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The 54.5 mpg CAFE standard has been divisive even as it... The 54.5 mpg CAFE standard has been divisive even as it becomes more concrete (Flickr: Matthew Oliphant)

This week the Obama Administration delineated its plan for the new 54.5 mpg fleet fuel economy standard by 2025, and though automotive industry professionals widely rejoiced, those who claim highway deaths will increase as a result spoke out against the measure.

If the rule is implemented, cars in 2025 will go twice as far on a gallon of gas as they do today. Of course, some of that calculation is based on the fact that more cars won't be running on gasoline at all. An influx of electric and natural gas fueled cars will be off-setting vehicles that will still be running on gas. And cars running on gas today will be getting more and more fuel efficient as automakers make better, higher performing three and four cylinder engines and create lighter-weight vehicles.

The aim, of course, is to spew less carbon dioxide into to the atmosphere, and to become less dependent on foreign oil and fossil fuels in general.

The advocates

Auto-dealers, who have struggled in a down economy to sell low-mpg cars, rejoiced.

"As a third-generation auto dealer, all I can say is-It's about time!" said Adam Lee, Chairman of Lee Auto Malls in Portland, Maine.

Low fuel-economy cars have become the bane of an auto-dealer's existence.

"In 2008, when gas prices skyrocketed to historic highs, I couldn't give away some of the gas-guzzling vehicles on my lots," Lee said. He said this standard will help the industry avoid that "gut punch."

The auto industry is now in lock-step with what consumers demand.

Of course the geo-political angle of weaning America off oil is part and parcel of the standards. "Gas-guzzling is not an American value," said Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, a member of the CNA Military Advisory Board, a panel of top retired admirals and generals.

"Cutting our oil use, increasing efficiency and diversifying our energy resources will protect our economy and our ability to move around the country freely."

"Delivering much cleaner, more-efficient cars to the market can guarantee the best possible outcome for American workers, our communities, the economy, and the environment," said David Foster, the executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance.

If implemented in the right fashion, the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards plan could create as many as 190,000 jobs through 2020 and save some 12 billion barrels of oil--the equivalent of the fuel to power about four years of light vehicles, according to the BlueGreen Alliance.

The detractors

But not everyone is enthused by the fuel economy hikes.

Yesterday in response to the announcement, The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) vented its concerns that this measure could price more Americans out of car purchases.

"We are concerned that adding about $3,000 to the average cost of a car will price millions of Americans out of the market, which could reduce fleet turnover and delay environmental gains," NADA said in its statement. "We need fuel economy policies that encourage the sales of fuel efficient vehicles, instead of risky mandates that frustrate consumer demand."

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) also issued a statement for similar cost-to-consumer reasons and cited White House estimations that this rule would cost $157 billion to bring to fruition. He also saw this implementation as heavy-handed.

"Beyond jobs that would be lost as a result of this rule, there are concerns that these new regulations were crafted in a manner inconsistent with laws and basic standards of transparency that had the effect of hiding special interest agendas," Issa said.

Some opponents to the 54.5 mpg CAFE standard have more aggressive dislike for small cars they view as unsafe.

"In a free society, government shouldn't force families of four to travel in the equivalent of hybrid Yugos merely to reduce consumption of an abundant commodity such as oil," said James M. Taylor, Senior Fellow, Environment Policy at The Heartland Institute. "If the federal government is worried about oil supply, it should take the shackles off domestic oil production...rather than dramatically raising the production costs of standard-sized vehicles or forcing Americans into unsafe clown cars."

The consumers

While they may not be advocates or detractors just yet, consumers are the ones that stand to be affected the most by the standards. Mark Cooper, Research Director at the Consumer Federation of America, says this is a big win for them.

Though adding more to the cost of the vehicle at purchase, Cooper says the fuel economy standard will end up being cash flow positive after 2 or 3 years, factoring in the savings in fuel costs consumers will experience over the life of the vehicle.

"People spend an average of $2,900 per year on gas," Cooper told AOL Autos. "Higher MPG vehicles will allow people to budget much more easily, as they won't be paying for gas nearly as much."

Big fluctuations in gas prices are very bad for the economy as a whole, he said. When people have to forfeit a larger percentage of their take home income to gasoline purchases, they are less inclined to go out and spend elsewhere, hurting all kinds of other business, from restaurants and coffee shops to sports teams and shopping malls.

The standard will also make fuel efficient cars more visible and readily available, which the current system does not do.

"When people go to the car dealer, they just buy what's there, and often what's there are big, gas guzzling vehicles," Cooper said. "They aren't aware that they have other [fuel-efficient] options because often they are desperate for a car and the salesman wants to make a sale right then."

This translates into a higher cost of ownership in the long term and can severely impact their personal or household budget. The new mandate, he said, will mean many more fuel efficient cars on dealer lots and, thus, many more in consumers' garages.

AOL Autos Correspondent Michael Zak contributed to this report.



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  • 489 Comments
      Steve
      • 3 Years Ago
      Death traps.
      cowboys
      • 3 Years Ago
      "If the federal government is worried about oil supply, it should take the shackles off domestic oil production...rather than dramatically raising the production costs of standard-sized vehicles or forcing Americans into unsafe clown cars." This is how I feel. There's more oil in Texas than there is over seas. We want America to become independent from other contries when it comes to oil, but we're not willing to drill on our own land? You can't have it both ways!
      bobcouchman
      • 3 Years Ago
      consumers arent that stupid. they shop for the vehicle they want and do research on the internet. you can search and find all the vehicles you like and comparison shop over the web. as for fuel savings cutting the overall cost. it would take longer than 2 yrs to account for $3000 worth of cost. assuming you have a car qwith 25mpg. 12000 mi per year uses 480 gal. you step up to a car with 35 mpg. big step there. 12000 miles per yr uses 340 gal. saving of 140gal/yr. at $3.5 per gal that is $490 per year. that would take over 6 yrs to recoop the additional cost. most people dont even own a car that long. this is all just pandering to the tree huggers to get votes.
      KSMITHSPECTRUM
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well Mr. Lee news for you when your customers bring their electric carts in for a 6,500.00 battery pack you will wish your were in another line of work, because they will want your head and sue you for misrepresentation. I'm sure you had them sign that in 60 months they need to give you 6,500.00. Another Green scam on the american people!
      rwilliamhoward
      • 3 Years Ago
      They tell me that making the batteries for the hybrids and electrics release as much polution per battery as a gas car would produce in its lifetime. WHAT IS THE POINT? I'll gurantee that the politicians who are mandateing the 'new' 'standards' would not be found DEAD in one of the cars they envision. My Dad had a 1948 Austin A40. It delivered 35 MPG. 1,200 CC engine, and a 4 speed with a 'granny low', rather than an OD high. I recently had occation to drive a new Toyota Corola, with the 6 speed automatic. Didn't have it long enough to really test it, but I was impressed. It performed very well, and I drove it about 100 miles. The gas guage never moved. I own a 97 Buick LeSabre. Gives me right at 21 MPG in town, and around 35 on the highway. 266,000 miles. There's more oil under the middle of the country than in Saudi Arabia. And it's only 1,000 feet down. $16 a barrel. Get the environmentalists out of the way, and we can sell some to THEM (the Saudies). For $65 a barrel.
      TERRY
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's alway the same thing, people in government telling us what to drive ,what we need, while they travel in 4 ton armor plated limos', fly private jets to earth warming conferences, sit in wooden chairs and block logging roads, burn down hummer dealerships, releasing oil and trans fluids into the water supply, PETA telling us not to eat any animal, while their leader, Ingrid Newkirk is a diabetic, relies on insulin, which was tested on animals, oh, we need more wind turbines, it will create jobs, yes we do, and the jobs were created, they make them in china you know, for people crying they can't afford gas because they are up to their ass in debt, or kids, or both, does anyone see a pattern emerging here? Thank god I'm single and planned my future well
      hi
      • 3 Years Ago
      love my 01 dodge 4x4 ram.....I'll keep her runnin till i die......Almost 18mph on the highway.
      • 3 Years Ago
      OK, we will be getting 54 MPG driving a tin can. The oil companies wil just raise the price of fuel to fifteen or twenty (15 0r 20) dollars a gallon and we will be in the same pinch we were in when gas was extremely highly priced. You really cannot believe that the consumer will be getting any kind of a break by buying a high dollar vehicle to get better milage when the oil companies hold the strings on the price of fuel. Yes WE will be burning ethanol, which the gvernment is already subsidizing to the tune of 9 Billion a year and in 15 or so years it will be about 20 Billion. So, who do you think is going to profit by HIGHER MILAGE, HIGHER PRICED VEHICLES. I bet the oil companies dont loose a nickle on this deal. SMOKE AND MIRRORS MY FRIENDS
      fritobandav
      • 3 Years Ago
      LOL NOT ALL OF YOU AMERICANS ARE STUPID..BUT THE LARGEST AMOUNT OF YOU ARE LOL LOL AND YOU THINK THAT YOUR WHOLE MESS HAS BEEN JUS STARTED IN THE LAST 2 OR 3 YEARS ...LOL LOL LOL FOOLS
      rdd2897
      • 3 Years Ago
      The more we cut back on the use of gas the higher the price will be unless there is a price celing put it it will keep going up IT IS called greed by the big oil companys
      dsm
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a bunch of hypocrites. Drive into Washington ,D.C. on any given day and note what the politicians and their ilk are driving. The vast majority of them are GAS GUZZLERS!!!! Take a look at the presidents new buses...oh yeah!, they're economical!! There are probably more GAS GUZZLERS in the D.C. area than in an area of comparable size!
      skipixx
      • 3 Years Ago
      Can a Toyota Prius or a Chevy Volt pull a 1500 pound Bass boat or a pop up camper or a utility trailer loaded with a zero turn lawn mower and equipage? Answer: NOPE! They only have enough power to haul itself down the road. Hey, Mr. President start manufacturing the Pogue Carbureator and tell the gas company to stop putting additives in the gasoline to plug up the Vapor Carbureators that American Inventors have been working on since the 1930's. Or how about creating a modern car based on the Doble steam engine that uses CNG or plain old kerosene to run on. This is America, home of the free thinkers, let them submit ideas to solve our problems and not Government Motors.
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