Wall Street Journal points out something is about to change in American lifestyle. Specifically, the several hours per day each US citizens spends driving is about to be Europeanized. Want a vision of what your next new car or truck will look like? Go there.
"Whether by presidential order or congressional mandate, car makers in the foreseeable future will likely have to build fleets that average about 35 miles per gallon. But what kinds of cars and trucks will gasoline-guzzling Americans drive to achieve that average? The answer would seem to lie in Europe, where fuel prices are roughly double U.S. levels amid heavy taxation and more than half of the vehicles bought have diesel-powered engines...""In a recent Consumer Reports survey, 70% [of US citizens surveyed] said they plan to seek a more fuel-efficient vehicle, but only about half said they would sacrifice size or performance in that quest"
The apparent conflict over how to mitigate climate change and reduce reliance on foreign oil boils down to resolving what a consensus of scientists say is technically cost effective to do now, versus what car makers feel will be most profitable. "The National Academy of Sciences says technology exists to improve fuel economy without sacrificing safety but notes that high costs could motivate car makers to downsize vehicles to meet higher fuel mileage targets."
It helps to remember that every car maker has far more manufacturing capacity than national markets demand, and that the balance sheets will be better for stockholders if sales are concentrated on the most profitable models. Because the profit per unit is much greater on big models, makers will resist anything that steers consumers more toward the less profitable smaller, more resource efficient vehicles. This is the basis for resisting CAFE in in any form. It has little to do with technology feasibility.
In addition to profit, fashion is a fairly important factor in pre-climate catastrophe, lifestyle flipping America. Americans are mostly "wheel potatoes" who dwell inside vehicles that prevent anyone from seeing them from the neck down. Vehicles are the expression of fashion, a driver's clothes are the new underwear and underwear is an obscure fantasy sold by catalog. As a result, by horsepower, status is conveyed in the same way that a dress suit once did.