Will Drivers Benefit from More Fuel-Efficient Cars Under New Government Standards?
In California and throughout the United States, there are standards in place regulating the fuel efficiency of vehicles. According to The New York Times, the current rules set forth by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program (CAFE program) mandate an average fuel efficiency of 29 miles per gallon. The CAFE program also calls for gradual increases in fuel efficiency, with a mandate that efficiency reach 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, explains a California car accident lawyer.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that the Obama administration has finalized groundbreaking new standards. These new standards mandate that vehicles have an average fuel efficiency rating of 54.5 miles per gallon for both cars and light-duty trucks by 2025. This nearly doubles fuel efficiency standards.
Praise for the New Standards
Responses to the new standards set forth by Obama have varied significantly, with advocates arguing strongly in favor and opponents arguing strongly against the benefits of the new requirements.
Proponents of the standards site the alleged cost-savings to consumers, the reduction in dependence on foreign oil, and the environmental benefits of the increased efficiency. According to the blog Think Progress, for example, higher mileage standards have shown considerable success, prompting U.S. carmakers to become more competitive with efficient foreign cars and reducing oil consumption significantly.
Michael Brune at The Huffington Post also spoke out in favor of the standards, indicating that car owners will save as much as $8,000 in gas over the lifetime of their vehicles purchased in 2025 and that automakers will be able to capitalize on the popularity of fuel-efficient cars. The article, “Obama’s Greenest Day,”also indicated that improved fuel efficiency is the most powerful tool in existence to help break the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Opponents of Obama’s new standards, on the other hand, suggest that there will be a significant cost to consumers associated with the new requirements. In an article on FrontPage called, “Why You Will Never Buy a Car Again,” author Daniel Greenfield indicated that the only car model most people would be able to afford once the new standards go into effect would be a “small hybrid cube.” The article indicated that as many as 7 million people would be priced out of the purchase of new vehicles due to the increased cost of meeting the fuel efficiency standards.
In addition, Car and Driver expressed little hope that the auto industry would be revolutionized or become more competitive as a result of the new fuel efficiency standards. Instead, they project that the auto industry will shrink because new vehicle sales will decline as people are unwilling to pay more for less car. With The Huffington Post projecting that meeting new standards will cost the auto industry an estimated $135 billion between 2017 and 2025, this could create serious problems for the car industry.
As far as radical new technologies that will allow for new fuel-efficient vehicles to be attractive to consumers, Car and Driver argues that this is unlikely to happen any time soon. New technologies take roughly six years to be ready for mass production due to engineering and validation. As such, in order for vehicles released in 2016 to incorporate any new fuel-saving technologies, they would need to be ready by next year, which doesn’t look promising.
Impact for Americans
The actual impact of the new fuel efficiency standards remains to be seen, with critics and proponents offering very different opinions. The NHTSA states that the new standards will result in significant savings to families. For a family purchasing a new car in 2025, they report, the savings will be the equivalent of lowering the price of gas by $1 per gallon. Over the vehicle’s lifetime, an estimated $8,000 would be saved and Americans as a whole would save $1.7 trillion. Given the nearly prohibitive cost of gas these days, such projections—if accurate—could benefit many Americans.
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