Increasing the Mileage Standards

The White House’s latest bid to raise the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks in the United States to an average of 56.2 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2025 has already met resistance from domestic auto companies and lawmakers. It seems the Obama administration’s goals of reducing the nation’s oil consumption and carbon output will also have the negative effect of raising the cost of each vehicle by about $2,375 as well. The U.S. automakers have already offered to raise fuel efficiency of new vehicles over the next eight years to between 42.6 and 46.7 mpg, but the administration wants a bit more.

The administration’s proposal represents a 5% annual fuel efficiency improvement, while the automaker’s numbers would equal only a 2 or 3 % improvement.

White House spokesmen said “We continue to work closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop an important standard that will save families money and keep the jobs of the future here.

A final decision has not been made, and as we have made clear we plan to propose that standard in September.” Even though the stricter requirements could save 4.7 billion barrels of oil by 2030 and $705 billion in fuel costs during the same period, not everyone is onboard with the proposal. A spokesperson from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers pointed out that environmentalists have an overly optimistic view of Americans’ commitment to buying fuel-efficient vehicles. The new rule would translate to about 60 mpg and U.S. automakers have said they cannot achieve that level of efficiency at a price American consumers are willing to pay.

Noting that a single model of pickup truck outsold all of the 30 hybrids on the U.S. market combined in 2010, Alliance spokeswoman Gloria Berquist said “we need to preserve affordability, vehicle choice, jobs and safety as we improve fuel economy.” In response, White House spokesman Clark Stevens wrote in an e-mail statement that “We continue to work closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop an important standard that will save families money and keep the jobs of the future here.

A final decision has not been made, and as we have made clear we plan to propose that standard in September.” The numbers today show that passenger cars currently average 30.2 mpg and light trucks average 24.1 mpg. Auto company representatives did not comment on their specific position’s, but Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said in an email that “Ford is proud to continue offering our customers the very best fuel economy and supports increasing fuel economy requirements with one national program that is data driven and factors in the impact of this rule-making on jobs, the economy, consumers and safety.”

Although the federal government has provided the U.S. auto industry with more than $90 billion in bailouts and loans in recent years, the automakers are cautiously optimistic at best when asked about the proposed 56.2 mpg fuel efficiency rules and stressed that they are tasked with building cars and light trucks that American consumers will actually want to purchase. No matter how you slice it, smaller cars with less features that cost far more than automobiles in the past are not likely to be a big hit with many purchasers in the country today or tomorrow.

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