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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Got Mammary Fluid?

What will happen when a gallon of gas costs on average more than a gallon of milk? This is supposed to be some kind of milestone, but when you consider the petro-chemicals that went into the livestock-feed and transporation cost that go into this gallon of milk ... well, do you notice a bit of an inflationary spiral trend here? See below, and then way below.

Grist has an article on the $.50 gas tax and the players and politicos involved. Apparently, poor WalMart is taking a beating on profits because of oil prices.

Two recent items on the uncalibrated (i.e. wrong) CAFE standards on rating automobile highway and city mileage. Here and here. Basically, the estimates have been too high because of recent driving patterns that include more stop-and-go traffic conditions.

What is most interesting about this story is the length of time that this issue has hovered around the periphery. An earlier warning was back in 1980.
The labeling program had a number of problems initially with the measurement of vehicle mileage. A Congressional Committee hearing noted, "As the public quickly discerned, the EPA mileage figures were not an accurate measure of on-road performance" (US House, 1980). According to Elder Bontekoe of EPA's Office of Mobile Sources, the tests were not run according to "real world" conditions and considerably overestimated the actual mileage automobiles could be expected to achieve. In response, in 1985 a formula was worked out to adjust the mileage for actual city and highway driving conditions. This new system has been found to be fairly reliable (Bontekoe, 1993).

Then they went and fixed it, but 24 years later we have come full circle. Not one to shy away from doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation, this miscalibration is responsible for a virtual loss of several billion barrels of oil. This is oil, that consumers think they were saving by looking at MPG stickers on the car lot, but disappeared under real-world conditions.

Grist also has a review of the petro-genetic-chemical-based agricultural treatise by Richard Manning called Against the Grain


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