Posts Tagged ‘climate change’


CAFE Craziness

   Posted by: Robert    in News

In what one could only wish was an April Fool’s joke, the EPA and NHTSA have released their new standard for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) on American automobiles.  Based on the new standards, it appears that CAFE now joins the growing list of government names which don’t actually mean what they say.  Forget fuel economy, CAFE is now all about Carbon Dioxide.

To understand exactly what’s going on, it’s worth a brief history lesson in the history of vehicle output regulations.  In the US, vehicle regulations have essentially taken on two basic forms, one dealing with emissions, and the other dealing with efficiency.  Emissions based regulations focus, as the name suggests, on the chemicals being emitted from the vehicle’s tailpipe, and are designed to eliminate atmospheric pollutants which are directly harmful to human health, believed to cause global warming, or both.  Efficiency regulations, by contrast, are designed to reduce the amount of fuel used by vehicles in light of the fact that petroleum is a scarce resource.

The history of CAFE can be tied pretty much directly to the Arab Oil Embargo of the early 1970s.  At the time, fuel was not a particularly scarce resource, and the average motorist had little reason to be overly concerned about the amount of money being spent at the pump.  Auto makers, accordingly, focused on features that consumers were interested in; things like power and luxury.  This, of course, became a problem when the fuel supply shrank rapidly, causing people to become suddenly conscious of how far they could drive on a tank of gas.  In modern politics, fuel efficiency has been linked primarily to concerns over energy independence and the price of gasoline.

The new CAFE standard abandons that history entirely.  By refocusing CAFE on CO2, the EPA has transformed an efficiency regulation into an emissions regulation.  Rather than regulating fuel efficiency directly, the EPA is now regulating the number of grams of CO2 emitted per mile.  To maintain the illusion that CAFE remains about fuel efficiency as opposed to CO2 efficiency, the EPA has put together a chart showing both grams of CO2 per mile and the “equivalent” traditional miles per gallon.

The equivalence between Carbon Dioxide and fuel mileage, however, is based on a set of assumptions about how vehicle manufacturers design their cars and trucks.  In essence, it assumes that a standard vehicle emits a certain number of grams of CO2 per gallon of gasoline.  Unfortunately for consumers who care about fuel economy, there is nothing magical about that number.  Manufacturers could, for instance, install a heavy CO2 scrubber which adds weight to the vehicle, thus reducing its miles per gallon, even as it drives CO2 emissions toward zero.  That approach is, in essence, exactly the approach taken to reducing other pollutants to comply with emissions regulations.

At present, consumers have become reasonably conscious of fuel efficiency and consider the number of miles their vehicle will travel per gallon of gas as a factor in buying a new car or truck.  As such, it’s an open question whether this revision to CAFE will have any effect on fuel efficiency overall.  It is important to be aware, however, that the government will no longer be in the business of driving up fuel efficiency.  They have now set their entire focus on carbon.

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Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Darwin

   Posted by: Robert    in Politics

I wonder if it is unfair to use the rules of evolution against the left.  For all the confusion the claims say conservatives have about how species change over time, nowhere is ignorance of the forces which drive population changes more on display than in today’s opinion section of the New York Times.  Thomas Friedman invites us to believe that conservatives “believe the world is going to face a mass plague, like the Black Death, that will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between now and 2050.”  He apparently feels that conservatives “believe all these things because that is the only way their arguments make any sense.”  His proof, however, entirely ignores the way population change works.

But there are two other huge trends barreling down on us with energy implications that you simply can’t deny…

The first is that the world is getting crowded. According to the 2006 U.N. population report, “The world population will likely increase by 2.5 billion … passing from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050. This increase is equivalent to the total size of the world population in 1950, and it will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050.”

From this quote right here we get to see where the 2.5 billion person figure comes from.  It’s based on a UN projection of population growth and the apparent belief that the world cannot support any more people than are currently occupying it today.  As I see it, this has two major problems.  The first is that there is no indication that the Earth cannot support any more humans even under our current technology.  The second is that Mr. Friedman counts as dead about 2.5 billion people who do not exist and may never exist.

But be those problems as they may, there is nothing so terribly sinister at work as some deep belief in a mass kill-off of a significant chunk of the human population.  The forces underlying evolution apply a downward force on the growth rate of every species.  As the population of a species increases, the odds of survival for any individual member tend to decline.  Natural predators are attracted to dense concentrations of prey, competition for mates intensifies, and resources become harder to find.   These downward forces gradually eliminate the less adapted members of the species until the population reaches an equilibrium state.  The result is not a mass killing, but a gradual pruning of the family tree.

This process, of course, occurs in nature every day and nobody thinks much about it.

Mr. Friedman is hardly the first to have brought overpopulation fallacies to bear for political ends, nor is he likely to be the last one to make such an error.  To the extent that green technologies require burning our own food as gasoline, the net increase in hunger will serve not to prevent the 2.5 billion “deaths,” but to accelerate them.  What’s more, even the greenest of technologies will serve only to kick the can down the road; the human population will eventually reach its capacity for growth.

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