Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) adopted final rules nearly doubling the fuel economy standard for new cars and trucks sold between 2017 and 2025. The new standard will require these vehicles to achieve a corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. This brings the U.S. more in line with tough fuel economy standards in the European Union and China, which will remain slightly more stringent than standards in the U.S. The new U.S. standards are projected to reduce U.S. consumption of oil by two million barrels per day and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by the equivalent of one full year of emissions. The standards are expected to raise the average cost of new vehicles by $1,800 per vehicle, a cost quickly offset by the savings in fuel costs. While auto dealers and some Republican politicians criticized the new standards, they previously had been endorsed by 13 major automakers, though Volkswagen complained that the rules on fuel economy for light trucks created an unfair advantage for U.S. manufacturers.
Last week the Supreme Court of Brazil lifted a lower court order that had halted construction on the 11,000MW Belo Monte dam project on the Xingu River, an Amazon tributary. The lower court had ruled that the Brazilian government had failed to comply with the requirement that indigenous communities be consulted prior to a decision approving the project (see August 19, 2012 blog post). The Brazilian high court noted that its decision was preliminary and could be revised after a “more detailed analysis of the merit of the case.” The Brazilian government hailed the ruling, maintaining that it avoids “major and irreparable damage to the economy, to public property and to the country’s energy policy.”
Near the conclusion of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, nominee Mitt Romney stated: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise...is to help you and your family.” Particularly now that the deleterious effects of global warming and climate change already have become manifest, it is hard to see why healing the planet does not also help “you and your family.”
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied an application by Electricity de France (EDF) to build a new nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The reason for the denial is that existing regulations bar foreign companies from controlling U.S. nuclear power plants. If EDF finds a U.S. partner for the project within 60 days it may move the NRC to reopen the licensing proceeding. EDF’s failure to find a U.S. partner is widely viewed as a result of falling natural gas prices that have made it far more economic to invest in gas-fired power plants. Ed Crooks, America Denies EDF Nuclear Reactor License, Financial Times, Sept. 1/2, 2012, at 8.