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The Auto Empire Rolls On

Richard Bell, Global Public Media
The automakers rolled out their biggest guns on Wednesday, March 14 for a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on the blandly titled topic of “Climate Change and Energy Security: Perspectives from the Automobile Industry.” The hearing would more honestly have been entitled, “Should We Raise Fuel Economy Standards or Do Something Else? –Anything Else!”

Hanging in the air, never to be mentioned during the hearing, was a heretical challenge:

Might it be time to question whether cars should be the foundation around which we organize our entire lives and the cities we live in?

Well, no. Not in any hearing room you’re likely to walk into at the U.S. Capitol or the House or Senate office buildings. ..

Press [Jim Press, President and CEO of Toyota North America] had nothing else to say about these alternatives to auto rule. But in his testimony, Press demonstrated over and over how Toyota’s commitment to increased fuel economy put the company on track to surpass GM as the world’s largest car manufacturer.

He pointed out that when Toyota brought the first Prius to market, gas was selling for $1 a gallon. (And the development of the car’s design took 7 years, so Toyota’s original commitment to hybrids dates back to at least the late 1980s/early 1990s.) The drive train which Toyota has developed for the Prius hybrid is the drive train the company will use to build its experimental hydrogen fuel cell cars and its electric plug-in cars.

In response to a question, Press said that Toyota had funded the entire development process; the company had received no federal money.

By contrast, Chrysler’s LaSorda noted that it was certainly not impossible to imagine a 4% annual CAFÉ increase over the next 10 years, which would give you a 50% overall increase in fuel economy. In fact, LaSorda said, his company was already building a fleet of cars that met that 10-year out standards, today:

We already do it; it’s in Europe. The fleet average in Europe is 36mpg, U.S. 24-25 mpg. Why the 50% difference? European approach to policies: highly taxed gas, with incentives on diesel fuels. And the mix of vehicles is radically different. 60% are compact or smaller, compared to 15% in U.S. And 50% of the passenger cars are diesel-powered.

(No one picked up on LaSorda’s clear explanation of the role of government tax policy in Europe in encouraging the market for high-fuel efficiency cars.) ..
(19 Mar 2007)

Probe launched after thousands trapped on Sydney trains

Staff, ABC Australia
The New South Wales Transport Minister says a full investigation will take place into last night’s transport chaos in Sydney, which followed a train breakdown on the Harbour Bridge.

Thousands of rail commuters were left stranded after the train broke down between the bridge and Wynyard Station around 5:45pm AEDT. About 14 other trains were also stopped along the North Shore line due to the blockage, with some passengers trapped on trains for about three hours.

Railcorp chief executive Vince Graham has apologised for the disruptions. Mr Graham says a southbound train became entangled in overhead wires between Milsons Point and Wynyard Station, leading to a power failure. He says the cause of the problem is not known. “The train and the overhead wire involved are both well maintained,” he said.
(15 Mar 2007)
See also Train services ‘among world’s worst’ and It’s transport, stupid.

Open skies pact ‘will worsen climate change’

Stephen Castles, The Independant
Plans to open up transatlantic aviation and generate an extra 26 million air passengers over five years will undermine Europe’s push to combat climate change, campaigners warned yesterday.

An “open skies” agreement, due to be agreed by EU transport ministers today, is being hailed as a revolution by officials who say it will deliver more competition and lower fares.

But environmental groups say the increased air traffic generated by the measure will write off all the benefits expected from separate plans to “green” aviation by bringing airlines into the EU’s carbon emissions trading scheme.

Coming just days after EU leaders announced ambitious plans to combat global warming, the row over “open skies” has prompted questions about the EU’s commitment to the environment. Under the deal, any EU airline will be able to fly to the US from any part of Europe ushering in a dramatic change in the structure of transatlantic aviation. ..
(22 Mar 2007)

Parking plan is ‘discriminatory’

Stacey Erich, Village Voice Australia
A motion to introduce a sliding scale of parking sticker fees based on vehicle emissions was brought before Mosman Council at last week’s meeting.

As council members contested environmental issues surrounding parking fees of high-emission vehicles, councillor Andrew Brown proposed a system which would apply the fees to both resident parking permits and nonresident parking stickers. He said the plan would not be discriminatory of anyone as it included all people who park their vehicles in Mosman. ..

Cr Brown said he didn’t foresee any problems with classification because “it’s already done for you. There is a Green Vehicle Guide website run by the Australian Government”. But councillor Jim Reid said it was not a viable option for the Mosman community because of the growing number of young families in the area, many of whom car-pool. “What about the people who need a seven-seater vehicle?” he said. “We are penalising the people who are bringing up the next generation.”

The motion will be considered by council officers who will prepare a report to bring before the council in coming weeks.
Mosman has some of the most expensive real estate in Australia.
(21 Mar 2007)

Faith schools fight to keep free transport

Seaford News UK
East Sussex County Council is looking to slash the £585,000 is spends on transporting children who attend denominational schools and is consulting with parents and teachers about the possible changes.

Father Anthony Churchill, of St Thomas More Church, Seaford , spoke about the issue at Masses at the weekend. A number of pupils from outlying areas are bussed to the town’s Catholic Annecy Primacy School, and older pupils in Seaford travel to Cardinal Newman School in Hove, or St Paul’s at Haywards Heath.

Fr Churchill said this week, “If the provision of free transport was removed it would have a very serious effect on children in this area.”
( 2007)