Fuel Efficient Vehicles
By Jeanette Joy Fisher
Surprise! The U.S.
Government Wants More Fuel Efficient Vehicles
After several years of skyrocketing gas prices,
alarming new reports about the dangers of global warning,
and a seemingly endless debate in congress concerning U.S.
energy policy, it appears as if the federal government
finally may be seriously considering a mandate that would
require increased mileage standards for American vehicles.
It's cause for some optimism, but observers aren't ready
to rejoice quite yet.
Recently, President Bush urged congress to give him the
authority to raise federal fuel economy standards for
passenger vehicles. That may sound like an encouraging
sign, but that fact is that the president has had the
power to raise those standards from the very beginning. In
fact, every president since 1975 has had that power,
granted when the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)
standards were put into place, beginning with Gerald Ford.
Most observers of the industry believe that American
vehicles should easily be able to average 40 mpg within
ten years. The technology already exists to make that
figure possible, so there's no reason why the standards
couldn't be raised immediately to help lessen the hit the
average American consumer took when gas prices tripled.
Raising the mileage standard to 40 mpg, which is the
minimum increase suggested by most observers, would save
the average American driver more than $5,000 over the
lifetime of their vehicle. Those savings are over and
above any added cost that would be required to make
vehicles more fuel efficient, and would equate to a
savings of $600 a year to the average driver.
If even a minimal standard of 40 mpg was implemented (and
prizes such as the new Auto X Prize will be soon be
encouraging entrepreneurs to invent vehicles that will get
double, triple, or quadruple that figure), Americans could
save as much as 4,000,000 barrels of oil every day. That
figure represents more than entire daily amount of oil
that America currently imports from the Persian Gulf.
There would be some safety considerations involved in
creating a new class of vehicles, since they might need to
be smaller than what is currently being offered, at least
in the initial stages. However, as hybrid technology
improves, it's entirely possible that vehicles could
remain about the same size as current models without
sacrificing mileage to any significant degree. The key
will be for automobile designers to begin thinking
creatively, which has been something American automakers
haven't done well for quite some time, even in the face of
a growing demand for more fuel efficient vehicles.
We can only hope that President Bush isn't simply
posturing about raising fuel standards to prop up his
sagging support numbers from the American public. After
all, it would seem as if he'd have to know that he already
has the power to raise mileage standards without having to
go to congress to ask for permission. Meanwhile,
supporters of increased fuel efficiency can only sit back
and wait to see if anything substantial comes from this
latest development on Capitol Hill.
Copyright © 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher
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