Archive for the ‘automotive’ Category

The fossil fuel industry receives a whopping $20 billion subsidy annually, in the form of tax breaks and royalty relief. That is according to a new report, G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production, published by the group Oil Change International:

The federal subsidies to fossil fuel producers represent an increase of 35% over levels when President Obama took office in 2009, in spite of calls to remove several major subsidies in every budget that the Obama administration has sent to Congress. This uptick in subsidies reflects the substantial increase in oil and gas producing activities in the US during that time. The vast majority of US national and state subsidies, by both volume and number of subsidies, come in the form of tax breaks and royalty relief, rather than direct spending. Tax and royalty exemptions for oil and gas producers are among the largest federal subsidies for fossil fuel production in the United States.

Alex Doukas, the study co-author, notes that tax breaks are largely to compensate for the cost of new oil and gas exploration: “We’re subsidizing companies to search for new fossil fuel reserves at time when we know that three-quarters of the proven reserves have to stay in the ground if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,”

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From Scott Adams:


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Here is a presentation by Mobileye Co-Founder, Chairman & CTO Prof. Amnon Shashua. Mobileye is one of the technologies used for Tesla’s autopilot feature.

Historically, the field of computer vision went through many decades with little to no progress. So to see such impressive results in a very short amount of time is completely mind boggling.

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The decline in oil prices provides the opportunity for countries to slash subsidies:

Across the Middle East and much of the developing world, government subsidies make energy cheap and encourage consumption. But governments around the world are beginning to take advantage of plummeting oil and natural gas prices by slashing the subsidies. The cuts are just a small fraction of the global total of annual subsidies, but energy experts say they are beginning to add up.

On Jan. 1, the Indonesian government abandoned a four-decade-old policy of subsidizing gasoline, permitting prices at the pump to rise and fall with global oil prices. As long as oil is cheap, Indonesians will not see much of a difference. Since October, India has stopped subsidizing diesel and raised fuel taxes. Malaysia cut subsidies on gasoline and diesel late last year. Angola, a major African producer, raised gasoline and diesel prices 20 percent in December. Ghana has also acted to remove subsidies, and Nigeria is expected to follow suit after its national elections in February. Iran cut gasoline subsidies early last year.

The US also provides gasoline subsidies, though the NY Times is confused about this:

The United States, like most developed countries, does not subsidize the consumption of energy or put price controls on fossil fuels, although environmentalists point out that oil companies receive tax breaks for exploration. A debate has begun about whether to raise gasoline taxes now to repair roads and bridges, as well as to damp demand for cheap fuel.

Actually, environmentalists would point out that the US provides huge subsidies to build and maintain roads. The gas tax collected at the pump covers only a small portion of cost of the highway infrastructure. If places like Indonesia, Iran, and Ghana can fix the subsidy problem, why can’t the US?

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There are now 5 transportation agencies within the Federal government that are being run by acting administrators:

  • The FTA: Therese McMillan’s is acting administrator while her nomination is pending in the Senate.
  • NHTSA, where David Friedman has been acting administrator since the resignation of David Strickland (over the GM ignition switch scandal).
  • The FRA, which is losing Joe Szabo (thank God!).
  • NTSB: Deborah Hersman resigned as Chair earlier this year. Christopher Hart has been Acting Chair.
  • FHWA: Gregory Nadeau is acting Administrator.

Other than McMillan, the Obama Administration has yet to make a nomination for these agencies. It is one of those rare opportunities where the Obama Administration could dramatically support transit, bikes, and livability goals. Well, that is if the Administration were really interested in doing that.

Just imagine: an NTSB that focuses on road safety, instead of hot-air balloons and rocketships. An NHTSA that implements regulations for truck sideguards. An FRA that doesn’t regulate passenger trains out of existence. An FHWA that isn’t blindly promoting highway expansion.

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NHTSA Punts on Truck Sideguards

Trucks are one of the greatest hazards for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem not just the poor visibility, but also the lack of protection around the wheels. Sideguards would greatly reduce that vulnerability, by deflecting bikes and peds away from the truck in a collision. Most trucks in Europe and Japan are required to have sideguards, but no such regulation exists in the United States.

In April 2014, the NTSB issued a recommendation for sideguard regulation. The NTSB is only an advisory body, however, so any regulation must be implemented by the NHTSA. On July 10, 2014, the NHTSA published its response to the NTSB recommendation:

NHTSA is planning on issuing two separate notices—an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single unit trucks, and a notice of proposed rulemaking focusing on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is still evaluating the Petitioners’ request to improve side guards and front override guards and will issue a separate decision on those aspects of the petition at a later date.

When the NHTSA says it needs more time to study a problem, it usually means the agency will not take action. In this case, I would be happy to be proven wrong, but it does not appear that the NHTSA is interested in the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.


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They blocked the bike lane to get their photo of the new BMW electric car. One single photo that sums up the Sierra Club approach to transport policy.


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