A few months after the publication of an article I wrote for The Atlantic exploring what the education system would look like under an all private or all public school scenario, I was contacted by the editor of a publication called Ensia. Would I consider applying the same hypothetical scenario to fuel economy standards? I thought it was a great idea. The result was this article that discusses the potential impacts from proceeding with tough standards or abandoning standards altogether. In 2012, the Obama administration put in place fuel economy standards — phased in over time — that would roughly double the fuel economy of cars by 2025. President Trump has begun the process of rolling back the standards even though some automakers don’t support that. Statements from Honda and Ford indicate those companies are not asking for a rollback, while General Motors has said it is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supports an all-electric future. With the contentious fuel economy debate currently unfolding, it was an opportune time to engage in this thought experiment. I had the chance to interview those of all different types of ideologies and backgrounds who provided their varying perspectives. I believe this approach of allowing experts to discuss these types of issues in a more academic context, outside the political fray, leads to important discourse. It’s anybody’s guess as to what ultimately will happen with the standards, which have already significantly improved the fuel efficiency of cars. But the more information that’s available to the public on the potential implications, hopefully the better informed the discussions will be.
Spending time at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week, I was impressed by the variety of smart looking all-electric vehicles. Just a few years ago, there were only a handful. Now, in addition to the Volt and LEAF, six electric vehicles hit the market last year, while four more are due this year. Some, like BMW’s zippy i3 and Tesla’s Model X, which has gull wing doors that open to the sky, are downright dazzling and could lure more consumers. EVs still have their limitations. The sticker price is higher than many consumers can swallow and EVs require regular charging of the battery. So far, Americans haven’t embraced them in large numbers, as I explain in this story I wrote for The Fiscal Times. But it will be interesting to watch and see, as more of these vehicles hit the road and gas prices remain high, whether these zero-emitting cars pick up momentum.