Recently Senator Edwards, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, said he would increase CAFE to 40 MPG by 2016. The current standard is 27.5, so I thought it was a bold move. Then I read Obama's plan. He plans to increase CAFE 4 percent a year. His website says it's "a rate that the National Academy of Sciences has determined is possible without changes in vehicle weight, safety or performance." There is a caveat of "unless the experts at NHTSA justify a deviation in that rate by proving that the increase is technologically unachievable, cannot maintain overall fleet safety, or is not cost-effective."
Assuming it's compound interest, he's elected and re-elected, CAFE should be 37.64 in 2016. This is actually a few MPG's less than Edwards. However, Edward's plan does not have any requirement before 2016. Obama's plan could have a real impact on the way car companies design. The pressure of a yearly deadline for increasing CAFE would put improvements on the road sooner. Even if the improvements are small, they are still improvements that could otherwise be delayed in Edward's plan.
Hillary Clinton's energy plan is not out just yet. Obama and Edwards both support ethanol and flex fuels in different ways. So, I expect her plan to support fuel alternatives as well. There is very little cost involved in making a car flex fuel. Add the scale of every car being flex fuel, possible government subsidies and you get major benefits with no real cost at all. The energy bill has a CAFE plan of 35 MPG by 2020, so expect Clinton to say something above 35 MPG as well. The video above shows Obama at the opening of an ethanol plant.