Challenging new fuel efficiency standards

Challenging new fuel efficiency standards

August 2nd, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

We love our cars. They mean personal freedom of movement. They are convenient. And in many ways, they are exhilarating.

But cars also are expensive, not just to buy but to operate.

With gasoline prices high, we want good mileage from each gallon. And although we produce much of our oil and gasoline here in the United Sates, we also ship lots of our hard-earned dollars overseas to foreign oil-producing nations. So it is painful to our wallets and pocketbooks that many of our cars do not get very good mileage.

President Barack Obama has announced an ambitious mileage goal: a fleet-wide average of 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2025. You probably don't need to look beyond your own vehicle to realize we are far short of that figure now.

Not so many years ago, many of our cars were really "gas guzzlers." But when some foreign producers cut off oil supplies -- or raised prices massively -- we began, belatedly, to design some of our cars to get better mileage. Some progress has been made, and many Americans today are purchasing cars that get better mileage.

That's the market working: As gas prices rise, consumers naturally gravitate toward cars that cost less to run. It is better for the market to drive those decisions, though, than for government to impose standards that may force car makers to build lighter, less safe and more expensive vehicles. Ironically, the higher up-front costs of some fuel-efficient new vehicles may lead many Americans to keep driving less efficient older vehicles longer.

Fuel efficiency is a worthy goal, but the federal government is going about pursuing that goal in a way that may raise costs to consumers.