Forcing Americans into smaller cars.
Economist – Dec. 5, 2007
It is too bad the author doesn’t know what is really going on behind the scenes of the CAFÉ’ mandates -- Ed.
ASK a European to describe a typical American car in one word and the answer will invariably be “big”. An energy bill set to pass through the House of Representatives this week is likely to number the days of the vast automobiles that are such a potent symbol of American power. On Friday November 30th a deal was brokered by John Dingell, a pro-car Democrat, and Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house, to make cars travel on average no fewer than 35 miles per (American) gallon by 2020. As a measure of the task ahead, no car in Ford’s range is yet so thirstless.
America’s embattled carmakers have reluctantly agreed to the new efficiency standards. Their only hope of a reprieve, if the legislation makes it through Congress, is a presidential veto. George Bush objects to other parts of an energy bill that requires energy companies to produce 15% of electricity from renewable sources and ditches billions of dollars of tax breaks for oil companies. Nonetheless, in acquiescing to the proposals American car companies have accepted the inevitable: lawmakers want cars that are more fuel efficient to mitigate environmental damage and improve America’s energy security.
The new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards have been a long time coming. The 35mpg target for average fuel efficiency across the range of a car company’s vehicles in 2020 would be the first lifting of CAFE standards for cars since 1985. The current standard for corporate average fuel economy of 27.5mpg for cars was introduced that year. The standard for light trucks has been slowly lifted over the years and now stands at 22.2mpg. Since 1985 the fuel economy of cars and trucks has barely shifted. Although engines have become more efficient cars have also grown bigger and beefier. Drivers have become used to the added comforts that now come as standard and new safety features have also piled on the pounds.
So will the American love affair with the sport-utility vehicle (SUV) have to end? Some of the ardour has already gone out of the relationship. The spike in fuel prices after Hurricane Katrina, and high prices since, put a crimp on SUV sales. That has dealt a blow to a domestic car industry already reeling from the competition of lower-cost Asian carmakers… [Read More]