Why Are U.S. Automakers Paralyzed?
EPA: Remarkable New Report on Vehicle Fuel Efficiency
American drivers have reacted to high fuel prices. Non-U.S. automakers have responded. Even the publicity departments of U.S. automakers have changed their tone. But what of the actual fuel efficiency of U.S.-made vehicles?
Here are portions of a report appearing in the Detroit Free Press (Michigan, U.S.).
by Justin HydeThe fuel economy of U.S. cars and trucks remained unchanged for the second year in a row, according to data released July 17, 2006, despite soaring oil prices and enormous market demand for greater efficiency -- a result that could push lawmakers toward toughening federal rules.
With vehicles burning 40 percent of the oil Americans use and generating 20 percent of the greenhouse gases in the United States, even some Republicans have put a new emphasis on improving fuel efficiency this year, especially because gasoline prices are hovering over $3 a gallon.
But those efforts have yet to produce results, and Congress has deadlocked so far on proposals to toughen federal rules. Most automakers contend the industry is moving as fast as possible to make vehicles burn less fuel, and they say higher federal fuel-economy standards are unnecessary, especially as buyers clamor for smaller, more efficient vehicles. [The Progress Report wonders -- if automakers are seriously claiming that "as fast as possible" for them is equal to zero, what are they showing us about their own industry and their ability to respond to the market?]
Yet the Environmental Protection Agency's report finds that even as fuel economy has flattened, the average U.S. vehicle has gained 400 pounds and 50 horsepower over the past nine years.
``This is further evidence that improved technology will not, on its own, move fuel economy at all without some progress on standards,'' said Therese Langer, transportation program director at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
According to the EPA, 2006 model-year vehicles sold will get an average 21 miles for every gallon of fuel they burn. That's the same as last year, and 5 percent less than the fuel efficiency peak of 22.1 mpg in 1987.
Unlike previous years when sales of more-efficient cars offset the less-efficient trucks, this year's study found that an increase in trucks' fuel economy would be negated by a decrease in passenger cars' fuel economy.
The EPA's estimates are based on sales estimates from automakers and use an adjusted version of the EPA's mileage tests. The test results are about 15 percent lower than the claimed mileage figures that potential buyers see on the window stickers on new cars and trucks.
Several groups have said those tests overstate mileage by even more than that, and the EPA is reworking its tests to produce more accurate estimates.
Fuel Efficiency is Important, Republican Resistance Weakening
Most Americans Say Fuel-Efficiency is Patriotic
U.S. Carmakers Regret Their Own Stupidity
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