Perhaps today you looked at your Memorial Day Weekend vacation bills and fell out of your chair when you saw the gas station charges.
Last week we talked about driving the speed limit to save gas, but this week it's time to get a little more into policy and talk about vehicle fuel economy standards - simply put, how far the feds require automakers must make their average vehicle go on a gallon of gas.
The December 2007 energy bill that President Bush signed into law directs the Department of Transportation to set Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to reach at least 35 miles per gallon in 2020. In April, the Dept. of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, which handles fuel economy standards) issued its proposed standards for vehicles sold in model years 2011-2015: Cars and trucks sold in the U.S. will average 31.6 mpg by the year 2015. That's better than today's average of 25 mpg, but NHTSA could do better.
Phew! Policy can get wonky and maybe your eyes have crossed. But some action is needed - the comment period is open to tell NHTSA your thoughts on the proposed CAFE standards. But why not put it into a good ol' Top Ten List?
Here are the: Top Ten Reasons you Should Email NHTSA Before July 1
1. The best long-term solution to high gas prices is to make cars, SUVs, pickups and minivans go farther on a gallon of gas.
2. NHTSA should be aiming higher - the 35 mpg number is a floor and not a ceiling when it comes to enacting CAFE standards, especially as gas prices continue to soar.
3. The future gas prices NHTSA used to estimate the impact of higher fuel economy were so unrealistically low as to be laughable: The Energy Information Administration projects that in 2015 the price of gas will be a mere $2.25 per gallon and a barrel of oil will only be $57, and that it will still only be about $70 a barrel (in 2006 dollars) in 2030 - a whopping $2.50 per gallon.
Why is that important? In NHTSA's model, consumers are much less likely to buy more fuel efficient cars if gas is that cheap rather than the $4.00 per gallon we're paying right now. Operating under the assumption that gas prices will be that low in 2015, DOT only requires automakers to install as much fuel-saving technology (see reason #4) as they think consumers will pay extra for.
4. We have the technology right now to create vehicles with much better fuel economy.
5. It's summertime! The comment deadline is July 1, what better way to celebrate Independence Day early than by helping the U.S. secure some energy independence through using less oil.
6. The U.S. spends more than $1 billion each day on imported oil! (PDF) How about saving some money for us? Using less oil helps stop lining the pockets of oil company executives and those countries overseas in control of the oil.
7. NHTSA does not demand enough from gas-guzzling SUVs and other trucks, continuing to let truck fuel economy lag far behind that of cars.
8. Again, think about how much more we can do! Raising the CAFE standard to 35 mpg will prevent more than 190 million metric tons of global warming pollution and is the equivalent of taking 28 million of vehicles off the road.
9. Even Bill O'Reilly wants cars that go farther on a gallon of gas. On his May 28 show, O'Reilly called for 30 mpg by 2010 (please excuse the bad coal ad with that O'Reilly video link)
10. This mandated CAFE increase to at least 35 mpg by 2020 is the first since 1975. We have 30 years of catching up to do, and we need to better.
Got all that? Yes? Time to tell NHTSA!