With President George W. Bush brushing off the landmark global warming decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, we continue to record his administration’s legacy of foot-dragging and global warming denial.
We have seen reports of political interference in global warming science spanning most of Bush’s tenure as president.
We have seen political appointees and public relations handlers stifling U.S. Administration scientists from responding to the issue of global warming.
On the international stage, the modus operandi has been to obfuscate, delay and outright reject international action to reduce worldwide C02 emissions.
On the issue of U.S. domestic carbon emissions, the Bush greenwash comes in the form of “carbon intensity reductions” in which big industry (automakers, coal-fired electrical generation etc.) are allowed to tie emissions to economic growth, i.e., emissions can rise as long as the rate of increase is less than the rate of economic growth. This, in the Bush White House, is what passes for being environmentally friendly.
Back to the issue of fuel efficiency standards for vehicles (hich Bush seems to think are “sufficient”), there is the wonderfully complicated (and thus easy to ignore) world of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), ethanol fuels and the 1988 “Alternative Motor Fuels Act.” Under CAFE, automakers must meet an average fuel economy for the entire fleet of vehicles they produce. Right now, the minimum miles per gallon allowable average for cars is 27.5 miles/gallon and 21.6 mpg for light trucks.
One of the ways automakers can keep their fleet within these CAFE standards is to make “Flexible Fuel Vehicles” (FFV‘s), which are bascially car/truck/SUV engines that can run on alternative fuels, like ethanol and/or regular gasoline. Under the Alternative Motor Fuels Act, automakers receive a credit they can then use against their allowable CAFE standard.
The FFV engine is assumed under the CAFE rating standard to run on ethanol fuel 50% of the time. For example, the 2007 Chevy Tahoe truck with a regular engine would recieve a CAFE rating of 21 miles per gallon, but a Tahoe with a flex-engine capable of running ethanol receives a credit under the Alternative Fuel Act, increasing the Tahoe rating to 35 mpg.
The kicker? According to a recent Consumer Reports investigation, there is very little ethanol-based fuel available on a retail level in the United States – so the FFV Tahoe gets a higher fuel efficiency rating because it has the potential to run on ethanol, but may never run a single drop. And even if it does, there will be no assoicated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the tailpipe.
The result is that the automakers and the US Administration can heap praise on themselves for their fuel efficiency standards without ever actually lowering emissions or improving fuel efficiency.
And the punchline? By receiving credits for the production of FFV‘s, the automakers avoided an estimated $1.6 billion in fines for violationg CAFE standards in the first half of 2005 alone.