What Can 35.5 MPG Change?

Tuesday’s announcement from the White House regarding the president’s intention to direct EPA and DOT to jointly raise fuel-economy standards and reduce greenhouse-gas pollution is certainly welcome news here at Rooflines. With these new rules, passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. will be required to meet an average mileage requirement of 39 mpg, up from today’s 27.5 mpg mandate. Light trucks would would have to increase average fuel economy to 30 mpg, up from 23 mpg today.

Moreover, as is any interagency project, there are several ways to look at this aside from a drastic change in fuel economy in just a short time period — four years sooner than was originally required by the federal government.

First, let’s welcome the fact that the administration is, once again, crossing silos (a term that we hear more and more often), and allowing its agencies to collaborate rather than operating in a vacuum. We saw this type of collaboration with the HUD/DOT Sustainable Communities Initiative and we’re likely to see plenty more of this type of resource maximization out of the administration in the future.

Second, I’ve stated on this blog in the past that laws or guidelines that might be viewed as intrusive are often for the public good, and this is no exception. But that said, this is not like banning trans fats or plastic grocery store bags. This is a biggie, and it’s in our best interest big time.

Another thing we have to ask ourselves is how a change like this will have an impact on things not necessarily fuel-related. If we really start pushing fuel-efficient cars that are also smaller, like the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, etc., and are willing to use both carrot/stick incentives for Americans, bill could be be a boom in the long term for hub-based communities.

Of course, the bill is going to face its share of obstacles. The Wall Street Journal reports that the “costs of meeting the new standard would be high,” citing 2008 DOT data that states that a 2015 mandate of 31.6 mpg would cost the auto industry $46.7 billion — “among the most expensive rule makings in U.S. history.” Further, at a time when Chrysler is facing bankruptcy, many automakers are uneasy an overhaul to their product lines before their financial houses are in order.

That said, according to Waste & Recycling News, my all-time favorite news source, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association, has endorsed the program, saying it will “prevent a patchwork of regulations among states and will allow automakers to plan for the future by knowing standards that will be implemented in future years.”

David McCurdy, president and CEO of the alliance, told WRN:

“What’s significant about the announcement is it launches a new beginning, an era of cooperation . . . The president has succeeded in brining three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers and many environmental groups to the table.”

Crossing silos, indeed.

Also, for what it’s worth:

  • Use mass transit whenever you can
  • Keep your tires inflated.
  • Road rage is very fuel inefficient, and.
  • Observe speed limits. According to FuelEconomy.gov, gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph and that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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