Consumers will respond to 54.5 mpg model

August 14, 2011

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JEFF JACOBY (“ ‘Energy independence’ is a pipe dream,’’ Op-ed, Aug. 7) claims that, barring an engineering miracle, achieving an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 is “pie in the sky.’’ Not according to the many leading carmakers that endorsed the new standards. Chrysler said it could use “plain-vanilla technology’’ to meet the new standards, and all agreed that technology already in the pipeline could suffice.

Jacoby says that CAFE, or corporate average fuel economy, mandates don’t work because fuel consumption increased from 1975 to 2008. He forgot to mention that population grew dramatically over that period, and that CAFE standards contained a giant SUV loophole. Nevertheless, as the standard rose from 18 to 27.5 miles per gallon for passenger cars, efficiency kept pace. Not surprisingly, when the standard remained stuck at 27.5 mpg, efficiency stopped rising.

Jacoby also claims that efficiency has no net effect on consumption. Counterexamples abound. Consider California’s strict refrigerator appliance standards, which, after 1976, dramatically lowered energy consumption from a projected 175 gigawatts to less than 15 gigawatts.

These standards would save average consumers an estimated $8,200 over the lifetime of a new vehicle, with a total savings of $1.7 trillion in fuel costs for our country.

Berl Hartman
The writer is cofounder of the New England chapter of Environmental Entrepreneurs.