CAFE Standards: Fed Task Force FAIL

February 23, 2009 | | Comments Off on CAFE Standards: Fed Task Force FAIL

The vehicles owned by the Obama administration’s auto team were released in a list today by The Detroit News. While Detroit is focusing on the fact that the “Big Three” are underrepresented amongst the auto-owners on the federal task force, I just did some back-of-the-envelope math and made a shocking discovery.

The federal task force fails CAFE standards.

Admittedly, my statistics might be a bit sloppy, but here’s my basic accounting methods– I punched in each member’s vehicle make and model into and then jotted down the average MPG. After everything, I added up the total from all car drivers and then divided by the total number of car drivers.

The final number = 23.41666

Feel free to double check my work, and leave notes in the comment section.

I had to make a few assumptions in my calculations due to some missing info. For example, I assumed the officials all drove automatic, because we all know they love to chat on cell-phones (even in violation of DC regulations prohibiting such), and that’s pretty tough to do with a manual transmission in DC traffic.

In calculating the average, I also left out those who claim they don’t have cars (or drive motorcycles) because this is a calculation of CAFE standards for cars and not a per capita MPG calculation (which is probably a more effective approach to our country’s oil dependency).

Finally, if somebody had two cars listed, I averaged those two numbers together for that individual’s MPG.

Vroom Vroom:

  • Timothy Geithner owns a 2008 Acura TSX (23 MPG)
  • Larry Summers owns a 1995 Mazda Protege (26 MPG)
  • Peter Orszag owns a 2008 Honda Odyssey and a 2004 Volvo S60 (21 MPG)
  • Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, owns a 2008 Toyota Prius and a Honda Odyssey minivan (33 MPG)
  • Austan Goolsbee, chief economist for the White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board, owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander (22 MPG)
  • Joan DeBoer, the chief of staff to LaHood, drives a 2008 Lexus RX 350 (20 MPG)
  • Heather Zichal, deputy director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change, owns a Volvo C30 (23 MPG)
  • Gene Sperling, counsel to the Treasury Secretary, owns a 2003 Lincoln LS (21 MPG)
  • Lisa Heinzerlingra, senior climate policy counsel to the head of the EPA, owns a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback station wagon (24 MPG)
  • Dan Utech, senior adviser to the Energy Secretary, owns a 2003 Mini Cooper S two-door hatchback (25 MPG)
  • Rick Wade, a senior adviser at the Commerce Department, owns a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier (23 MPG)
  • Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economist, owns a 2005 Honda Odyssey (20 MPG)
  • Ray LaHood had no vehicle information.
  • Christine Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, had no vehicle information.
  • Diana Farrell, the deputy National Economic Council director, doesn’t own a vehicle.
  • Carol Browner, the White House climate czar, doesn’t own an automobile.
  • Steven Chu, Energy Secretary, doesn’t own a car.
  • Edward B. Montgomery, senior adviser to the Labor Department, owns a 1991 Harley-Davidson (45MPG)

281 MPG/12 People with Cars = 23.41666 MPG average

As of early 2004, CAFE standards for the average car were at 27.5 MPG. However, in 2007 Congress passed new rules to raise those standards incrementally. Furthermore, Obama recently directed the Transportation Department to look into new CAFE standards and instructed the EPA to review policy that could allow states like California to preempt federal regulations with even stricter standards.

So what does this mean? I do not mean to pass judgment on the quality of the task force team. Rather, I was just curious after reading The Detroit News story. The news brief provided a small window into the lives of our public servants. And, it made me consider the fact that they drive cars just like the rest of us, get stuck in traffic, drive kids to soccer practice, and are affected by rising gas prices. In essence, this policy task force could be considered a microcosm of typical Beltway commuters, and that says a lot about the types of vehicles Americans are currently driving. It’s tough to tell “the Big Three”, or any car manufacturer for that matter, that they need to increase fuel-efficiency when consumers do not create demand.

Noting the lack of American made cars in the lot, could higher CAFE standards for American made vehicles encourage the federal task force to go out and buy new wheels? What can we do to raise the fuel-economy of existing vehicles (i.e. could there be a new economy in retro-fitting cars we already own)? Do those without vehicles carpool, and if so does Carol Browner ride shotgun in Austan Goolsbee’s Toyota Highlander carpool to the White House, and if so whose iPod do they listen to?
So many important policy questions, so little time.

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