxes be more regressive? Many analysts argue that while both hit low-income Americans, energy efficiency standards whack them less. Levinson disagrees.

Levinson argues that energy efficiency standards can be treated analytically as an equivalent to a tax on inefficient appliances and vehicles. Using data from 2009 National Household Travel Survey, he compares the amount of gasoline consumed by Americans at various income levels. The poorest 5 percent (with annual incomes of under $10,000) consume an average of 247 gallons per year; for the richest 20 percent (over $100,000), the average is 991. Assuming a gasoline tax of 29 cents per gallon, the poor pay $71, compared to $286 per year for the wealthy. Families with 10 times the income pay only four times more in fuel taxes.

At the outset Levinson cites research that rejects the notion that consumers are shortsighted when it comes to purchasing more expensive vehicles and appliances that will save them money in the long run. Levinson compares the consequences of a 29 cent per gallon gas tax with a notional CAFE standard "tax" on inefficient vehicles that would raise the same amount of revenue. Rich folks own more and larger vehicles and drive more miles than do poor Americans, so they would pay more in either gas taxes or CAFE "taxes."

Another wrinkle makes CAFE standards even more regressive. In 2012, the Obama administration set CAFE footprint standards based on vehicle size, determined by multiplying the vehicle's wheelbase by its average track width. Basically, a vehicle with a larger footprint has a lower fuel economy requirement than a vehicle with a smaller footprint. The footprint standard means that gas guzzlers like full-sized Cadillacs now can more easily meet their footprint standard than can smaller Sonics.

Recall that under a 29-cent gas tax, the richest Americans pay an average of $286 a year and the poorest pay $71. Under the earlier CAFE standard, Levinson calculates that the richest would pay $259 annually and the poorest would pay $91. That's not paying four times more; it's paying less than three times more. And what happens when you take the higher costs of the new footprint standards into account? The poor pay an implicit CAFE tax of $175 per year, compared to $237 for American households with annual incomes greater than $100,000. Over time CAFE standards are becoming ever more regressive.

Levinson then turns his attention to appliance and building standards. The average incomes of households that have adopted energy efficiency features—double- and triple-paned windows, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and Energy Star washers, refrigerators, dishwashers, and air conditioners—are about 30 percent higher than those that have not. Because Levinson cannot find data on household energy use relative income, he can't calculate the implicit energy efficiency tax on each household, but he suggests that appliance and building code standards would be as similarly regressive as vehicle standards.

Perhaps outgoing EPA chief McCarthy is right that energy efficiency standards will save Americans billions more in fuel costs than they have to pay for more expensive vehicles, although that conclusion is contested. What Levinson has shown is that a far greater share of whatever benefits those mandates yield will go to the richest households. Given the lopsided effect on poor households, Levinson has made a strong case that straight up energy taxes would hurt them less than energy efficiency mandates.

Levinson does not speculate on why politicians and advocates tend to favor energy efficiency mandates over energy taxes, but I will. Energy taxes are obvious to voters, while the effects of energy efficiency standards are sneakier. The latter allow cowardly politicians to avoid telling their fellow citizens that they'll pay more for the privilege of consuming energy.

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  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    Is there a functional difference between the two?

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    Ron: Administrtion

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If the poor have to be sacrificed at the altar of AGW, so be it. The volcanoes never check the net worth of the virgins tossed inside anyway.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    They do check if they're actually virgins though.

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    How?

    Never mind, I don't want to know.

  • ||

    Why have either?

    The CAFE standards are just another regulation car manufacturers have to outmaneuver and a gas tax is another tax that won't be offset by a tax break "somewhere else".

    The rise in gas prices lowered our Carbon footprint, not better emission standards.

    I am really going to enjoy watching Trump take an axe to these pointless regulations and taxes that screw over everyone with zero quantifiable benefit.

  • MikeP2||

    "The rise in gas prices lowered our Carbon footprint, not better emission standards."

    Haven't numerous studies shown that gas prices have little to no effect on miles driven?

    Our carbon footprint has been most impacted by natural gas derived electricity and home-heating. There may be some benefits from increased telecommuting, but that is dwarfed by the reduction in %employed over the last decade. Millions of people no longer working takes a big chunk out of the total gasoline usage.

  • ||

    Gas & Driving Studies showed that the increase in prices post Katrina in 2007 and 2008 saw a reduction in miles driven, followed by a bigger one in 2009 and a further small reduction in 2010.

    I think you are right about the natural gas aspect though in terms of Carbon footprint. But for the context of this post I was making the point that CAFE standards were not the reason our carbon footprint dropped.

  • Conchfritters||

    "Our carbon footprint has been most impacted by natural gas derived electricity and home-heating." Yup - - air pollution peaked in 2007, and is now steadily going downward. The O-zone hole is closing, and things are getting better. But don't tell anyone, or they might question gubment.

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    The CAFE standards are just another regulation car manufacturers have to outmaneuver

    By CAFE software cheats? VW and Fiat Chrysler have already been caught… how much do you want to bet that other manufacturers are doing the same thing and just haven't been caught yet?

  • ||

    Not cheating per se, but for example Ford's #1 selling product is the F-150, which it makes the most money producing. In order to have a lower "fleet" average Ford sells a bunch of shitty high mileage Fiesta's and other golf carts so the average meets the regulations.

    It's a dumb regressive policy that doesn't benefit anyone except for the fart sniffers in Washington.

  • But Enough About Me||

    I wouldn't take that bet. Everybody games the system when a goal is known.

  • Mickey Rat||

    You know VW was cheating on the test so that they did not have to make their vehicle less energy efficient to meet the NOx standard?

  • Zeb||

    I think that the gas tax is among the most libertarian of taxes. Or at least should be. If it were used exclusively for building and maintaining roads and other driving related infrastructure, as originally intended, I'd have very little problem with it at all.

    It shouldn't be seen as an energy tax, but as a road use tax. I prefer it to more tolls or a mileage based fee because it is much less invasive of privacy and doesn't provide tools that can be used to track people's movements.

  • DesigNate||

    ^THIS^

  • Mickey Rat||

    The purpose of this tax is not to pay for road usage. It may be levied against the same thing, but the goal is entirely different and does not qualify as libertarian.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    It should be among the most libertarian of taxes but it's not.

    A significant chunk of the tax revenue is diverted to bike paths, greenways, mass transit boondoggles, etc.

  • Eman||

    I agree the money will most likely be used with somewhere near the same amount of stupidity and venality as usual, but it is on consumption, so... could be worse?

  • Longtobefree||

    And the rich can avoid the tax by buying electric cars?
    If you are going to pretend any government revenue source is "to pay for the roads", it would have to be a per mile usage fee. AKA a toll. oops! Now the government is tracking everyone everywhere they go! (if they go by car)
    To meet your expectations, it would have to be a cash only toll, with no cameras to catch travelers. At least that would put a dent in the unemployment figures until the exhaust killed all the toll workers.

  • MikeP2||

    As the Instapundit says "learn to embrace the power of "and"".

    They both suck. If we want energy efficiency above and beyond what the market will fund development of, the only appropriate answer is government funded research. Put DARPA on it, or an equivalent. Invest the portion of the national coffers that the taxpayers are willing to chip in.

  • But Enough About Me||

    As the Instapundit says "learn to embrace the power of "and"".

    Known more generally as "The genius of the 'and' versus the tyranny of the 'or'."

  • R C Dean||

    So which is it? "learn to embrace the power of 'and'" or "The genius of the 'and' versus the tyranny of the 'or'."

  • But Enough About Me||

    Yes. ;-)

  • cavalier973||

  • Swiss Servator||

    SF'd the link.

  • cavalier973||

  • cavalier973||

  • ||

    Heh. Love how they go straight for the logical fallacies.

    The FedEx guy (I'm betting he's going to turn into an internet sensation) says 'stop doing that and go home!'

    And they respond: 'You're for Trump' and 'Illuminati'.

    This is the intellectual quality of the people protesting.

  • cavalier973||

    He's a veteran (I forget which service) who had been to Afghanistan more than once.

    I have it on good authority he will not be fired. Good thing he wasn't throwing packages, but there might have been a question about his using the fire extinguisher from the truck (company property, and all that jazz).

    As long as the FedEx top brass don't do something stupid, the company looks good.

  • EDG reppin LBC||

    I would imagine there is a healthy amount of veterans, patriotism, and fuck yeah jets and trucks brother! among the top brass at FedEx. It was started by some pretty badass pilots.

  • Conchfritters||

    Ahhhh - - the Iowa City ped mall. Nothing to see there... The place has gone downhill since they got rid of the tobacco bowl.

  • American sociaIist||

    Hey Ron,

    A friend posted this on FB. Aren't you sickened by ideological agendas that prevent honest research?

    "Ted Smith, formerly director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Project, posted this on facebook:
    From a USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffer:
    "So I work at the EPA and yeah it's as bad as you are hearing:
    The entire agency is under lockdown, the website, facebook, twitter, you name it is static and can't be updated. All reports, findings, permits and studies are frozen and not to be released. No presentations or meetings with outside groups are to be scheduled.
    Any Press contacting us are to be directed to the Press Office which is also silenced and will give no response.
    All grants and contracts are frozen from the contractors working on Superfund sites to grad school students working on their thesis.
    We are still doing our work, writing reports, doing cancer modeling for pesticides hoping that this is temporary and we will be able to serve the public soon. But many of us are worried about an ideologically-fueled purging and if you use any federal data I advise you gather what you can now.
    We have been told the website is being reworked to reflect the new administration's policy.
    Feel free to copy and paste, you all pay for the government and you should know what's going on. I am posting this as a fellow citizen and not in any sort of official capacity."
    If you share, please do so with copy and paste."

  • American sociaIist||

    Sounds like a government just itching to open up some gulags.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    "If you share, please do so with copy and paste"

    Hmmm. Why do you think that is? So it's impossible to trace it back to the guy who made it all up?

  • American sociaIist||

    Well, let's look him up.

  • American sociaIist||

    Never mind. He or she would get fired. You need anonymity if you are going to publish peer review under a Trump administration.

  • Swiss Servator||

    ^Strong contender for Peak Derp^

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    But there are SO MANY contenders. He's in the lead, but he'll blow it.

  • American sociaIist||

    where can I go to accept this award? While there I want you all to tell me how great Trump is, ok?

  • Swiss Servator||

    Sorry, no can do on the "how great Trump is" stuff - but Keep on Derpin'!

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    You're going to look up "USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffer"????

    Good luck and godspeed, bro.

  • Citizen X||

    Well, a dishonest idiot had it from an alleged friend, who had it from some activist named Ted, who had it from an unnamed staffer...

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    I heard he likes to fuck sheep.

  • JaimeRoberto||

    Sheep lie.

  • AlexInCT||

    You just call Chuck Schumer a sheep? He thinks he is one of the 2 wolves deciding what's for dinner..

  • Jerryskids||

    They use copy-and-paste to get around the crazy shit spam blockers that all their friends and relatives and acquaintances and co-workers have put up to keep all that crazy shit from popping up on their feeds. You send a link, it goes straight into the garbage without anybody even looking at it.

  • MikeP2||

    I am so excited that the EPA has been muzzled. It's about time.

  • Florida Hipster||

    "So I work at the EPA and yeah it's as bad as you are hearing:
    The entire agency is under lockdown, the website, facebook, twitter, you name it is static and can't be updated. All reports, findings, permits and studies are frozen and not to be released. No presentations or meetings with outside groups are to be scheduled.

    An executive agency answerable to the executive?!? The horror! Unelected bureaucrats should be allowed to run free with an unlimited budget like the constitution ensures!

  • American sociaIist||

    You think scientific research should be corralled ideologically into whatever Trump wants to be true? Jesus Christ, when did libertarians become so Orwellian?

  • Florida Hipster||

    Maybe science shouldn't be government funded if you want untainted science.

  • ||

    I'll be happy if they would stop poisoning rivers to start.

  • Aerozppln||

    You think scientific research should be corralled ideologically into whatever Trump wants to be true? the current president wants to be true?

    Yes, yes you do, as long as its a Democrat.

  • american socialist||

    Assumes facts not in evidence

  • BYODB||

    Your ideology prevented you from seeing the sarcasm that was meant to illustrate that the agency itself is unconstitutional, but it's easy to make that kind of mistake if you're a rabid partisan authoritarian. Trump isn't alone in that regard, and he has more in common with Sanders than those on the left would like to admit.


    Trump is a Democrat, you fool. The sooner you see that, the better off you are. It's a sign of the times that the Republicans have now officially moved so far to the left on most issues that they represent the Democrat party of 1990 while Democrats have moved so far to the left that they're looking for their own version of Mao.


    Shit is bleak indeed in these United States.

  • macsnafu||

    Actually, I'd say that Trump is more of a populist than anything else. But I agree he's certainly no traditional conservative. Trump is indeed a sign of the times that the party labels mean less than ever before, even as party fighting gets ever more intensive.

  • GILMORE™||

    The entire agency is under lockdown, the website, facebook, twitter,

    You can tell this is horseshit simply by its pretense that "Social media" is somehow essential to the functioning of a government agency.

  • Password: pode$ta||

    I'd bet a lot of EPA staffers think that social media is absolutely critical to the mission of their agency. These are people that come to work crying two months after an election and "have to balance the practical responsibility of keeping a job with their emotional belief in their projects" or whatever the recent article stated.

  • ||

    "doing cancer modeling for pesticides"
    Bwahahahaha! Yeah, that's what it's all about at the EPA...

  • R C Dean||

    God damn, so that's what a libertarian moment looks like.

  • american socialist||

    Hey shit head you are a sock so shut the fuck up

  • Loss of Reason||

    You mean because the government isn't your ideological now. Or do you mean the EPA that oversteps it's power or the one that caused the Flint water incident?

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    Over time CAFE standards are becoming ever more regressive.

    Isn't that part of the plan? To get the poor onto state-owned buses, leaving the roads to cars owned by the wealthy?

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Yes.

  • esteve7||

    There should be a freedom in pricing act; no more obfuscating prices like Philly tried to do with their soda tax, and like when utilities are forbidden from showing how much tax you pay.

    If people knew how much they actually paid for everything, maybe they wouldn't go blaming evil companies instead of government.

  • Florida Hipster||

    A freedom of information act is needed! What's that? We have one and it's worth doodly & shit?

  • GILMORE™||

    Yes

  • GILMORE™||

    how about "neither is best", stop trying to justify economic intervention with some bullshit handwaving about the weather.

  • Florida Hipster||

    Uh...the title is "which is worse".

  • GILMORE™||

    there seems to be an assumption that we should choose the lesser-evil, because if we don't, why someone will inevitably do the worser one.

    I am actually of the opposite mind, where if we concede that either is valid, we'll probably end up with both

  • Florida Hipster||

    We need these restrictions. Nobody has ever wanted to save money voluntarily by using more efficient vehicles. Nope, got to be rammed up our poopers cause we don't know what's best for us.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Go on...

  • Eman||

    Right? If a law is going to save people money and improve their living conditions it wouldn't have to be a law.

  • Eman||

    Right? If a law is going to save people money and improve their living conditions it wouldn't have to be a law.

  • Christophe||

    We already have the worse one. CAFE has been in place for 40+ years now.

    I have no problems with economists saying "we can get the same outcomes for 30% of the current cost".

    Sure, having neither is probably the best choice, but pointing out that the current tax-hiding leads to 2.5x more money being taken from consumers' pockets is still important.

    And Ron's point about why politicians consistently choose the least efficient way to achieve their goals (hiding the true costs of the trade-offs they're making) is worth making, because it happens over and over again:

    - State-owned liquor stores instead of alcohol taxes (whether the goal is reducing drinking or raising revenue).
    - Obamacare's wealth transfer schemes amongst insurance policyholders, to hide the cost of subsidising health insurance for sicker people.
    - Green energy subsidies and arbitrary restrictions on fossil fuels instead of a carbon tax.
    - Employer payroll taxes instead of having that amount show on the employee side.

    These hide-the-cost approaches has the double problem of making expensive policies easier to foist onto the public and of costing more than their more transparent equivalents. It means we get more shitty policies than the public would otherwise support, and each of them also costs more for a given level of "benefit" (whether perceived or real).

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Don't tell Gilmore to stop whining about an article he hasn't read. You must have TDS.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Oh, just a minute too slow.

  • Florida Hipster||

    I would never presume to tell Gilmore anything. He contributes far more to this site than I do.

  • GILMORE™||

    its true, i haven't read the article.

    I wasn't whining about what's in it because i don't know. i was just reflecting on the headline-question that was on H&R (but not at the top of the article)

    I honestly think the best policy is to stop trying to figure out which methods are the 'better' forms of micro-management by government, and just stop micromanaging entirely. Whether the article also makes that point, or says something entirely different, i don't know, but its still i think worth making.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Ignorant and proud. The H&R way.

  • GILMORE™||

    well i did just read the article, and i don't see what your grief is.

    Ron does a good job summarizing the other guy [Levinson's] argument. He also notes that Levinson points out = "both energy efficiency standards and energy taxes function as a regressive tax"

    but he doesn't actually explicitly make my point, which is that neither are particularly well justified, regardless of their relative merits.

    if you feel different, you can say so, but otherwise you're just spitting in the wind.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    No

  • GILMORE™||

    You and your quick fingers.

  • But Enough About Me||

    Has anyone ever tried to figure out just how far one U.S. gallon (3.8 litres, approx.) can actually power a vehicle of a certain weight, with the usual caveats about power transfer efficiencies?

    There's only so many Calories of energy in a litre of fuel. Until recently, the people who push these standards seem to assume that, by fiat alone, the energy of a litre of gasoline can be made to drive vehicles ever further without practical upper limit. Even if you assume zero loss due to perfect energy transfer efficiencies, there has to be a limit.

    I've tried Googling this, but I'm not having much luck.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    I still remember the CSX (rail) commercial:

    "We can move a ton of freight 450 miles on one gallon of fuel".

    Sounds pretty efficient to me.

  • Florida Hipster||

    They didn't say which fuel.

    /looks around

    It's plutonium, same as a time machine.

    /duck into bush

  • But Enough About Me||

    Sure, with an average grade of less than 1% and an entire network engineered to present the least resistance possible to the rolling stock coupled with virtually nothing but long-distance routes, metal "roads" and perfectly-round metal wheels, mebbe.

    Some poor bastard riding on rubber tires in stop-and-go traffic in the hills of downtown Vancouver? Mebbe not so much.

  • Jerryskids||

    I once pushed a 3 ton truck off a cliff. It went 800 feet without using a single drop of gas. What's that work out to in miles per gallon? I know it's pretty damn efficient, but only if you want to get a truck from the top of a cliff to the bottom of a cliff.

  • AlexInCT||

    You now need to push it back up to where you started from and average the use?

  • American sociaIist||

    " Even if you assume zero loss due to perfect energy transfer efficiencies, there has to be a limit."

    Who is saying that?

  • BYODB||

    Physics is saying that.

  • But Enough About Me||

    Or perhaps the latest AmSoc(k) believes in perpetual motion machines? That would explain a lot. "Free energy for the Universe!"

  • Diane Merriam||

    Well, actually thermodynamics, which is a branch of chemistry. Picky, picky, picky :)

  • Diane Merriam||

    How about a mechanical engineer who has worked on engine design? Does that help?

    The Otto cycle itself isn't all that thermodynamically efficient, but there's only so much you can do if you want internal combustion.

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    According to Wiki, gasoline has an energy density of 34.2 MJ/L.

  • American sociaIist||

    It's the Gibbs Free Energy that determines how much energy is released in a chemical reaction, not the enthalpy of the reactant.

  • Password: pode$ta||

    Where is it talking about the enthalpy of the reactant?

    Also, energy density could be measured in any ensemble, not just isothermal-isobaric, although that's convenient for most purposes.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    But how does pool chlorine work?

  • EDG reppin LBC||

    Chlorine? Who gives a shit anout chlorine?

    Magnets! How do *they* fucking work?

  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    I heard some clowns are marching about this particularly contentious issue.

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    Gibbs Free Energy is capitalistic science. Are you a closet capitalist, comrade?

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    I don't know if this is the real AmSoc or another fake one, but either way his attempts to pretend like he knows chemistry always brighten my day

  • Password: pode$ta||

    This covers it pretty well.

    There seems to be some debate, but that guy guesses ~80mpg is reasonable.

  • But Enough About Me||

    No time to read it now, but thanks for the link. I'll give it a boo over the next couple of days.

  • Diane Merriam||

    I just read it. Actually, the 80 mpg was before a lot more calculations. For a normal (or what used to be normal) car he got it down to 40 mpg as a max. Anything from there had to come out of getting rid of as much weight as possible, meaning fiberglass bodies and any other ways of reducing the total mass.

    And that is, in fact, how much of the increase in mileage has been gotten. Making cars smaller and lighter. Using less and lighter metals where metal is needed. But that also means less safe and far more expensive repairs after an accident. Then throw in mandatory seat belts and air bags to try and make up for the safety lost by lighter weight cars. Then throw in the higher cost for the other materials.

    TANSTAAFL is just as applicable to engineering as it is to politics and economics.

  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    Hit up wolfram alpha. The basic theromodyanmic equations aren't that difficult to solve, just need to make sure that you properly account for the losses and define what you will hold constant. Use the ideal cycle efficieny for your engine to determine how much energy you've got left from burning the fuel, then do an energy balance for the rest. The real simple calculation would just be whatever inertial losses are involved in moving the vehicle mass to a given velocity and then just doing the integral under the curve ignoring aerodynamic loss. You could assume the only other losses are aerodynamic and fixed for the target velocity using the average coefficient of drag for whatever car or truck you desire. That simplifies everything to a straightforward linear equation you can solve for time. Then just do your X=v(t) and work out how many miles you've gone on that fuel.

    FYI, if you're reading carefully you begin to see why those CSX trains and container ships are so efficient because of the terms that drive the energy balance.

  • kbolino||

    Of course, shipping by train and shipping by container ship are only efficient if you can fill the whole train/ship. If I need to ship 1 ton of packages to a Walmart that's nowhere near a railyard, it might be cheapest to use an 18-wheeler the whole way, even though a good part of the route might run right next to a train track. Looking purely at miles/ton is a bit misleading since logistics is about delivering to the destination, not just moving the most number of miles with the least amount of fuel.

  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    No dispute here, payload mass fraction governs only at a certain point, the question as I saw it was only addressing one element in isolation. Talking economic efficiency is drawing a different system boundary. Still, necessary to understand how the elements work in isolation before you start linking them if you want a good model. Assuming of course no second order effects.

  • Zeb||

    Yes, this is an important point. There is a theoretical limit to how efficient an ICE can be. And cars are getting pretty close to it now.

  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    Hence my desire to Brayton cycle all the things.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Gasoline is 114,000 BTU/gal or 1.3x10 to the 8th power Joules

  • But Enough About Me||

    Yeah, that part's easy to discover. All of the arguing is over whether that much energy can move a vehicle of 'x' mass more than 'y' distance on average.

    I've not seen a good discussion of that. Perhaps I need to consult my copy of Physics for Future Presidents again, though I don't remember whether the author got that far into the particular question I have.

  • American sociaIist||

    I'm a communist because I want science to be based on evidence acquired from observations about the natural world-- not whatever Trump's industry lacked desire reality to be. I'm sorry.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Yes, Comrade Lysenko.

  • Florida Hipster||

    Jew Science. Amirite?

  • kbolino||

    Government science will always be about delivering the results the people in charge of government want to see. If science is about observing the natural world, then it has to be divorced from the government monopsony.

  • ||

    Energy taxes are obvious to voters, while the effects of energy efficiency standards are sneakier. The latter allow cowardly politicians to avoid telling their fellow citizens that they'll pay more for the privilege of consuming energy.

    This doesn't make sense. Or am I missing something? Do CAFE standards raise revenue for the government somehow, as opposed to just raising production costs across the board?

    I know we all agree on our general disgust for politicians and their motives, but I'm pretty sure the question of whether or not that money is going into their pockets is a more important part of the good/bad calculation than what may or may not be going on with other people's pockets.

    If the goal is making money, they're doing a piss-poor job if they want to use CAFE standards rather than a good old-fashioned excise tax. If the goal is to get people to use less fossil fuels, they are doing a piss-poor job of it if they are knowingly concealing the sticks-and-carrots they are trying to use to accomplish that.

    While it's tempting to see something sinister here, one should be mindful of the precaution to not dismiss sheer stupidity as a motive.

  • ||

    Based on my own conversations with ignorant progressives, they are just that opposed to the idea of market forces achieving things and so committed to the idea that government regulation solves all problems that they would never entertain the idea that they could more effectively curb fossil fuel usage simply by raising its price rather than issuing volumes of government fiats.

    In progressive logic, you only raise the price of gas if you want to use the revenue to provide government services, in which case you count on people buying more of it when you raise the price. If you don't want people to use more fossil fuels, you build trains.

  • AlexInCT||

    Progressives are about picking winners and losers, and they want to make sure that the right things win, and the wrong things lose, of course, regardless of what reality wants.

  • Diane Merriam||

    The comparison was between the amount that gas taxes would have to go up to get the same reduction in emissions as the mandated CAFE standards do.

  • grrizzly||

    OT: What the hell is going on? I'm actually shocked by the depravity of the March organizers.

    The Women's March on Washington last week featured as a speaker convicted felon Donna Hylton who, along with several others, kidnapped a man and then tortured him to death.

    Hylton, along with three men and three other women, kidnapped 62-year-old real-estate broker Thomas Vigliarolo and held him for ransom, before eventually killing him. As noted in a 1995 Psychology Today article, when asked about forcibly sodomizing the victim with a three foot steel pole, one of Hylton's accomplices replied: "He was a homo anyway."

    Speaking about Hylton, New York City Detective William Spurling told Psychology Today: "I couldn't believe this girl who was so intelligent and nice-looking could be so unemotional about what she was telling me she and her friends had done. They'd squeezed the victim's testicles with a pair of pliers, beat him, burned him."
  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Yeah, I read that earlier. These people have no idea who they're marching with.

  • mpercy||

    As an exercise, in each pair of statements below, one came from the web site of the Women's March organizers and one came from the Communist Party USA. Can you tell?

    * We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers - must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.
    * Women still face a considerable differential in wages for work of equal or comparable value. They confront barriers to promotion, physical and sexual abuse, continuing unequal workload in home and family life, and male supremacist ideology perpetuating unequal and often unsafe conditions. The constant attacks on social welfare programs severely impact single women, single mothers, nationally and racially oppressed women, and all working class women.

    * We must unite lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight people; professionals and intellectuals; seniors; and the disabled; and the mass peoples movements including the peace, environmental, health care, education, housing, and other movements.
    * We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings.

  • mpercy||

    * We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed - especially at the risk of public safety and health.
    * To build a better world, we must have a plentiful world to build on. We can't have a healthy humanity without a healthy natural world, and that requires a healthy respect for the limitations required to reproduce the natural world on which we depend.

    * We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.
    * Racism permeates the police, the courts and prison systems, perpetuating unequal sentencing, racial profiling, discriminatory enforcement, and police brutality.

  • mpercy||

    * Rooted in the promise of America's call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.
    * More than 11 million people who came in search of work and a better life have been blocked from legalization and a path to citizenship, and forced into substandard and life threatening working and living conditions. The constant fear of deportation and family separation is held over their heads as Homeland Security deports non-violent, non-criminal immigrants in record numbers...

    * Without a broad and vigorous resistance from every conceivable sector on every conceivable front, descent further into authoritarianism or worse is possible. But with unity and mass pressure, the Trump agenda can be defeated.
    * In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore.

  • mpercy||

    * Among the forms of oppression women experience are attacks on their reproductive rights; lack of quality, affordable day care; inequality in child rearing and household work; sexual harassment on the job; and domestic and sexual violence. The special oppression of women also cuts widely across class lines, affecting promotions for women in management and networking and contract opportunities for women small business owners. This provides the potential for a progressive role for women as a whole, as an ally of the working class and the nationally oppressed. Generally, women are more politically advanced than men on many issues, including issues of war and peace and social welfare.
    * Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.

  • mpercy||

    * The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault - and our communities are hurting and scared.
    * The majority of Americans reject Trump's dystopia. His election immediately sparked protests and grassroots gatherings to organize communities of resistance. Hundreds of thousands are expected to demonstrate in Washington, D.C. and cities across the nation during the inauguration.Alarm is spreading over the wave of hate crimes in the wake of the Trump victory and open support of neo-Nazis and fascists.

  • Drake||

    When is CAFE going to apply to inefficient (arguably according to the comments) electric cars?

    www.powerlineblog.com/archives.....-tesla.php

  • Zunalter||

    Problem is, maths < feelz.

  • albo||

    It's a shame that people who want to save money on energy costs can't just, you know, choose cars and appliances that are energy efficient by themselves without the government's help. Most of us are big boys and girls.

  • Zunalter||

    The Department of Energy calculated that the Obama administration's energy efficiency standards would save consumers more than $520 billion on electricity costs by 2030.

    Yea, except the response from every public utility to successful energy efficiency programs is to raise rates, so fuck your calculation.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    "Look how much room we have to raise the gas tax now."

  • Jerryskids||

    With this new high-efficiency air conditioner I can afford to run the thermostat down to 65 all summer long.

  • mpercy||

    Oh yeah!

  • mtrueman||

    "Energy Efficiency Mandates Are Worse for Poor Americans Than Energy Taxes"

    How is this in any way bad? Maybe these mandates will finally motivate our poor to give up their poverty and choose wealth, instead.

  • Password: pode$ta||

    motivate our poor to give up their poverty and choose wealth, instead
    Fucking lazy-ass poor people just need some fucking motivation, if you ask me.
    /mtrueman

    And how in the world would energy mandates 'motivate' someone to 'choose' wealth?

  • mtrueman||

    They may lessen the attraction of choosing poverty.

  • kbolino||

    Nothing helps you build wealth like not being able to keep it.

  • Zunalter||

    +1 penaltax

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Which Is Worse for Poor Americans: Energy Efficiency Mandates or Energy Taxes?

    Which is worse for poor Americans: Cyanide or arsenic?

  • But Enough About Me||

    But they're both so delicious!

    Er, so I've heard. {starts whistling}

  • Jerryskids||

    If you've been following the news, you know VW got hit with some harsh penalties for fudging the numbers on their diesel engines. If you've actually followed the news closely, you know that Cummins and Fiat and.....well, let's face it, every manufacturer of diesel engines has either been caught or about to get caught fudging the numbers the exact same way. If you're stupid and follow the news you're going to hear how this proves they're all greedy evil cheating lying bastards - if you're smart you're going to figure out the reason they're all cheating is because the EPA standards are simply unattainable. TANSTAAFL - you want an affordable, high-mileage, high-performance, low-emission vehicle? They're right over there next to the flying unicorns. If you want low-emission and high mileage like the EPA demands, you're either buying a Tesla or a Vespa. One of them you can't afford, the other you can't go uphill.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Slow news days are the worst.

  • Zunalter||

    You know who else was the worst?

  • Citizen X||

    Nikki, wherever she may be?

  • Zeb||

    What is meant by "energy taxes"?

    If we are talking gas tax, I think that the efficiency standards are much worse. People can choose to drive a more efficient car if they want to save money on fuel. The CAFE stuff and other mandates just makes all vehicles more expensive. And gas taxes are (or should be) essentially usage taxes for roads.

    It's also good to point out that gas mileage isn't everything you need to know about efficiency. A big SUV getting 12 mpg with 7 people in it is a far more efficient use of fuel than a Prius with 1 person in it getting 50 mpg.

  • Zunalter||

    A big SUV getting 12 mpg with 7 people in it is a far more efficient use of fuel than a Prius with 1 person in it getting 50 mpg.

    Very interesting point, thank you!

  • mtrueman||

    It's an obvious commie point. Don't be taken in. By this 'logic,' buses are the most fuel efficient of all.

  • Zeb||

    Durrrr.

    The point is that it's not as simple as looking at the fuel economy of a given vehicle and that there is no inherent virtue in driving a high MPG vehicle. It all depends on how you use it.

  • DOOMco||

    I'll take why do people own a large truck and a honda fit at the same time for 500, Alex Zeb.

  • mtrueman||

    Be sure to tell us if you figure out a non-commie use for buses.

  • Zeb||

    There are many bus companies that operate profitably without subsidy. And if all you care about is efficiency or cost, they are a fine option for travel.

  • Ted S.||

    Taking the old farts on a charter to the casino.

  • DOOMco||

    since my odometer doesn't work, I go by the coolest rate. gallons/hour.

  • Zeb||

    The great thing about that measure is that you can really up your efficiency by just letting your car sit there idling when you aren't driving.

  • DOOMco||

    it does change a little, but not as much as I was hoping.

  • prolefeed||

    Perhaps outgoing EPA chief McCarthy is right that energy efficiency standards will save Americans billions more in fuel costs than they have to pay for more expensive vehicles, although that conclusion is contested.

    I've crunched the numbers on some of the things automakers are doing to avoid CAFE taxes, and they are costing buyers way more than they can save. For example, taking a regular drivetrain and making it into a hybrid drivetrain can cost enough that the break even point is 650,000 miles of driving at current gas prices.

    If it was really saving Americans a boatload of money, most of us would buy these fuel saving features as options, without the need for coercion. The coercion is a strong signal that these rules make no fucking sense unless you're a green fanatic who hates internal combustion engines.

  • Jerryskids||

    Yeah, that's the appallingly bad logic they're using with the new big truck standards - it'll save the trucking companies tons of money. AYFKM? Trucking companies are in business to make money, am I seriously supposed to believe there's some simple way they can make more money and they're all too stupid to take advantage of it? Are you seriously that stupid or is it just that you think I'm stupid enough to believe that shit?

  • Conchfritters||

    "Which Is Worse for Poor Americans.."

    Taxes on booze and smokes. Oh yeah, and the lottery, aka: the "idiot tax", but I'm in favor of unfettered gambling across the US - the State lotteries need competition. Even the blackjack table at the local Indian casino has vastly better odds than any scratch ticket or lottery game.

  • ||

    Not only are the odds of winning better but the lotto carrys a 50% rake

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Both those options are terrible, let me see what's behind curtain number three, Monty."

  • billdouglas||

    Seems like "reason" would note how horrifically expensive climate change is for our nation. Hmmm?

  • kbolino||

    They should also account for the disastrous impact of unicorn tramplings, too.

  • Peter||

    Not only motor vehicles, remember when you could buy a washing machine for a couple of hundred dollars that would clean your clothes and last 20 years?

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Save the 3-way, and other incandescent light-bulbs.

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