August 22, 2005


Drumbeat grows louder for fuel efficiency (Patrice Hill, August 22, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The biggest gains in fuel efficiency were attained in the 1970s and 1980s, when oil prices soared to unprecedented levels and the government imposed fuel efficiency standards that require the fleet of cars to average a minimum of 27.5 miles per gallon.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards, helped cause the price drops and oil gluts of the late 1980s and 1990s. But they have not been raised in two decades, despite the introduction of gas-guzzling SUVs and new technologies such as fuel-efficient electric hybrids.

Though the CAFE standards are opposed by the auto industry and many Republicans for distorting markets and inhibiting free consumer choice, "there is a case for raising the CAFE standards," and narrowing the difference between cars and SUVs, which with other light trucks are required to average only 20.9 miles per gallon, said Mr. Lichtblau.

Raising the standard for SUVs and light trucks to the same level as cars would cut fuel imports by 5 percent and shave world oil prices by about 2 percent, not adjusted for inflation, over 15 years, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Much stiffer fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks would yield more dramatic savings, and the deflationary effect might be strong enough to spur economic growth, the agency found.

A poll by Yale University found that 93 percent of Americans want cars and SUVs to be more fuel efficient.

This is one issue on which the President and the GOP are quite wrong. Conservatives are right to despise central planning but imposition of standards does not require such. Raise the fuel efficiency standards and then let car makers meet them any way they can figure out. You're basically just forcing innovation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 22, 2005 6:07 AM

I just came back from the Yale milieu and a cursory glance at the parking lots shows lots of big cars and SUV's and even, heaven forefend, some pickup trucks.

Re: Yale poll. Are these the same people who said they wanted salads and fresh fruit at MacDonald's and other fast-food emporia?

Setting standards is fine if they're realistic and set by people who know what they're doing. Finding such an animal in government, or at Yale, might take some doing.

Posted by: erp at August 22, 2005 11:24 AM

Now you've done left off preachin' and started in meddlin'.

Fine. It's not "central planning" all we're going to do is to FORCE innovation. I presume that this will resemble FORCING the innovation of kulak agriculture.

We know what to expect. First they will come for the SUV's. Then it will be private aviation. Next it will be pleasure boating, then garden tractors. Finally they will come for our cars, and we shall be the only ones left.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 22, 2005 11:33 AM

CAFE standards didn't cause an oil glut. That's nonsense.

Why can't $70/bbl oil be allowed to drive innovation? Or even $100/bbl oil?

Government does a really bad job at driving innovation. Remember Japan, circa the 80s? Remember Japan's consortium in the 80s that was going to get together and design the PC of the future?

I'll bet Orrin isn't typing away on one of those innovative machines. :)

I do love that a poll found 93% want vehicles to be more fuel efficient. Gotta love that other 7%, though!

Posted by: kevin whited at August 22, 2005 11:48 AM

Earth to Yale: anybody who wants a smaller, more fuel-efficient car can buy one. What the Yalies dislike is ordinary people exercising their free choice to buy bigger, less fuel-efficient cars.

Elites have always hated letting the hoi polloi have free choice. Remember Arianna denouncing SUV's for the commoners while she flew on private jets?

Orrin has cast his lot with Arianna and the Yalies (sounds like a bad band) on this issue. Not sure why.

Posted by: Casey Abell at August 22, 2005 11:53 AM

The irony is that CAFE killed public transportation by making small cars more affordable. The manufacturers didn't meet the standards by making sportscars more fuel-efficient; they did it by subsidizing econo-boxes and thus selling more of their highest-milage models.

Posted by: Mike Earl at August 22, 2005 11:53 AM


That's easily fixed with gas and parking taxes, tolls, and congestion fees.

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2005 12:15 PM


I drove past a hybrid SUV yesterday. That'll work.

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2005 12:16 PM


It can, why don't we claim the next 40$ a barrel in taxes though?

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2005 12:17 PM


Had the Soviets told the kulaks to produce x amount of grain and left them to figure out how to do so there'd still be a USSR.

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2005 12:18 PM

Small correction.

If individuals in the USSR were allowed to figure out things for themselves, there might still be a country with that name, but it would be a very different place than the country we just tossed into the dustbin of history.

Posted by: erp at August 22, 2005 12:59 PM


Exactly. The mandates without the central planning work fine.

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2005 1:12 PM

What car is Mr. Orrin driving, I wonder? I drive a 1977 Mercedes 240 Diesel. Has 1.1 million miles on original engine. 29 mpg city; better on freeway. I drive because car is strong car for accident to protect wife and little ones. CAFE car is like paper cup. Manufacturers meet higher CAFE requirements by making cars lighter. 1977 Benz is like soviet tank. Slow, like turtle, but strong like turtle. Show me new car that is strong (and cheap) and Fyodor will buy.

Posted by: Fyodor at August 22, 2005 1:13 PM


A Chevy Suburban. 14 mpg. The point is to get them to build strong fuel efficient ones.

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2005 1:20 PM

The auto manufacturers have pretty much figured out the emissions problems (particularly with diesels), but mandating Suburbans that get 30 mpg might take another few years. Granted, there has been no incentive for that, but remember that CAFE is not just a 'negative' for the GOP - a lot of Democrats didn't vote for it, either (because of labor). CAFE is a Kerry issue (and he owns what, 5 SUVs?).

People accepted the mini-power feel of the econoboxes of the late 1970s because there wasn't any foreign competition and the only alternatives were Corvettes or Cadillacs. Today, it is quite different. Camry, Accord, and Maxima 6-cylinders provide all the power anyone needs, and we aren't even talking SUVs or trucks. Some American cars are comparable (Chrysler 300, Pontiac Grand Prix, etc.).

The mileage/gallon for these cars will improve. It's just harder to improve on bigger vehicles. Weight matters. Extra loads on the engine matter.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 22, 2005 3:20 PM

How many other people think Fyodor is really Governor Breck?

Posted by: ratbert at August 22, 2005 4:15 PM

Minivans get around 17 MPG, and are much safer than SUVs.

Hybrid minivans should get maybe 20 MPG.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 22, 2005 4:40 PM

Not me! I drive a '95 Subaru Legacy and an '82 Honda CM450E.

Posted by: Governor Breck at August 22, 2005 4:42 PM

I like Fyodor's prose style whoever he is. With a bit of work he could become Fyodor the Mercedes Blogger ("The Fydor he does not like the CAFE cars, they are like paper cups to crush the wife and the little ones inside...")

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 22, 2005 5:53 PM

The AllenS has a 1997 GEO Metro.

Posted by: AllenS at August 22, 2005 6:23 PM

I had the same experience with a 76 240D except I only got to 350k before all the bashing it took commuting to MA made it give up the ghost. It took a major hit once a year and took them like a 6by truck. Never had it repaired from those accidents; just banked the Ins. settlements from the perps.

That said, I'm currently waiting for a VW Wagon diesel/hybrid to be announced because that will be the only type hybrid that will save fuel, except for city drivers. Biodiesel will be the icing on the cake.

At least OJ doesn't have his head in the sand and to paraphrase VDH, the first party to take that 93 % seriously will take the prize. Drive on Fyodor.

Posted by: Genecis at August 22, 2005 6:46 PM

I will believe this is a real issue when Orrin Dumps the Suburban and buys a Subaru Forrester.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 23, 2005 1:07 AM

Just let the market decide fuel efficiency with its usual efficiency.

Posted by: Casey Abell at August 23, 2005 8:12 AM


The point is that fuel cost is not an issue--we need the government to make it one.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2005 8:20 AM

Because we're fresh out of real problems to tackle, we need another manufactured one.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 23, 2005 5:20 PM