Who Will Meet Consumer Demand?
Stuck in Reverse on Fuel Economy
This article combines excerpts from multiple sources, including MSNBC.
by Roland Jones and othersWhile Congress and the Bush administration debate how to improve fuel economy in automobiles, a new study says the United States is “stuck in reverse” when it comes to offering consumers a wide selection of fuel-efficient vehicles.
The research from the Civil Society Institute, a not-for-profit think tank that focuses on energy and ecological issues, shows a growing “fuel-efficient car gap.”
CSI found that the number of vehicle models sold in the United States that achieve combined gas mileage of at least 40 miles per gallon actually has dropped from five in 2005 to just two in 2007 — the Honda Civic hybrid and the Toyota Prius hybrid.
Overseas, primarily in Europe, there are 113 vehicles for sale that get a combined 40 mpg, up from 86 in 2005. Combined gas mileage is the average of a vehicle’s city and highway mpg numbers.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that nearly two-thirds of the 113 highly fuel-efficient models that are unavailable to American consumers are either made by U.S.-based automobile manufacturers or by foreign manufacturers with substantial U.S. sales operations, such as Nissan and Toyota.
“These cars sold in Europe meet or exceed U.S. safety standards, so there is no reason why they shouldn’t be made available to U.S. consumers,” said CSI President Pam Solo.
“We have to face the unpleasant facts here: America is needlessly losing the race to develop the best fuel-efficient technology and then deliver it to the American consumer,” Solo said. “U.S. consumers say they are willing to buy these cars, so the big U.S. automakers are actually going backwards at a time when it’s possible to make cars that are more fuel efficient.”
A national poll conducted for CSI shows that millions of Americans would welcome the introduction of the fuel-efficient cars now being sold overseas. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents to the survey thought U.S. consumers should have access to these vehicles.
The poll also found that Americans want Congress to boost fuel efficiency standards. Over four out of five respondents, including 86 percent of Democrats and even 76 percent of Republicans, said that they would support “Congress taking the lead to achieve the highest possible fuel efficiency as quickly as possible” by raising the fuel-efficiency requirements for U.S. vehicles to achieve the goal of 40 mpg.
Fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars have remained unchanged for two decades at 27.5 miles per gallon. The Bush administration recently revamped the rules for light trucks, creating a sliding mileage scale that is based on a vehicle’s size. Now Bush wants to assign a similar measure to passenger cars.
Bush’s fuel economy plan is questioned
While the U.S. automotive industry and Republicans have long opposed higher gas mileage, Bush announced in his State of the Union message a reduction of U.S. fuel consumption by 20% over the next decade.
However, as Bush's announced legislation does not cover greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, more and more U.S. States try to tackle this issue at the State level.
On 13 February, both the New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich called for a GHG emissions reduction to 1990 levels by 2020. Following the example of California, the two States will now work on specific recommendations and the introduction of legislation to address major industry sectors, including transport.
"In the absence of leadership on the federal level the burden has now fallen upon state executives," said Corzine, while Blagojevich added that "we can't wait for the federal government to act."
In general, cars are far more fuel-efficient in Europe, where gas is much more expensive. In Europe, cars on average get 40 mpg, compared with 20.4 mpg for U.S. cars.
Why Are U.S. Automakers Paralyzed?
Americans, But Not Politicians, Turn Serious About Energy Policy
Even Some Republicans Want Oil Independence for America
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