More Fuel for the Fire

I was going to post this later, but since John and ED are arguing about C4C, now seems like a good time to bring it up:

Analysts at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore Labs have run the numbers on the US energy use in 2009, and come up with similar results to those obtained when examining the country’s carbon emissions: energy use is dropping at a pace that is faster than would be expected based on the slowing economy alone. Even better, the growth in renewable energy, coupled with increased use of natural gas, is displacing significant amounts of coal.[…]

According to the Livermore analysts, both economics and higher-efficiency appliances and vehicles helped push down the energy use last year, dropping consumption from 2008’s 99 Quads. Coal and petroleum use both declined significantly (coal was down by 10 percent), with more efficient vehicles accounting for much of the latter. Lowered electricity use accounted for much of coal’s drop, as did displacement by natural gas. But total natural gas use also dropped, at least in part because solar, hydro, and geothermal power all increased slightly, and wind power increased significantly. It’s now at 0.7 Quads, and on pace to clear a full Quad within the next couple of years.[emphasis mine]

C4C alone can’t be the reason for that decline, but it must have helped.

60 replies
  1. 1
    danimal says:

    Can we officially call this blog Clunker Central now?

  2. 2

    Obviously, this shows there is no such thing as global warming.

  3. 3
    schrodinger's cat says:

    C4C alone can’t be the reason for that decline, but it must have helped.

    But I couldn’t trade in my 2002 Nissan Sentra, so the program didn’t work, just using front pager logic here.

  4. 4
    Warren Terra says:

    Too lazy to read your link, but your blockquote doesn’t seem to mention gasoline, and stresses types of power generation that are wholly irrelevant to power use by cars (until plug-in vehicles become popular – although they will increase the use of the power sources mentioned here, hopefully in off-peak hours, and further reduce gasoline use).

  5. 5
    mistermix says:

    @Warren Terra: “Petroleum” = gasoline. Read the quote again, it’s there.

  6. 6
    Brachiator says:

    C4C alone can’t be the reason for that decline, but it must have helped.

    That’s funny.

    But here’s one thing I wonder about. Don’t we have to look at global energy use? For example, a lot of manufacturing that previously was done in the US and Europe is now done in Asia, especially China. So, if a decline in US energy use is offset by an increase in Asia energy use, then are we really doing so well?

  7. 7
    licensed to kill time says:

    ♩ ♪ ♫ We didn’t start the fire! ♩ ♪ ♫

  8. 8
    beltane says:

    I recently read that my state had one of the highest participation rates for C4C in the country, which probably correlates with all the new Priuses, MG Minis, and other high-efficiency cars I’m seeing on the road now. Aside from environmental concerns, it’s really nice to not have to sink your whole paycheck into the gas tank every week.

  9. 9
    MikeJ says:

    How does this explain the massive girth of a former vice president?

    Also, your measurement of NG usage uses *British* thermal units. THIS IS AMERICA! USE AMERICANS!

  10. 10
    Three-nineteen says:

    @Warren Terra: Let me excerpt mistermix’s excerpt for you:

    Coal and petroleum use both declined significantly (coal was down by 10 percent), with more efficient vehicles accounting for much of the latter.

  11. 11
  12. 12

    … energy use is dropping at a pace that is faster than would be expected based on the slowing economy alone …

    This is most excellent news. Oil prices keep dropping because demand has dropped.

    The best way to say Fuck You to Al Qaeda and the Taliban and Halliburton and Dick Cheney and the Saudis and the MIC and Sarah Palin and BP is to get off the oil tit.

    Just my .02

  13. 13
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    This link:


    shows that approx 690K cars were sold under the program and that MPG changed as follows:

    * New vehicles Mileage: 24.9 MPG
    * Trade-in Mileage: 15.8 MPG
    * Overall increase: 9.2 MPG, or a 58% improvement

    Nonetheless, 690K cars is a piddling sum given how many other gas consuming devices are out there. Fuck, my asshat, wingnut neighbors consume a tanker load of fuel each year just running every 2-stroke motor known to mankind 24/7 as they endlessly mow their lawn, drive their ATV around instead of walking 100 feet, etc. The only thing here in (un)Real ‘Murka (Central Misery) that stopped people from consuming gas like drunken sailors in Bangkok soliciting working women was when the price spiked to $4/gallon.

    Thus, if C4C contributed, it was a tiny contribution.

    The fact that people drove a lot less because they had no place to go (unemployed) or took vacations closer to home because they felt their job would go to India next week, *that* had a greater impact.

  14. 14
    SP says:

    For context, a Quad is about 8 billion gallons of gas, sayeth wikipedia.

  15. 15
    toujoursdan says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Oil is hovering around $70-80/barrel which is still extremely high for a world economy in recession.

    See: Crude Oil Prices: 2000-2010

    If the US/World economy turns around and growth returns, we’ll be in trouble in no time at all.

  16. 16
    Alwhite says:

    One of the tricks “no new taxes” Pawlenty played repeatedly was to implement ‘user fees’ for lots of stuff & I really wanted to suggest a user fee for parking spaces. If every exurban mall had to fork over $10/year/parking space it would encourage more public transit, which could be funded by those user fees.

    The newest atrocity here are ‘life style centers’ which are huge outdoor malls of row after row of big box stores and strip malls each with more than ample parking paving over green spaces and making walkability a big fat zero.

  17. 17
    taylormattd says:

    My understanding is that coal use for heat has dropped because of Kain’s book burning proposal.

  18. 18
    Punchy says:

    and on pace to clear a full Quad within the next couple of years

    Fuck that, I can clear two quads tonite, if my wife is in the mood.

  19. 19
    geg6 says:

    C4C would be just a fraction of this sort of decline in energy use. But any fraction is a worthwhile one.

    However, I’m guessing that energy use is down even more because people are too poor to afford keeping the thermostat at 80 in the winter and 65 in the summer, as so many have done while the “good times” and drill, baby, drill were rolling. Between losing their jobs or simply stagnating wages, people I know, solid middle-class people, are living like paupers.

  20. 20
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Wow, peevish glibertarians are really going to have to step up their gratuitous coal and gasoline usage for the just-to-annoy-the-libs factor.

  21. 21
    Zifnab says:


    So, if a decline in US energy use is offset by an increase in Asia energy use, then are we really doing so well?

    No. But we do finally get to start chanting “Not our fault!” with the rest of the world.

  22. 22
    Violet says:

    Tax credits for Energy Star appliances and other energy efficient things may be contributing too. There’s still time to take advantage of some of that, so long as you can afford the outlay of cash.

  23. 23
    S. cerevisiae says:

    Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

  24. 24
    Paris says:

    Thanks for the post. There is a lot of resistance to wind power in my area (because they want to locate the turbines here). There are numerous bitchy letters in the local paper to the effect ‘ wind never stopped a fossil fuel plant, its a hoax’ except your link shows that, yes, it does help reduce the use of coal and other fossil fuels. I will be armed with a response now.

  25. 25
    Anoniminous says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    Let’s continue on for a moment …

    The average car is driven 12,000 miles/year. Those 690,000 (projected) totals 8,280,000,000 miles/year consuming at 15.8 mpg 524,050,633 gallons per year. Those same miles consume 332,530,120 gallons per year in the new cars. Going to low-ball the average cost of 1 gallon of gas at $2.75 so that’s $1,441,139,241 before and $914,457,830 after spent on gas saving $526,681,411 a year.

    Refiners can get 19 to 20 gallons of gas per barrel of oil. Give ’em the benefit and call it 20. That means it took 26,202,531 barrels of oil to fuel the clunkers versus 16,626,506 with the new cars. Putting that in perspective the US imports, roughly, 9,013,000 bbls/day, the increased fuel mileage saved 9,576,025 bbls so the savings is right around ‘days worth’ of oil imports “saving” $718,201,875 (at $75/bbl.)

    I note, ‘tho I can’t put a number to it, not refining and burning that gasoline saves some money from disease prevention and environment damage not happening.

    The average life of a car is four years so multiply everything by four and we get:

    gallon gas saved: 1,330,120,480
    $$$ saved: $2,106,725,644
    bbl oil saved: 38,304,100
    $$$ saved: $2,872,807,500

    The cost of C4C was $2,877,000,000 – at least according to the one website I found with a number :-)

    The Public investment in C4C gives a projected 100% return, more-or-less, in 4 years.

    I submit that’s one hell of a return.

    PLUS we got to keep the US car industry.

    PLUS all the diseases and environmental damage that won’t happen.

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    Who hasn’t participated in blog comments on this general topic that hasn’t included at least one winger saying, “Just to annoy you Lyberuls I’m going out to my driveway right now, starting my Expedition and letting it idle a few hours. Ha-ha-ha!”

    Similar thinking behind a local paper’s letter to the editor from someone raging against an in-town Wal-Mart discontinuing plastic bags. He basically said, “I’m protesting this mindless action. I’ll take my business to the Wal-Mart in (neighboring town) where I can still have my choice! Suck it, Wal-Mart!”

    The spark flickers dimly in these folks.

  27. 27
    trollhattan says:

    Not everybody is taking this GHG reduction laying down. Giant sacks of (mostly Texas) money is being thrown at California Prop 23, which does the following:

    Suspends State laws requiring reduced greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. Requires State to abandon implementation of comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension is lifted.

    Take that, DFHs!

  28. 28

    Oil is hovering around $70-80/barrel which is still extremely high for a world economy in recession.

    Nonsense. During the “Bush Boom” (mustkeepstraightface) oil was $100 a barrel. We were told the reason was “a surge in demand from China and India.”

    Might have been a drunk oil futures trader’s fat fingers, we’ll never know for sure.

  29. 29

    So, if a decline in US energy use is offset by an increase in Asia energy use, then are we really doing so well?

    China is investing in alternative energy in a BIG way tho.

  30. 30
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:


    I agree that as a public investment, stimulus, wtf we want to call it, C4C was an unqualified success.

    I’m merely pointing out that it’s effect on the reduced numbers cited is miniscule.

    And as long as gas stays here in (un)Real ‘Murka below $3 per gallon, these morans won’t be shifting over to thrifty little cars like my Mazda3 anytime soon, gubmint program or no gubmint program.

    Now, if we hiked the gas tax $1.5 per gallon, then we’re talkin’.

  31. 31
    K. Grant says:

    I have the perfect solution to both our budgetary problems and our dependence on foreign oil (of course I am hardly the author of this solution, but it seems to make sense to raise the issue here) – raise the federal gasoline tax by some stupendous amount (a dollar a gallon would not be a bad start). Voila, you have raised revenues, encouraged conservation, made a significant dent in demand, and likely encourage people to support the expansion of mass transit systems.

    Now, those courageous political types who actually passed said tax would likely need to find new employment, but it would be worth it.

  32. 32
    Martin says:

    Let’s not completely neglect to note that the nations largest economy has created an energy market that rewards power companies for selling less power, not more. Those incentives for CFCs and low-power appliances are extremely effective.

    Some of policies that have led to this result are 30 years old, yet it still seems like magic to policymakers elsewhere in the country. The next big move here in CA is the mileage and alternative fuel mandate which is why cars like the Leaf are arriving (a few of my friends are getting them). In spite of our energy policy, which should be a model for the nation, we get mocked as being a complete disaster of a state. Imagine if we had 49 more states like CA.

  33. 33
    Anoniminous says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    My comment was intended to “Revise and Extend” your comment, not criticize.

    I agree with raising the gasoline tax IF the money is used to fund Public Transportation: urban light rail, trams, High Speed Rail, people movers, & so on.

    Unfortunately, to really make public transportation “work” we need a much higher population density/acre than is the norm in the US.

    But that’s another discussion. :-)

  34. 34
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @trollhattan: Oh yes – my favorite example of the form was a really butthurt blog post (non-political blog, but the blogger skews very wingnut when he does mention politics) where the guy described going down in his basement and releasing some freon from an old canister just to show his contempt for environmental regulations.

  35. 35
    Dork says:

    How does “Black Jimmy Carter” tag fit here, other than oil is black, too?

    My $0.02 — This blog should not permit postings by those who cannot defend themselves in the comments due to work filters and such. These mutiple posts could have been fawt in the comments section instead, instead of shitting on DougJ’s treatsie on how Sully hates Halperin’s Broderism.

  36. 36
    Anoniminous says:


    Technically that is known as “cognitively challenged dysfunction.”

    In the general parlance it’s known as “being as dumb as a sack of hammers.”

  37. 37
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:


    I certainly agree about the problematic nature of where raised gas tax revenue would end up. Working where I do, I know that the state DOTs would scream for increased funding for every pet road project that’s been on the books for 50 years. And every Congress member would spend endless time working on milking every last dime in any revised formula for his or her state.

    So, raising the gas tax significantly would be a direct incentive on people to change their habits…but I don’t think anybody here trusts The Legislative Process to do the right thing with such enhanced revenues. Fuck, the Repups would probably want a corresponding tax reduction on the rich.

  38. 38
    catclub says:

    “Imagine if we had 49 more states like CA. ”

    Not all good news. The population would over 1.5B.

    Just think, 50 Darrell Issa’s in congress!

  39. 39
    Joseph Nobles says:

    Caught in moderation? But he is, he is!!

    Also, I’ve been trying to avoid finding out what “310 million tits” means. Ah, jeez, just did.

  40. 40
    Warren Terra says:

    Fair enough. Maybe I should pay a bit of attention to what I read.

  41. 41
    El Cid says:

    Moody’s chief economist called John Boehner a weirdo orange piece of shit. Well. Not quite. But almost.

  42. 42
    KG says:

    @Anoniminous: I’ll throw in one other added benefit. From what I gather*, when cars in the US hit a certain mileage, they become very difficult to sell here, but rather than be destroyed, they are placed on ships and then sold in the developing world. There, they run for another couple hundred thousand miles. So, by destroying the vehicles, we may have helped the environment out a bit more than we realized.

    *Feel free to stop reading at this point, because I have nothing to back up what I’m saying other than what I remember hearing from someone, somewhere, once.

  43. 43
    stuckinred says:

    BERLIN — A 35-year-old man who walked around for five years with a bullet lodged in the back of his head says he suspected for a while something was there but only went to doctors after he started getting headaches.

  44. 44
    wufnik says:

    Bringing E.D. Kain onto the blog is having the same impact on me that bringing Charles Bird onto Obsidian Wings had.

  45. 45
    Anoniminous says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    From what I can see (see comment to KG, below) Peak Oil is going to raise the price of gasoline willy-nilly. In the 14 years I’ve owned my car — and I DO keep records, I’m a PITA that way — the cost of fueling the beast has doubled. I fully expect it to double over the next 10 years. That process will, eventually, force the internal combustion engine to go the way of the dodo.


    Go for it. I’ve dealt with Marketing Depts where “anecdotal” was not only a synonym for data it was the highest possible verified and persuasive data one could bring to a discussion.


  46. 46
    ruemara says:

    on pace to clear a full Quad within the next couple of years.

    All I want to do is clear ICC 10 and Ulduar hard mode. THANK YEW, be here all week, try the veal.

    On a car related note, if someone would give me some cash for a new car, I would gladly part with my clunker, currently holding down the pavement in my driveway.

  47. 47
    mr. whipple says:

    “Imagine if we had 49 more states like CA. ”

    Great. None of us could afford a house.

  48. 48
    Fern says:

    Anyone know where the cutoff comes when balancing the reduced energy use in energy efficient cars and the energy used in manufacturing a car that someone would not have purchased without C4C?

  49. 49
    Mnemosyne says:


    There’s a link in one of the other threads (I think the very first one) — it’s something like only 10% of the total energy expended by the car is its manufacturing. So, yes, it is much more efficient to manufacture more efficient cars and get them on the road than to let clunkers keep spewing pollution.

  50. 50
    Cermet says:

    @Anoniminous: Math show off … now if reporters had half your energy and most of your IQ … yeah, right. Next, a fake news viewer will get an orginal idea … .

  51. 51
    trollhattan says:


    I undrstand that’s the case with Japan, where the laws are aimed at keeping older cars off the road, regardless of condition. As a result they ship bunches of good-condition used cars to other countries.

    I don’t live in the rust belt and it seems like cars stay on the road here a looong time (decades). The system is pretty efficient too. Trade-ins at new car dealers are cherry-picked for their used car lots and the rest are auctioned off. All but the undriveable/unlicensable ones go into the used market; the rest are scrapped. Of those, many if not most go to the pick-and-pull yards. The hulks are eventually scrapped and recycled.

    I don’t bother myself with the “how much resources does it take to build a new car” discussions because it’s a canard. We’re quite adroit at wringing the lifespan out of our cars, whether it’s the first owner or the fourth, and the system to recycle what’s left is quite good.

  52. 52
    bobbo says:

    You know what’s really sad? This is the best fucking news I’ve heard in months. I was starting to wonder what would even qualify as good news anymore.

  53. 53
    Anoniminous says:


    Thank you.

  54. 54
    Jeremy B says:

    OMG. I just read the original link (“Used car prices rise to new hights“) that got this whole thing started.

    This is actually a HILARIOUS misreading by conservatives. As usual.

    The average price of a three-year old car is 11.1 percent higher than it was last year – the highest year-over-year increase since Edmunds began keeping records in 2004.

    Yes, there is supply and demand involved. But let’s think this through….

    The other way of reading this is “The average VALUE of a three-year old car is 11.1 percent higher than it was last year”.

    When I bought a car last summer, at first I looked at late-model Subarus and Toyotas. Since I wanted reliability. But I found that those cars simply hold their value really, really well – to the extent that it was actually cost effective to get a new vehicle (I ultimately settled on Toyota’s Scion sB).

    Ford pickups do not offer the same benefit. Their value drops precipitously.

    You’ll note that the article doesn’t say “the cost of a 3-year-old Prius was 11.1 percent higher.”

    Which might mean that a bunch of 3-year-old, 100,000 mile POS gas-guzzling pickups were taken out of the equation… leaving the Priuses and Scions and the other better-mileage vehicles, driving the overall fleet average cost higher – but also fuel economy higher.

  55. 55
    Shygetz says:

    The average life of a car is four years…

    Dear America,

    Cars should not be used as heating fuel in the winter.

    If this is true, WTF are you guys doing with your cars?

  56. 56
    Anoniminous says:


    I have no idea why only four years. But that’s the statistic.

  57. 57
    Kiril says:

    Can I just pipe in here? I’ve been checking in from time to time today while doing reports, and has anyone pointed out that the car industry actually sold 5 million fewer new cars last year? It is possible that would also have an effect on the number of used cars available for purchase, possibly greater than the effect of the 0.7 million cars destroyed. In addition, it is conceivable that the demand for used cars went up last year for some reason. I don’t know. I can’t remember anything that’s happened over the past 2 years. Every day it’s like starting over.

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:


    I’m guessing it’s because of people leasing cars — leases are generally two or three years. Don’t know for sure, though.

    If they’re saying that cars are only usable for four years before they fall apart, that sounds really weird and you should probably try to find the link.

  59. 59
    Chris says:

    @Mnemosyne: Indeed, I think “average life” is the wrong term; they mean “average length of ownership of new”. Some (like me) may buy a car new and keep it for 10 years; others buy or lease a new car and turn it over in 2 or 3 years; and if you average “me and them”, you get four years. (Even if there are about as many ten-year types as two-year types, the two-year types make five times as many purchases over the decade, eating up the “average time” numbers.)

  60. 60
    Anne Laurie says:


    I have no idea why only four years. But that’s the statistic.

    Leases and “fleet purchases” (i.e., rental agencies) is what I’ve been told. Because of various tax loopholes, it’s more cost-effective for Hertz, Avis, et al to buy new cars every 18 months or so than to spend money on repairs for the cars they already own. The Spousal Unit has always preferred used cars, and his credit union actually has a low-rate financing program for the used cars they buy in bulk from one of the nationwide rental agencies, get certified by a reputable company, and re-sell for a reasonable profit to CU members.

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