Lurching Toward 60-mpg Fuel Efficiency Standards?

NYC traffic

As early as tomorrow, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) will propose new mileage standards, raising the bar to “at least 35.5 mpg overall [for cars and trucks] by 2025.”

But some folks want the standard to be 60, or even 70, mpg. More than 20 environmental groups are urging that the higher standards are not only technically feasible but environmentally necessary.

The Obama administration is getting a lot of pushback from the auto industry, which supported last year’s higher standards, and even from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) itself. Agency head David Strickland said that no decision on any 60-mpg standard will be made until there is a full review.

And there are big questions as to how much gas would be saved (40 billion gallons annually, says one source), whether people would just drive more, whether a gas tax is a better answer, or a carbon tax, or no CAFE standards at all.

Some readers of this Truth About Cars piece are debating the issue at length. Here’s how yours truly comes down.

The ideal solution would be a gas tax of, say, $2 a gallon. Roads and bridges would get repaired, excess driving would be curtailed, and people could still have the freedom to drive whatever they wanted or could afford. They will definitely buy more fuel-efficient cars without government-mandated restrictions.

Automakers could then respond to real, not artificial demand. We all know how demand gets whipsawed when gas prices fluctuate. Trying to anticipate that kind of market, and meet complex government standards as well, is costly and wasteful. Car buyers end up paying more; carmakers end up getting forced into inefficiencies of production.

I am sure that the Congress, impotent as usual, fears taxes to such an extent that a gas tax is simply not in the cards. Instead, they will hide behind CAFE standards, which seem to put the cost on the industry, but in fact make the consumer pay.

Nor is it clear how such standards will really affect the problem we all want solved—a serious reduction in the import and consumption of oil.

Would you support a gas tax if it were properly administered?


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  1. The whole rest of the world pays huge fuel tax way more than a paltry $2 per gallon US gas needs to be $5 gallon minimum its the easiest method train car makers to build decent cars. All US car makers build efficient cars outside the US with diesel a popular option simply coz fuel is so expensive. Here gas is $1.70 per litre if you want to drive a US made suv go rite ahead. We have plenty of V8 performance cars mostly Holdens and Falcons which are good on gas and with a few exceptions can blow the doors off anything US made and corner but they were developed in the face off dear gas not loophole ridden laws.

  2. We’ve had fuel tax in the UK for years now….not good, petrol is currently around £5.00 a gallon (approx $8.00)

  3. I’d hate to see a gas tax for personal financial reasons, but I admit it’s the best way to repair/replace infrastructure while reducing our fossil fuel use. A gas tax sure makes more sense than arbitrary government-imposed MPG benchmarks.

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