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The Takeaway

Can Rebels Boost Oil Production?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Before the uprisings began in Libya in February, the nation produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, and was responsible for two percent of the world's oil supplies. Six months ago, shipments stopped at the rebellion grew there. The loss of Libyan oil drove up the price of Brent crude, which is sold to refineries on the United States' east coast.

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Transportation Nation

Fuel Efficiency Standards To Double by 2025

Friday, July 29, 2011

President Obama, Ray LaHood, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (photo courtesy of DOT)

Speaking today in Washington -- half an hour after he urged politicians to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling -- President Barack Obama unveiled an agreement that would double fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The president said these new standards "represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The current fuel economy standards for cars with a 2010 model year are 27.5 m.p.g.

These new corporate average fuel economy standards -- or CAFE standards -- were developed by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. The 54.5 m.p.g. mark applies to the average of the entire fleet of cars and light trucks model years 2017- 2025. Some models could fail to meet 54.5 m.p.g, but then others would have to surpass it to compensate.

Under the plan, the standards for passenger cars will increase by an average of five percent each year, while pick-ups and other light-duty trucks would increase an average of 3.5 percent annually for the first five years. After 2021, both would face a 5 percent annual increase, when cars and light trucks will be required to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

"Think about what this means," the president said. "It means that filling up your car every two weeks instead of filling it up every week. It will save a typical family more than $8,000 in fuel costs over time."

The President was joined by representatives from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Volvo, Mitsubishi and Jaguar -- which together account for over 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States -- as well as the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the State of California. Mazda, which was reported to be a last-minute holdout, was also on hand.

Who wasn't present? Mercedes parent company Daimler AG, as well as Volkswagen -- two companies which have invested heavily in diesel engines. (The program incentivizes the development of new technology, and administration officials said diesel is already in broad use.)

The president took the opportunity to needle lawmakers about the debt ceiling impasse. "This agreement ought to serve as a valuable lesson for leaders in Washington," he said. "This agreement was arrived at without legislation. You are all demonstrating what can happen when people put aside differences -- these folks are competitors, you've got labor and business, but they decided, we’re going to work together to achieve something important and lasting for the country."

You can read the president's full remarks here and the DOT press release here.

The new standards, however, aren't loophole-free. The administration promised a midterm review of the new standards, which some environmentalists worry will be used by automakers as wiggle room.

Automakers must pay a penalty for failing to meet CAFE standards. According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration's website: "The penalty for failing to meet CAFE standards recently increased from $5.00 to $5.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon for each tenth under the target value times the total volume of those vehicles manufactured for a given model year. Since 1983, manufacturers have paid more than $500 million in civil penalties. Most European manufacturers regularly pay CAFE civil penalties ranging from less than $1 million to more than $20 million annually. Asian and domestic manufacturers have never paid a civil penalty." Details about CAFE fines can be found here (pdf).

A White House graphic of the new fuel economy standards (image courtesy of the White House)

The White House also released a report (PDF) about the new fuel economy standards.

The president has some other changes he'd like to see car manufacturers adopt. "It’s only a matter of time until Malia gets her learner’s permit," he said. "So I’m hoping to see one of those models that gets a top speed of 15 miles an hour (and) the ejector seat anytime boys are in the car."

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Transportation Nation

Pricey Gas or No, Californians Get Out of Town

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yikes! Photo by Ben Trefny.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Gas prices are up! Or no, wait, maybe they’re down. Either way, a highly unscientific round of calls by TN suggests that Californians are finding ways to get out of town this Memorial Day weekend.

A recent survey by AAA found that while travel numbers aren’t exactly flying off the charts this year, neither are they declining. The survey predicts that just over four million Californians will travel 50 miles or more, a very slight increase over last year. What's more, nearly all of them will drive. AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said the numbers may reflect people’s desire to go on vacation no matter what: about a third of travelers are expected to stay with family and friends rather than in hotels.

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The Takeaway

How Are High Gas Prices Changing Your Life?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Average gas prices around the nation have soared to around $4 a gallon. Last time prices were this high was three years ago in May 2008, right during the worst of the recession. Then Americans began to drive less, buy more fuel efficient cars, and take public transportation more often. But according to new projections from AAA, 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more next week for the Memorial Day weekend.

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Transportation Nation

Gas Prices Got You Making Changes? Tell Us About It

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our partner The Takeaway is gathering stories from around the country about how high gas prices are causing behavior changes. Some people say they're only running errands on the way home from work, no extra car trips! Others are changing up their summer travel plans.

How are high gas prices affecting you? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it? You can tell them about it in the form below or by texting GAS to 69866. You'll get a confirmation text to your mobile phone, with the option to leave a voice message (which they'd love to play on the air). Thanks!

City, State, Zip (optional)
The last price you saw (of regular, per gallon)
(Standard Msg & Data Rates May Apply)

More at The Takeaway.

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Transportation Nation

Rising Fuel Prices Prompt Farmers to Get Creative

Friday, May 06, 2011

(New York -- Lisa Chow, WNYC)

Rising energy prices are inspiring local farmers to get more creative. But they do have one big advantage: they're close to the biggest market in the country, which is New York City.

Even those little bottles filled with jam or honey sold at farmer markets are getting more expensive, said Andrew Coté, a beekeeper in New York.

"The cost of shipping is affected," Coté said. "The bottles are made in China. They're shipped all the way to New York. The bottles are made of a petroleum based product, which is more expensive now."

Despite this week's fall in the price of crude oil, prices have risen significantly since late 2008. And nationwide, the average price for regular grade gasoline is $3.96 a gallon, which is nearly double the price from two years ago, according to the U.S. Energy Department. It's even higher in New York.

"I drive tens of thousands of miles per year to get around to my beehives. I have them within a 50-mile radius," Coté said. "With gas at $4.50 a gallon, it's very difficult to maintain prices as they are."

To deal with these rising costs, Coté came up with an idea to make more money. Instead of branding his honey "New York City honey," which is what he used to do, he is cashing in on the hype around local.

"We've got honey from West 68th, 14th and 2nd, the Financial District from on top of the Bridge Cafe, from Long Island City in Queens, from the Lower East Side. So we have hyper-local honey."

Not everyone can bring their produce from just a few blocks away.

"Gas price increases are affecting all of us in so many different ways," said Cheryl Rogowski, who manages a farm in Orange County, New York, about an hour and a half drive from the city. She sells potatoes, bok choy, radishes and many other sorts of produce at the Union Square market.

Read more at WNYC.

Listen to the radio version here:

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Transportation Nation

NEWS ANALYSIS: Obama Connects the Dots: from bin Laden to Hybrid Transmissions

Friday, May 06, 2011

President Obama Announces Death of Osama bin Laden (White House Photo)

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  If anyone doesn't quite see the links between international terrorism and more fuel-efficient transportation, the President is making it for them. He caps the week that begin Sunday night with a dramatic White House announcement that Osama bin Laden had been found and shot dead -- at a hybrid transmission plan in Indiana (streaming here, full text here).

Now, if you were a fan of the West Wing tv show, as I was, you know a President's day can have all kinds of randomly juxtaposed events (school children perform at the White House, Secretary of State comes by for a meeting, there's a dinner with broccoli producers), mostly a function of scheduling.

But in a week where the White House is obviously paying close attention to optics -- from the purposeful stride down to the podium in the East Wing Sunday night to a somber wreath-laying at Ground Zero to a photograph of the buzz-cut 10-year old Christopher Cannizzaro of Staten Island, N.Y, whose firefighter father died on 9/11, that looks like it walked right off a Norman  Rockwell print -- it's hard to just chalk up the Indy visit as random.

As the pool report just put it, "on our way to Allison transmission, we came across a gas station displaying $4.17 a gallon. Another down the road advertised $4.14.
A few dozen gawkers dotted the streets, some of them waving US flags and others signs "I stand with planned parenthood".  Factory in sight at 11:40.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: SF's Congestion Parking Pricing, Finding a 'Non-Daft' Bike Helmet, and House Votes to Drill

Friday, May 06, 2011

The White House walked back a proposal to tax people based on how many miles they drive. "This is not a bill supported by the administration," says a spokesperson. (The Hill)

More on San Francisco's congestion parking pricing. (Bay Citizen via New York Times)

Gas prices may fall a bit in the short term, but they will keep rising for years to come. (Planet Money/NPR)

(photo courtesy of Senator Boxer/Flickr)

The House passed a measure that would require the Interior Department to conduct four offshore oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia. (Washington Post)

California high-speed rail planners revived a long-discarded route option that could save billions of dollars and eliminate a sweeping dogleg through Los Angeles County's high desert towns. (Los Angeles Times)

Ray LaHood calls for a multi-year FAA reauthorization bill in Politico.

A Guardian reporter writes: "Finding a non-daft looking cycle helmet is the holy grail for vain cyclists." Has she found it? Yes and no.

Arizona has created a “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate to raise money for the tea party movement. (Roll Call)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--federal regulators unveiled new bus safety rules (link)

--DOT secretary Ray LaHood said an announcement about who gets Florida's high-speed rail money should come "next week" (link)

--New York City's subways are dirtier -- or are they? (link)

--a Maryland county gets closer to Bus Rapid Transit (link)

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The Takeaway

The Tale of Rising Gas Prices

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gas prices just keep on going up, up, up, and the average American's wallet keeps getting thinner, thinner, thinner. Congress is set to return back to session next week, and try to remedy the situation.  But is there anything they can really do to lower gas prices, and haven't we all seen this same movie before?

The Takeaway's Washington correspondent, Todd Zwillich, looks at the upcoming political debate over gas prices.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Gas Prices Spur Increase In Driving on Empty, China's HSR System Under Scrutiny, And Will NYkers Hail a Yellow Mercedes?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ford had its most profitable quarter in 13 years. (Detroit Free Press)

AAA says the rise in gas prices has led to a rise in people running out of fuel on the roads. (KHOU)

The Crow Reservation in Montana has launched a transit program. (Billings Gazette)

George Michael song or vehicle name? Sweden is testing the "Arctic Whisper," which is "the world’s first fast-charging serial hybrid bus." (Autopia)

China's high-speed rail system is under scrutiny amid concerns that builders ignored safety in order to build ever-faster trains. (Washington Post)

Marketplace launched an "Oil Through the Ages" map.

NYC's Taxi and Limousine commission has approved a Mercedes for use as a yellow cab. (NY Daily News)

If you see a scary video, share a scary video: NY's MTA launched a Department of Homeland Security-funded ad campaign (video below).

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- Illinois will now track "dooring" collisions. (Link)

-- Will transportation apps revolutionize transit? (Link)

-- The Taxi of Tomorrow might be built in Brooklyn. (Link)

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The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Libya, Budget, Muslim Radicalization

Monday, March 07, 2011

Whether or not to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya is becoming a hot issue in Washington. Many lawmakers like Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), are calling for a no-fly zone, as rebels in Libya face rough times against the better equiped Libyan armed forces. Callie Crossley, host of The Callie Crossley Show on WGBH in Boston, looks at what we can expect next in the Libyan crisis this week.

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The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Budget, Middle East, Jobs

Monday, February 28, 2011

The government is on the verge of a shutdown Friday, as Democrats and Republicans try and come up with some kind of resolution on the budget. Chrystia Freeland, global editor-at-large of Reuters, and Charlie Herman, economics editor for The Takeaway and WNYC Radio, will look into their chrystal balls and see if any resolution is in sight. While Washington makes attempts at a budget resolution, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to Switzherland to come up with a resolution on dealing with Col. Moammar el-Gadhafi and Libya. Are Gadhafi's days numbered? 

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Unrest in the Petrol States

Friday, February 25, 2011

Steve LeVine of "The Oil and the Glory" blog at Foreign Policy, and Dan Dicker author of Oil's Endless Bid: Taming the Unreliable Price of Oil to Secure Our Economy, discuss the unrest in the Middle East and its relationship to the soaring price of oil and the rising price of gas.

Read a Recap and Join the Conversation at It's A Free Country

The Takeaway

As Oil Prices Rise, Looking at the Year Ahead for Energy

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back in 2008, the price of a barrel of oil rose to $133, and prices at the pump topped $4 per gallon. As the economy slowed, and demand for oil dropped, the price did as well. However, the cost of oil has risen to just over $90 a barrel, as confidence in the economic recovery grows stronger and the price of filling up your car is expected to keep rising throughout 2011. What will happen to our economic recovery if we hit the psychological benchmark of $100 per barrel or higher this year?

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Transportation Nation

Public Transit, Personal Economy

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

(T. Rivkin/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Each month, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) releases a monthly transit savings report, in which it calculates the cost savings that residents in 20 different cities (with the highest transit ridership) would realize if they dumped their cars and relied upon public transit.

In theory, you know that untethering yourself from insurance payments and gas prices will save you money. And yet perhaps you will be unprepared to read this month that you might save $13,962 annually if you dumped your car, which is what APTA estimates car-owning New Yorkers would save.

APTA is a public transit advocacy organization -- one of my colleagues refers to it as "the Chamber of Commerce for transit agencies"--so bear that in mind. However, $13,962 is a large enough number to make most people want to read the fine print.  The average cost savings  for these 20 cities was $9,515.

Here's how APTA explains their methodology. (I roughly interpret their equation as "the price of your monthly transit pass - cost of car ownership [gas, insurance, parking]=savings.)

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Transportation Nation

Obama's New Diesel Standards

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New diesel fuel economy standards are expected to be finalized within a week and some in the diesel industry are taking the occasion to remind us about the other way to reduce pollution, making engine technology cleaner with clean diesel.   The new regulations are expected to require diesel engines to increase miles per gallon performance primarily for light trucks and heavy-duty vehicles, but regulating that category is no easy task.

In Europe, 50% of the cars on the road are diesel according to the Diesel Technology Forum. Here in the U.S though, diesel vehicles make up just 3% of of our vehicles, accounting for 10% of our nation's oil consumption, and 20% of the transit-related pollution. That's an environmental opportunity when you think of what a few extra miles-per-gallon would do with a bus or truck that travels over a million miles during its lifetime.

Its a complicated matter though to set fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles, a category that covers tractor trailers as well as construction vehicles like dump trucks. The fuel is consumed in many different ways, it could be used making cross country highway trips or in operating equipment on the truck while stationary like a cement mixer.  Some vehicles go 100,000 miles a year, others may not travel more than a few hundred, like a fire truck. Some argue per-mile efficiency may not be the best metric for reducing diesel consumption and pollution across the board. The NYT has a nice explanation of this and other regulatory puzzles that explain some of the delay in targeting this class of transit polluter.

Mileage standards are certainly one way to reduce diesel pollution, but technology is another. In anticipation of the new regulations, clean diesel advocates at the Diesel Technology Forum pointed out a 52% rise in clean diesel vehicle sales over a year ago. No one expects clean diesel to rival hybrids for the mantle of greener cars, but it may well be a growth market and an eco-opportunity.

One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that we can cut fuel consumption in heavy-duty vehicles almost in half with the combination of new technologies and diesel fuel economy standards. That's likely the kind of hopeful case for change the Obama administration will make when they release the official standards.

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WQXR News

California Residents Return Home After Pipeline Explosion

Monday, September 13, 2010

Residents in San Bruno, California have been allowed to return home after a natural gas pipeline explosion and subsequent fire on Thursday that killed at least four people, injured 50 and destroyed at least 50 homes. California regulators are telling Pacific Gas and Electric to survey all of its natural gas lines in the state, in hopes of heading off another disaster.

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Transportation Nation

The Highway Trust Fund: Big Wheel, Keep on Turning

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perpetual Motion by Norman Rockwell(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Stephen B. Goddard, in his (very excellent) book Getting There, aptly compared the Highway Trust Fund to a perpetual motion machine. Devised in 1956 to pay for the Interstate Highway System, the HTF, as it’s often abbreviated, pooled gas taxes and other automobile-related revenues and spit them right back out as construction money for more highways, the presence of which encouraged more driving and therefore more revenue, and so on.  As Goddard tells it, the HTF was more of an engineering marvel than the roads it built: “It satisfied those who wanted spending linked to revenues, those opposed to diversion [of gas tax monies to non-highway purposes], and congressmen, who would now have one less vote to justify at election time.”

The magical self-feeding road beast did its thing for fifty years, but now, as transportation writer Yonah Freemark laid out last week, it’s become a much more complicated mechanism.

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Transportation Nation

WSJ Finds Gas Mileage for Airlines. Will it Change Your Choice?

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's was a wonderful piece of reporting this week in the Middle Seat column of the Wall Street Journal: a review of DOT data, yielding what amounts to an MPG rating for the airlines.  Alaska came out on top, with a bit of luck (like being West Coast-based) and some good practices (like shutting down engines quickly at the gate).  The worst guzzlers turn out to the three biggest U.S. carriers.

But here's the big question: would information like this -- that getting you from LAX to JFK sucks around 10 gallons more fuel on Delta than it does on JetBlue on average -- cause you to change who you buy your ticket from?  Let us know in the comments.

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Transportation Nation

The Whimper at the End of the Energy Debate

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

(Washington, DC - Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) This is the way the summer ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper.

The U.S. Senate has hung up its energy policy ambitions for now, shelving any hope of even the narrowest drilling or green energy legislation before lawmakers head home for the August recess at the end of this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday afternoon that he was canceling plans for a vote on a package of energy provisions after the bill, much of which was bipartisan, failed to attract a single Republican.

"Since Republicans refuse to move forward with any meaningful debate, we’ll postpone tomorrow’s vote on energy until after the recess,” Reid told reporters yesterday.

That comment was the death knell for a spring and summer of wrangling over energy legislation in the Senate.

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