Beyond the Cusp

August 30, 2012

New Fuel Efficiency Regulations Huge Hidden Effect on Ecosystems

During the distractions of both Hurricane Isaac hitting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and the Republican National Convention and the affirmation of the Party’s Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, the Obama Administration rolled out new CAFÉ Standards that automobile manufacturers are going to have to meet in the future. The new standards are set by the Transportation Department in cooperation with the EPA and were announced to gradually increase to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The Administration made a claim that each car owner could save as much as $8,000.00 in fuel savings per year. An Administration spokesperson related that the automobile manufacturers were enthusiastically supporting the new standards, like they actually have any choice or were allowed much in the way of influence and input as to the attainability of meeting the new standards. But what about the little other changes these new standards will force. Exactly how will these higher standards actually affect the average car buyer? But first, let us look at the great affects this move will have on the ecosystems.


The first and most evident is these higher gas mileage vehicles will likely have lower emissions with the higher mileage requirements. They will have less metal, which is a good thing; and likely a lot more plastic parts, which is a bad thing. The higher priced vehicles will be using high tech materials such as carbon fiber and ceramics which is a mixed bag as it depends on the manufacturing processes which will determine their affect. They will also have a different influence when the vehicles are recycled, some of these newer materials may not be as easily recycled as are steel and aluminum, two items we are very practiced at recycling and have been for a very long time, especially iron and steel. And should the automobile manufacturers make revolutionary new discoveries for production using radical and exotic materials, the recycling or proper manner of disposing of these new items and materials will also have an impact on our ecological society and the health of both. As is often the case, the new CAFÉ Standards will introduce a whole new series of ecological challenges which will need to be addressed. Now we can look at some of the other changes these requirements may bring forth.


There was no mention reporting on how much more the average car will cost consumers which may take a decade of actual savings in fuel, which never do quite make it to the heights that are expected. Then there is the added dangers from cars which will have to be made lighter which will force automobile manufacturers to use even thinner aluminum, more plastic parts in the more economical models, which is not necessarily a good change, or more carbon fiber parts in the high-end vehicles, which is a very good thing for those who can afford those models. So, for the most part and on average, those people who are restricted due to finances or other reasons are relegated to purchasing the lesser priced cars which will contain lighter body panels, possibly made from plastics or extremely thin alloys of aluminum will be in cars that have a much lower survivability quotient in case of an accident. On the other side, with the use of advanced carbon fiber in the higher priced models, those driving these vehicles will have a much higher survivability quotient. So, once again the initial impact of higher CAFE Standards will force many younger drivers into lighter and more dangerous vehicles along with those who can only afford a modestly priced model and the wealthy and those who manage to afford the high end vehicles will be driving much safer vehicles. On the other side of the coin, likely the safest people on the roads may very well be those who are unable to purchase a new car and continue to drive an older vehicle from today’s CAFÉ Standards or even older ones. It reminds me of the joking I used to share with my daughter when she was reaching driving age and I would tell her I was planning on getting her an early 1960s Oldsmobile for her to drive. That inevitably got the always ready reply of, “Oh Dad!”


Every time they change the CAFÉ Standards I remember the horrors of a vehicle I bought back when the earliest of these standards took effect. If the wind were to gust over 35 MPH that vehicle could be made to change lanes without even moving the steering wheel. Needless to point out that such things were not fully appreciated at the time. I eventually found the way around CAFÉ Standards; simply keep every vehicle you purchase for fifteen or twenty years until the wheels fall off or worse. After about five or so years your older vehicle becomes one of the heavier ones on the road. This was especially true for my years with my mini 4X4, one of the original small SUVs. I have been fortunate in that most of the vehicles I have owned lasted particularly long times. I have now decided that perhaps I might want to begin to plan on a new car before these CAFÉ Standards rise too high and the vehicles go into their next stage in their eventual evolution to becoming trikes with doors. I am definitely not looking forward to cars with handlebars in place of steering wheels.


Beyond the Cusp


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