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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Vehicle standards overhaul

New rules create more problems

OK, so all of the hoopla about the new “cafe” mileage and emission standards is fun for some people, but who actually thought this through? [“New rules to shrink cars, drive prices up,” page one, May 2.]

Let’s say you’re a private contractor (one of the few surviving), for example. You need your big pickup truck to carry tools and equipment to a job site. If you stay in business after the economic meltdown and impending huge tax increases, the truck has to be replaced eventually. If that comes to pass after these new standards take effect, what do you do? I guess you could buy two or three of the new “eco-trucks” to do the same job, but who drives them?

How does this solution decrease traffic, save fuel or reduce your supposed “carbon footprint”? (Frankly, I still believe my carbon footprint is the little pile of ashes on the ground after I stomp out my cigar.) I suppose you could just close your business and let open-minded liberals take care of you. Yeah, right, that’ll work.

The people making these decisions need to spend some time in the real world.

— Mark Williams, Lynnwood

Changes can’t happen fast enough

Reporting from various media, including The Seattle Times, about the mileage and emission standards shows just how far we have to go to understand the shortcomings of automobile-based transportation.

Consider that the highest-efficiency internal-combustion engines convert only about 20 percent of the energy in the gasoline into motion that can drive the car (35 percent of the energy is heat that goes out the tailpipe, 35 percent heats water to keep the block from melting and 10 percent is friction loss from the engine itself). If that isn’t inefficient to start with, we stick that engine in a 3,000 to 6,000-pound car or SUV to transport mostly single occupants who weigh about 150 pounds each. To add insult to injury, we then put those cars on our freeways where, in most urban areas, the average speed of the cars is about the same as a bicycle. It is difficult to imagine a bigger waste of energy.

In The Times’ article, Eric Fedewa, vice president of global powertrain forecasting, says that the new mileage standards will mean that, “… it will be so expensive to operate a pickup that they will be used almost exclusively for work in the future.” What a concept. I thought that’s what they were built for in the first place.

The new standards can’t happen fast enough. Then we’ll only be lightly behind China and Japan in developing more fuel-efficient transportation.

— Mark Quinn, Olympia

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