I like to avoid politics here, but I thought the points made by the editor of Car and Driver magazine made so much sense that I’d help spread the word.
CAFE in this case stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. It’s a LAW setting an average fuel consumption that Congress imposes on cars and trucks sold here.
Right now, that average is 27.5 miles per gallon. Some leaders in Congress want to raise that average higher – much higher. Here are the editor’s reasons why this won’t work.
- CAFE laws do absolutely nothing to reduce fuel consumption in the short term.
- By making driving less expensive, higher CAFE levels actually encourage more driving.
- Because CAFE laws make driving cheaper, they do nothing to foster the use of public transportation or encourage housing choices that reduce commuting distances.
- CAFE laws put the entire burden of fuel and carbon conservation on cars.
- CAFE puts the burden on automakers to produce products that buyers don’t necessarily want.
- CAFE laws imply that Americans can continue to drive the vehicles they want, if only the stingy automakers would spend a few more pennies on efficient technologies.
- Because CAFE increases keep gasoline costs low, buyers have no reason to invest in energy-saving technologies, such as lightweight materials, that would actually improve efficiency.
- CAFE puts the burden on car manufacturers to reduce consumption rather than on the drivers.
- CAFE laws create unanticipated distortions in the market, such as the rise of SUVs to replace station wagons.
- Finally, CAFE will accomplish nothing because its glacially slow effects are offset by the growth of trucks in the U.S. vehicle fleet.
I thought #2 and #3 were particularly counter-intuitive. Who isn’t for reducing our dependence on foreign oil? Yet, if Congress forces more efficient cars, what’s the incentive to reduce driving and use / develop more mass transit?
Congress needs to let consumers decide how much gas they want to consume. Not try to legislate it.