Sunday, December 4, 2011

CAFE standards

An article in today's NYT by Thomas Friedman pointed me to this document published a few weeks ago by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Apparently the auto industry sat down with the EPA and NHTSA and worked out a slow increase in required fuel efficiency to go into effect over the next 15 years. If all goes as planned, greenhouse gas emissions should be down significantly by 2025, reaching about 50 mpg as a fleet average for all cars and trucks on the road. That seems pretty huge to me, since the trends up until about 2008 were for more fuel consumption and not less. This more fuel efficient generation of vehicles will be more expensive, but they are expected to make up for those higher costs over time, saving the consumer an average of about $4000 (assuming gas prices stay constant over the next 10 years) by reducing the amount people are paying for gas. New standards allow for larger vehicles to still get lower mileage, so they aren't supposed to push everyone to drive a golf cart, but we'll see. The NHTSA document talks about both goals for the entire set of vehicles on US roads, but also sets goals for types of vehicles, such as 33 mpg for large pickup trucks like the Chevy Silverado.

Economists say that CAFE standards aren't the most efficient way to reduce fuel use- gas taxes are more likely to be effective partly because of the rebound effect. I also don't see much in the NHTSA document about safety: it's easy to make a highly fuel efficient vehicle if you build it out of fiberglass, for instance. You just don't want to be in a fiberglass car when you get hit by something more solid. It'll be interesting to see how manufacturers go about meeting the standards.

1 comment:

  1. ne concern is that auto makers will produce much lighter cars in order to meet the CAFE regulations. Lighter cars are great for mpg but not so great in case of an accident.