Cleaner cars OK’d by Obama

Good news on the car emissions front. This today from the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Less than a week into office, President Obama announced monumental decisions this morning that show America and the world that he will lead our country in a bold new direction to protect the environment and fight global warming.

The President directed his EPA to immediately review the Bush Administration’s denial of the right of California and other states to set global warming pollution standards for new cars. He also directed the Department of Transportation to set higher national fuel efficiency standards.

What will that mean in the real world? If Obama’s EPA, as expected, approves the California program, new cars sold in that state and at least 13 others will have to reduce their global warming pollution by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016. And the Department of Transportation will require more efficient new cars to be on the road starting in 2010, and set a course for the average new car to achieve maximum feasible fuel efficiency by 2020.

Simply put, President Obama is not just stepping up to the threat of climate chaos. His call for a fleet of cleaner cars will help reduce our dangerous dependence on oil and push automakers to make the cars that the world wants and needs in the 21st century.

NRDC’s climate attorneys were present at the White House this morning, and you can imagine their elation at this historic breakthrough. Thanks to your support, NRDC led the fight in 2002 for California’s Clean Cars Law — the very first law to cut global warming pollution from automobiles.

And when the Bush Administration and the automakers threw up roadblocks to that law, NRDC and our partners took the legal fight all the way to the Supreme Court — and won. But the Bush EPA persisted in its unlawful obstructionism until the bitter end.

This morning, President Obama took America’s foot off the brake and put cleaner cars into high gear. The automakers should be lining up to thank him. This is just the kind of turbo-charged policy they need to start producing cars that are better for the planet, better for consumers, and better for the economy.

This is especially good considering news that was released on NPR today that global warming is irreversible, for practical purposes — meaning that we should reduce our carbon dioxide emissions NOW to try to have a positive influence for people in, oh, a thousand years.

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Last chance to get a hybrid vehicle tax credit

If you are looking to buy a hybrid vehicle, you might have heard about the federal income tax credit for purchasers of those cars and trucks.

The credit, however, begins to phase down and then expire after any given manufacturer has sold 60,000 of its hybrid vehicles.

It also only applies to new, purchased vehicles. If you lease the car, the car dealer/lease company gets the credit.

If a new hybrid purchase is on the horizon, full or partial credits are still available for these 2008 models:
– Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
– Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
– Ford Escape Hybrid
– GMC Yukon Hybrid
– Mazda Tribute Hybrid
– Mercury Mariner Hybrid
– Nissan Altima Hybrid
– Saturn Aura Hybrid
– Saturn Vue Green Line

Toyota and Lexus vehicles are out.

If you buy a Honda Civic Hybrid 2008 model before Dec. 31, you can claim a $525 tax credit.

Looking to buy next year’s model? Only the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner will qualify for a tax credit.

Get the complete scoop at the Feds’ site here.

Friday wrap-up: Hacking Craigslist, ceiling fans, efficient cars, boob-powered iPods

Get Rich Slowly this week posted a terrific tip to subscribe to a search on Craigslist. Mwah ha ha, when the right Kromski Prelude spinning wheel comes along, I will be all over it!

It is ceiling fan season — and The Simple Dollar posted a simple list of ways to get your ceiling fan to work for you (and reduce energy use/costs in the meantime).

Going somewhere? Verda Vivo posted a list of the most fuel-efficient cars. She has calculated their efficiency in gallons per 100 miles, which makes their efficiency especially tempting.

And saving the best for last, scientists are reportedly working on technology — to be available in a few years — that would allow joggers’ bouncing bosoms to power their iPods. Yes! Now there is a way to multitask while exercising.

How about 235 mpg?

Last week, I wrote about a forthcoming hybrid vehicle from Honda. Some of the comments concerned the fact that today’s hybrids scarcely get better mileage than some vehicles got in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s — hardly enough to justify their higher expense.

How about a VW that gets 235 miles to the gallon? That blows the early Hondas out of the water. Tentatively slated to be available in 2010 in limited quantities, the Volkswagen 1l (for 1 liter of fuel per 100km) is a two-seater — but with that mileage you can get the kids their own. (Via Green Daily)

It’s supposedly a safe vehicle, according to the VW Web site, but I notice they didn’t attach a price. I don’t think we’ve seen a cheap VW since the original Bug, so meanwhile, the jury is out.

Would you ride two in a row if it saved you that much gas?

Hybrid car competition heats up!

Today, hybrid car competition has heated up with the announcement that Honda is planning to introduce two new hybrid models.

One of them, the company hopes, will be priced at under $20,000 for a five-seat, four-door hatchback model. That’s at least $4,000 less than Toyota’s Prius and is likely to make price incentives a possibility for car buyers — they haven’t been happening because Toyota’s had the groovy-hybrid market all to itself. (Honda makes a hybrid Civic and that’s it, for now.)

This is excellent news for those of us looking to improve our footprint next year. It will be even better news in about four years when those vehicles really start hitting the resale market.

See the full story here.

Help me choose a car

Every morning for a couple of weeks, Mr. Cheap’s car has been drooling some green iridescent solution (yes, that would be coolant … and apparently everything else under the sun) in the gutter. He drives a 14-year-old Toyota Camry with hideous paint that he bought for a song in January 2007 to shuttle him to his student teaching job.

Well, he’s about to finish school, and the Camry is sitting at the Toyota dealership (because our local mechanics wouldn’t touch it and he needed to know what’s REALLY wrong with it). They called today and read me a laundry list of issues with it. The base line is a new water pump, timing belt and something else for $950. It goes up from there … although they included a new door handle to replace the broken one at $279 (no thanks! Hey, it DOES open the door).

We don’t know for sure if the dealer is way overpriced. Like I said, two mechanics in our neighborhood have hemmed and hawed it right out of the shop. (Our only comparison is our Subaru dealer’s service area, which is comparably priced compared to the highly rated local mechanic who messed up our brakes horribly so we had to redo them … at the Subaru dealer in California, taking up a vacation day.)

But it seems Mr. Cheap’s gloomy forecast might have been correct, and we might need another vehicle. Your eco/econ input is invited.

Most of the time, we only really need one car. Sometimes, we need two. Unknown: Where Mr. Cheap will be teaching next year and whether we’ll need a second reliable car or just a once-in-a-blue-moon ride.

Mr. Cheap would like a truck, but between miles per gallon and safety per family, it’s not in the picture. I’d like a minivan (no mockery from the peanut gallery, please), but again, the gas mileage won’t let me do it.

We currently drive a not-quite-paid-off 2004 Subaru Forester. About 20-25 mpg and a not-so-great emissions record. We still have a little over a year of payments on that car.

We’re thinking about getting a newer car and giving Mr. Cheap the Subaru for his less-frequent driving. But what to choose for the new #1?

Fuel economy-wise, I would love to get a Prius. But hardly any used Priuses (Pries? Prii?) are available, or if they are, they save only $1,000 or $2,000 over a used one. The other factors are:

  • A new Prius runs $24,000ish. As we weren’t planning on buying a new car NOW, we have little to no down payment saved. Payments would push $500 a month for a 5-year loan. We probably could afford to run both loans for a year, although I’d rather not.
  • On the carbon front, we would cut our emissions in half.
  • We would get a $2,000 one-time state income tax credit.
  • We would cut our annual fuel costs by an estimated $1,200.
  • Financially, our insurance/registration costs would likely go up enough to almost eat up those fuel cost savings.
  • I haven’t driven one yet, but hear they aren’t that comfortable to drive.

Do you have any feedback, readers? Know of any terrific, great-gas-mileage-getting, people-hauling (must seat at least 5) vehicles we should look into? Or do you have any wonderful savings suggestions for those who need a car now (gulp)?