Higher Mileage Standards to Cut Oil Consumption – or Not?


Today President Obama announced plans to increase auto fuel efficiency to an average of over 35 miles per gallon, an improvement of approximately 30% over today’s level. 

The Obama administration announced Tuesday what amounts to a sweeping revision to auto-emission and fuel-economy standards, putting them in the same package for the first time.

The plan would require cars and trucks to average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, President Obama said at a ceremony with legislators, regulators, executives of 10 car companies and the United Auto Workers union. The plan would increase the standard and accelerate the requirement from 35 mpg in 2020 set by the 2007 Energy Act.

The president hailed the plan’s potential for cutting our dependence on foreign oil and for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, cutting both by about 30% once all vehicles on the road have been replaced by these more efficient models. 

Thirty percent less oil consumption.  Thirty percent lower CO2 emissions.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  There’s just one problem.  It’s not true.  Because the government also plans to rapidly grow the U.S. population, through ever-higher rates of immigration and through high birth rates, by 2035 we will be consuming as much oil to fuel our vehicles and we will be emitting as much CO2 as we do today.  After that, further population growth will actually drive oil consumption and CO2 emissions even higher than today’s level!  Don’t believe me?  Check out the government’s own population projections at http://www.census.gov/population/www/projections/summarytables.html

It’s not as though the government has no control over this.  They have total control of immigration and use tax policy to encourage a high birth rate.  Why?  Because they can’t envision a healthy economy that doesn’t rely on population growth as the major source of “economic” growth. 

I applaud the president for taking this action, but to sell this as a plan for cutting oil consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is just a bit disingenuous when they also quietly plan to explode the population, more than offsetting any gains from this program.  If the president wants to get serious about cutting oil consumption and CO2 emissions, then we not only need a plan to cut the per capita consumption of oil but a plan to simultaneously stabilize and even reduce our population, the number of “capita,” to a sustainable level. 


7 Responses to Higher Mileage Standards to Cut Oil Consumption – or Not?

  1. mtnmike says:


    Most sane experts on peak oil say that by 2032, there will not be enough oil to go around. M. King Hubbert had predicted something around that date back in 1956. So we may not need to concern ourselves about 2035.

    As you pointed out, the whole thing is sham. To grow our economy to a level that would pace debt will require a whole lot more cars and people. The number of people naturalized in 2008 was new record.

  2. smonrad2 says:

    I agree with mtnmike. Peak oil is going to force us to decrease oil consumption with or without legislation.

    If we want to survive and thrive in a post oil world, we have to get a handle on population.

  3. Randy says:

    So the “american” car corporations are going to sell *tiny* chinese electric vehicles as their master plan to become profitable again? Hahahaha…sounds like a plan for the asian foreign debt enablers to completely deindustrialize the USA. The environmentalism movement is about limiting access ot physical resources. Electric vehicles are great for that…and of course more dependency on Wall St. Imagine plugging your car in at work for a charge courtesy of Wall St.

    No thanks. I’ll be buying a german diesel.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Noooooo! Don’t do it, Randy! There are plenty of American-made alternatives that’d be better than a German diesel. Besides, the oil companies will laugh all the way to the bank as you pay more for fuel that costs them less to make. Diesels make sense in Europe, but no sense in the U.S. I’d buy an American-assembled Toyota or Honda – hell, even a Hyundai, before I’d buy a German-made car of any kind.

  4. FJ says:

    What’s with the German hate? German companies make great, safe cars.

    I think adding diesel to the marketplace can only be a good thing – diversifying the different types of fuel people buy will lower the price of each overall. Then again, mike is correct in that 20 years from now it won’t matter; we need to get off oil, period.

    Pete, we have our differences on US vs. foreign cars, but there’s a reason people will buy a BMW 335d, and it’s not because BMW is as good at McDonald’s in the advertising world. Don’t forget that some German cars are made here, particularly the smaller SUVs they now sell. German and Japanese companies really put the squeeze on US auto manufacturers, and through Ford, we’re now finding out that was a good thing, even if Chrysler and GM fail to swim in this new sink or swim car environment. I’d rather have one great American car company than three terrible ones. GM isn’t even in the business of making cars anymore, they’re in the business of overpaying former worker’s union pensions. No thanks to that; I’m not feeding that monkey – though my father did when he bought a Vette a couple years back. Can’t blame him, it’s a great car.

    But kudos to Ford for not taking any bailout money and building cars people want, then deeply discounting them to make them attractive enough even when compared to a similar Japanese or German counterpart. That gets people into showrooms and shows people that American cars still may be worth buying after all, and I’m even seeing more newer Chevy and Dodge models on the road than ever before. As an American, I like to see this. Personally, I’m more of a German car guy so I likely won’t buy American any time soon, but that doesn’t change my position on where I want the American auto industry to be.

    My father just picked up a Ford Edge, 2008 but new, loaded with everything and 20″ chrome rims for far less than even dealer invoice because Ford knows how to get people into showrooms: their new models are much more exciting than ever before, they’re loaded with features, and they compete well with their foreign counterparts. That’s the way to get it done, not through “light truck” loopholes and pushing SUVs that kill people in rollovers.

  5. FJ says:

    just posting here so i get notified of follow ups, forgot to check the box 🙂

  6. Pete Murphy says:

    FJ, you’re misunderstanding me. I don’t hate Germans, Germany, German cars or diesels. My concern is with free trade with badly overpopulated nations like Germany, Japan, Korea and others that results in an automatic trade deficit and loss of manufacturing jobs – tantamount to economic suicide. Such nations dump the consequences of their overpopulation onto the U.S. in the form of higher unemployment for us, not them. They are playing us for fools and, when we buy their products, we’re playing right into their hands.

    It really has nothing to do with the quality of cars or cost competitiveness. Given the choice between three brands of American cars and twenty brands of foreign cars, American consumers will choose the American brands only 3 times out of 23. That’s just the way it works when you water down a market with more and more brands. Each will take their share of the market. That would be OK if we had equivalent access to equivalent markets, but we don’t, thanks to their overpopulation and low per capita consumption.

    I don’t recall if you’ve read my book or not. If you did, you’d be more likely to understand my point. If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to read it. You’ll have a whole new perspective on our trade policies and the harm that has been done to our economy.

    Like I said in response to Randy, I’d prefer any car with higher American content in it to any car built in a foreign country. That means I’d prefer a Honda Civic or Toyota Camry or Hyundai (or also any German brand) that’s assembled in the U.S. over a Chevy Aveo, built in South Korea and American in name only. The same goes for American brands built in Mexico.

    The point is that we need trade policy that forces a restoration of balance in manufactured products. Lacking that, we all need to do our part to support American-made products when we have that option, as we do in purchasing cars and trucks.

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