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In Mark Perry’s recent op-ed (“Fuel mandate destroys freedom of choice,” Oct 17), he observes that “those who don’t learn from the mistakes of others are destined to repeat them.” I agree, but then he himself repeats the same mistaken claims about the program’s effects on vehicle cost, safety and consumer choice that, thankfully, failed to block fuel economy progress 10 years ago — which would have cost consumers more than $45 billion at the pump over the last five years.

The op-ed misstates the history of the modern fuel economy standards and how the program actually works. The modern program was established in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act, signed by President George W. Bush. It was implemented by the Obama administration in partnership with the auto industry, labor, states, consumer, environmental and other key groups and was designed to protect the nation and preserve consumer choice. Contrary to Perry’s assertion, consumers can choose the vehicle that best fits their needs, and benefit from lower spending at the pump.

How is this possible? Fuel efficiency rules have evolved thanks to the 2007 agreement and those that followed. Modern fuel economy goals are based on the cars automakers actually sell — smaller vehicles meet higher standards, while larger vehicles meet lower ones, so an automaker’s target changes along with consumer preferences. This flexibility was designed to make it easier for automakers to meet the needs of both their customers and the nation. In return, automakers must gradually improve the efficiency of all vehicles they sell.

Despite alarmist claims, research into the relationship between fuel economy and safety find either no impact or a positive impact on on-road fatalities. With the current standards, there is less incentive for automakers to create a fleet with a lot of big, heavy vehicles and a lot of small ones, creating a deadly mismatch. Rather than making small vehicles smaller, modern standards encourage automakers to decrease the weight of larger vehicles, which have more room for improvement, while maintaining, or expanding, their cabin and cargo size. As the weight differential between large and small vehicles decreases, so too can road fatalities.

As fuel economy has been improving, automakers enjoyed record sales and strong profits. The bottom line is that cars and light trucks today are safer, more reliable and more efficient than ever before. Despite this, the White House and Congress are working to roll back the fuel economy program, even though government and independent analyses found that the program would lead to net savings of thousands of dollars on each vehicle. And over 70 percent of Americans agree that government should continue to set higher fuel efficiency targets, according to Consumers Union’s latest survey.

Policymakers should continue to push for efficiency improvements across the fleet so consumers can choose the vehicle they want and afford to fuel it, too.

David Friedman, director

Cars, product policy and analysis

Consumers Union

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