May 11, 2006

NY Times: "Miles per Cob" - Redefining CAFE Standards

Senator Tom Daschle and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla published an op-ed piece in the NY Times that seeks to improve CAFE standards. Raising a vehicle's MPG doesn't solve the problem of oil dependence - it only prolongs it. They proposed a new CAFE "Carbon Alternative Fuel Equivalent" which is explained in excerpts from the article below.

What is the point of driving 40mpg if those gallons consist of 100% gasoline? From an oil independence standpoint we would be better off driving 40mpg with E85 because we would only be using one gallon of gasoline for every 5 of ethanol. Stated another way, instead of going 400 miles on 10 gallons of gasoline - we would only consume 1.5 gallons - the rest would be ethanol.

Since configuring a new model car to be flex-fuel compatible does not cost anything, and cycling out the nation's cars could take 15 years, we should (like Brazil has) mandate that all new cars - including hybrids - be flex-fuel compatible. That, plus the hefty IRS tax credit for renewable fuel pumps, would encourage gas stations to begin supplying E85. A plug-in hybrid capable of 100mpg would be able to go roughly 450miles per gallon of gasoline if it was running on E85.

Either one of these two measures would drive the cost of gasoline down.


Miles per Cob
by Tom Daschle and Vinod Khosla
N.Y. Times - 5/8/06

Our national leadership must promote a market-based shift away from petroleum-based fuels toward renewable fuels produced in America with American technology.

The CAFE standard does nothing to encourage that change. It requires American automakers to build cars and trucks that meet a minimum standard of average mileage traveled per gallon of gasoline. But the current standard for minimum mileage traveled per gallon of gas consumed is both too low and focused on the wrong challenge.

We need to upgrade to a new CAFE: Carbon Alternative Fuel Equivalent. This new CAFE will measure "petroleum mileage" and give automakers incentives and credits for increasing ethanol consumption as a percentage of fuel use of their vehicles, not least by promoting flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on either gasoline or E85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. This approach promises several significant benefits.

First, it could set America free from its dependence on foreign oil.

Second, switching from gasoline to ethanol produced from perennial energy crops like switch grass can slash our carbon dioxide emissions.

Third, it could build on a comparative advantage of American automakers.

And fourth, by encouraging the production of ethanol and new renewable fuel technologies, this new CAFE standard could invigorate rural communities in America's heartland and innovation and research centers along its coasts.

technorati , , , , ,

1 comment:

donald said...

Quick point for the political reception of ethanol. Prairie grass is indeed a fabulous crop for ethanol production, which can aid its popularity in the plains states. However, kudzu is another good feeder crop. This might make the policy more popular in southern states.