Fuel Economy Regulations

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Fuel Economy Regulations are Crushing the Economy In 1975, the United States’ government passed the first round of regulations on fuel economy for private passenger vehicles. The corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards were intended to gradually increase the average fuel economy of consumer vehicles in an attempt to reduce the release of the global warming gas carbon dioxide, as well as reduce the United States dependence on foreign oil reserves. This action originally seemed to be very effective at slowly improving the efficiency of cars and light trucks, but the bill’s period of usefulness has since expired. When President of the United States, Barack Obama raised the fuel economy mandates via executive order to 54.5 miles per gallon…show more content…
Research shows that improving fuel economy at the projected rates will result in $126 billion of “non-fuel-cost benefits” to the environment (Yang). These claimed benefits include a reduction of pollution and increased human health due to lowered pollution levels. One cannot necessarily argue against these benefits, but this position shows only half the story. Not taken into consideration is the fact that making vehicles lighter requires new materials like aluminum that have many adverse effects on the environment. The process of producing one ton of aluminum requires the extraction of seven tons of bauxite (Australian Atlas of Mineral Resources, Mines, and Processing Centres). This oar is generally strip mined, a process that is extremely destructive to habitats and can lead to groundwater pollution. The production of aluminum also requires massive amounts of electricity, 14,000 to 16,000 kilowatt hours per ton (Australian Mine Atlas). Because of the massive power requirements, power to produce aluminum generally comes from the cheapest option, a heavily polluting coal fired power plant. This couples with the fact that the aluminum smelting process itself releases perfluorocarbons(PFCs), a harmful pollutant, with a global warming potential(GWP) between 6,000 and 25,000…show more content…
The sale of many cars that help companies comply with efficiency standards have remained very minimal, because consumers do not want these less functional or comfortable products. In January of 2015, the General Motors Company sold only 542 all electric Chevy Volts, out of 1.5 million total sales (Matthews). As vehicles are forced to achieve higher fuel standards, many cars are forced to get smaller, which sacrifices areas such as comfort and utility in many of America's cars, and consumers simply are not buying this. This lack of desire for fuel efficient vehicles shows that the government, with its fuel efficiency mandates, working against the majority opinion of the people. Also, over the years since CAFE standards were first put in place, the sales of large cars and SUVs has risen dramatically, reaching 2.9 million of 4.9 million total car sales in 2011 (Gardner). These large, heavy, high fuel consumption vehicles make it much more difficult for auto companies to comply with the minimum fuel economy. Even though this increase in the sale of low efficiency vehicles, average fuel economy has gone dramatically up, and has, for all years, been somewhat higher than CAFE minimums (ANWYL). This shows that there is still consumer desire to have fuel efficient vehicles, but it is not a top concern
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