I Want My SUV
August 16, 2005 - 10:41am ET
Popular This Week
Also Worth Reading
Even if you've never given much thought to fuel-efficiency standards before, it's tough to ignore all manner of fuel- and gas-related concerns these days. In the past two weeks, gas prices have jumped an average of 26 cents per gallon, with the national average hovering around $2.55 per gallon of unleaded. And when prices are that high, even the most carefree cruisers among us start wondering how to avoid pain at the pump. Except the Bush administration, apparently.
The New York Times reports today that the Bush administration is expected to abandon a proposal that would extend fuel efficiency standards to cover huge SUVs like the Hummer2 and Ford Excursion. These big vehicles have been exempted from the current two-category fuel standard system because, when the current system was created in the 1970s, vehicles the size of Hummers were used only for commercial purposes—and there were a lot fewer of them. But the marketing of huge SUVs to average suburban families in the past decade means that there's now millions of oversized autos on the road—and none of them has to comply with fuel efficiency standards.
The proposed changes would create five or six new fuel efficiency categories based on vehicles' size. Until the Office of Management and Budget releases the Bush plan later this month, whether these new proposed efficiency classes will be scrapped or implemented remains to be seen—though the NYT reports that auto industry insiders think it's likely the proposed changes will be thrown out:
Automakers have had powerful incentives to produce such vehicles because they are exempt from fuel regulations, have had rich profit margins, and many consumers can claim tax breaks for them. The administration had suggested including larger S.U.V.'s in fuel economy regulations in a first wave of proposals in December 2003, but domestic automakers objected that such a move would harm their fragile bottom lines.
The decision not to include larger S.U.V.'s was a recent development, said people briefed on the deliberations, who declined to be identified before the plan is made public.
So once again, Bush is putting his ties to business and industry ahead of the public good—say, less pollution, lower gas prices and decreased dependency on oil. But at least the auto industry will be happy.
The Bush administration's likely abandonment of better fuel standards is particularly frustrating because the majority of the American people are interested in purchasing more efficient vehicles. A poll conducted this spring found that two-thirds of Americans see buying a fuel-efficient car as a patriotic act. And that's not just lefty environmentalists. Three in five conservatives consider buying fuel-efficient vehicles to be patriotic, and 67 percent of NASCAR fans agree.
Instead of abandoning the rather modest changes that would require SUVs to get better mileage per gallon, now is the ideal time to aim higher—like a 40 mpg federal standard for all automobiles. With average gas prices expected to top $3 per gallon soon, time is money.
Help us spread the word about these important stories...
Email to a friend
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future