Thursday, June 7, 2007

Automakers Resist CAFE Standards--Lost Boys in Neverland

According to the AP, the leaders of the General Motors, Ford and Chrysler Group told Congress that improving fuel efficiency standards for US automakers will harm the industry. They worry that the standards will add to the burden of plant closings and job losses. They worry that the resulting cars will be unpopular with consumers. They worry that some of the standards are just not attainable. It's time to grow up.

Last I heard, the burden of plant closings and job losses was felt by workers and communities, not "the industry." Most folks I talk with would be thrilled with a car, SUV or truck that could get even 30 miles per gallon, given gas prices of late.

Here's what I don't understand: how can these manufacturers, who successfully compete in markets abroad with stricter standards, say higher standards in the US are just not workable?

As an L.A. Times Editorial put it on May 9, 2007: "The United States lags behind other industrialized countries when it comes to fuel efficiency mandates, according to a 2004 study by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. While it's hard to compare standards because of different approaches and units of measurement, Pew found that, even five years ago, the European Union and Japan required car fleets to get better than 37 mpg. U.S. carmakers currently sell vehicles in Europe and Japan, so there's no technological reason they can't introduce more fuel-efficient cars in the domestic market."

Congress wants to overhaul the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) system to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon for a manufacturer's cars and trucks by 2020, but automakers are balking...again. Fortunately, "Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, are working on an alternative that would direct regulators to improve standards to 36 miles per gallon for cars by 2022 and 30 mpg for pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans by 2025. Levin said it would offer “significant incentives” for the industry to develop new technologies." (AP)

Surely, improved CAFE standards and alternative technologies are not mutually exclusive. What is possible? Happy consumers, cleaner environment, industry originating and owning advanced technology--win-win-win, right?