It's no secret that a lot of folks these days just can't abide the government looking out for them. We hear it all the time from a certain faction, "nanny state... this, nanny state that..." Whether those folks like it or not, occasionally the government hits one right down the middle. The Obama administration did so last Tuesday with the finalization of strict new carbon emissions standards. The new rules (known as the "CAFE" standard — corporate average fuel economy) set the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon as the average the auto industry must achieve by 2025, up from 29.7 mpg now and 35.5 mpg in 2016.
It’s no secret that a lot of folks these days just can’t abide the government looking out for them. We hear it all the time from a certain faction, “nanny state… this, nanny state that…” Whether those folks like it or not, occasionally the government hits one right down the middle. The Obama administration did so last Tuesday with the finalization of strict new carbon emissions standards. The new rules (known as the “CAFE” standard — corporate average fuel economy) set the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon as the average the auto industry must achieve by 2025, up from 29.7 mpg now and 35.5 mpg in 2016.
As some of you may recall, these new demands are an extension of similar requirements by the nanny state. In 1975, when Gerald Ford was president, the first CAFE standards were enacted by Congress. Those standards, passed in the wake of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, called for the doubling of passenger-vehicle efficiency to 27.5 mpg within 10 years. That decades-old mile-per-gallon figure seems quaint today as we push forward toward better and better fuel economy. USA Today characterized the most recent CAFE requirements as “the biggest technological challenge to the auto industry” since the government began regulating emissions in 1970 and mileage in 1975.
But it can be done and must be done if we are to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Likely it is not as much of a challenge to the auto industry as it is to Americans and our penchant for excess, as in bigger, faster, more powerful toys of all stripes.
A brief (but admittedly absurd) example makes the point. It’s likely that readers have never heard about the Porsche 918 Spyder. The 918, which is Porsche’s flagship supercar, has a V-8 engine and two electric motors. Together they can churn out a mind-blowing 770 horsepower. It can do 0-60 in three seconds. It has a top speed of around 200 mph. It also gets 78 miles to the gallon.
So, it’s not that monster power and fuel economy are mutually exclusive. As well, hybrid cars on the road today get close to the new CAFE standard already.
There is one more small point about the Porsche — its price tag clocks in at just under $845,000. Obviously, they’ll make and sell a few dozen of them worldwide, but the availability and obtainability of this particular car isn’t the point. Rather, the point is found in thinking about flat screen televisions.
Perhaps readers will remember when flat screens first came on the market. They cost around $1,000 per diagonal inch. A 40” television was almost $40,000. Within a decade for that same $40,000 you could buy that same television and a brand new tricked-out Mustang in which to drive the TV home.
Flat screens are now are so ubiquitous that nobody would consider buying an old CRT style television, assuming you could even find one. The point is that manufacturers will find a way to make improvements — if we demand it. Given our national addiction to fossil fuels, we should start demanding it.
Europe is a decade ahead of us on fuel economy. The governments of Europe took a strong stand and their automakers got in line. While folks here may not like the “nanny state,” it’s hard to imagine they’d prefer that the cars we drive aren’t the most fuel efficient that technology will provide or, by extension, that we would be anywhere close to where we are today in fuel economy had those first CAFE requirements not been passed.