The reaction to the new fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks has been mostly positive. Environmentalists say the new rules are long overdue, and even automobile manufacturers are on board with the changes.
The new standards announced this week will increase average fuel economy to 54.5 mile per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025, compared to the current standard of 29.7 mpg. The Obama Administration says this will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump, resulting in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle, and it will reduce U.S. oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025 -- as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC each day.
Furthermore, the standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, reducing emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program -- more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010. "These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "It’ll strengthen our nation’s energy security, it’s good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last."
He also said that achieving the new standards will encourage innovation and investment in advanced technologies that
Of course, as with any new regulatory initiative, there are some critics out there, including many conservative members of Congress. No surprise there. They object to the higher vehicle cost, what they say will be reduced vehicle choices for drivers who want large cars or trucks, and they say that safety will suffer as a result of new lighter vehicles.
And while automakers have signed off on the rules, their dealership organization expressed concern, according to a report in CNN Money. The National Automobile Dealers Association estimates an average $3,000 increase in the price of each vehicle to comply with the rules. The group says that will put the new car out of reach to an estimated 7 million potential buyers.
However, the argument that the higher fuel economy standards will hurt sales is weak at best. As administration officials point out, the nearly $8,000 in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle more than outweighs the higher sticker price at the dealership.
Furthermore, we have to wonder where these dealers have been while car sales were steadily rising throughout this past year, even as other industries are still struggling to recover from the recession.
The rebound in auto sales may be attributed in some part to pent-up demand as consumers held off on car purchases during the recession, but a contributing factor has been the growing demand for more fuel efficient cars as gas prices continue to rise. In fact, strong sales growth for the more fuel efficient small- and mid-sized cars helped bring U.S. automakers back from the brink of collapse.
Since we don’t expect gas prices to go down significantly any time soon, or ever in fact, the market demand for fuel efficiency will only go up.
As for the argument about smaller cars being less safe, consider this report from PBS.org: Studies have shown that SUVs, because of their higher center of gravity, are more prone to rollovers than smaller passenger cars. And single-vehicle rollovers cause more fatalities than any other motor vehicle accident -- one-quarter of all deaths -- according to the report.
As for non-rollover accidents, such as front- and side-impact collisions, SUVs do offer better protection for their own occupants in multi-vehicle crashes. However, SUVs are more likely to injure or kill the occupants of the other vehicles in the crash. It’s like those people who drive cars with halogen lights. Sure, they can see better at night, but they blind everybody else on the road. So in the future, when all new cars are being built the same way, with lighter materials, the big, heavy heaps will be coming off the roads, making everyone safer.