MPG: 40 Years of Politics
The past 40 years of our automobile’s fuel efficiency has been largely helped – and hurt by our government. Here we break down the past 4 decades of MPG ratings and how they were determined.
1970′s – Average MPG: 14
- The oil price shock of the 1970′s pressured Congress to introduce CAFE standards in 1975.
- This new law called for the doubling of passenger cars’ fuel economy to 27.5 MPG within the next 10 years.
1980′s – Average MPG: 27.5
- Due to CAFE, vehicle efficiency increased steadily throughout the decade, hitting the required 27.5 MPG mark set by Congress.
- Ford and GM lobbied Congress to lower the standard, to 26 MPG in 1986.
- “We are about to put up a tombstone: “Here lies America’s energy policy.” – Chrysler Chairman Lee LaCocca
1990′s – Average MPG: 26
- Senators Richard Bryan (D-Nev) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash) sponsored legislation that would raise fuel economy standards over 40% in the next decade.
- The bill was filibustered on the Senate floor by Michigan senators. If it were to pass, the US would be saving over 1 million barrels of oil per day.
- Congress then passed an anti-fuel economy rider that remained in effect from 1995 – 2000, barring the president from changing fuel economy standards.
2000′s – Average MPG: 25
- Congress lifts the freeze on fuel economy in 2000, standards are raised on light trucks only by 2%.
- In 2005, after 4 years of debate, Congress failed to increase the MPG standards.
2010′s – Average MPG: 27
- New CAFE standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks are introduced, improving standards by 10-20% by 2018.
- The EPA has raised standards for passenger cars to 54.5 MPG by 2025.
“This will be win, win, win; it will reduce reliance on oil, strengthen energy security and mitigate climate change.” -Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
By Chris Piper
By John Addison (updated 12/3/09, original 11/24/09)
For the fifth consecutive year, EPA is reporting an increase in fuel efficiency with a corresponding decrease in average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for new cars and light duty trucks. Average CO2 emissions have decreased by 39 grams per mile, or 8 percent, and average fuel economy has increased by 1.8 mpg, or 9 percent, since 2004.
“American drivers are increasingly looking for cars that burn cleaner, burn less gas and won’t burn a hole in their wallets,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re working to help accelerate this trend with strong investments in clean energy technology – particularly for the cars and trucks that account for almost 60 percent of greenhouse gases from transportation sources. Cleaner, more efficient vehicles can help reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, cut harmful pollution, and save people money — and it’s clear that’s what the American car buyer wants.”
Progress surprisingly slowed during the recession. For 2008, the last year for which EPA has final data from automakers, the average fuel economy value was 21.0 miles per gallon (mpg). EPA projects a small improvement in 2009, based on pre-model year sales estimates provided to EPA by automakers, to 21.1 mpg. When the tax payers handed GM and Chrysler $70 billion weren’t we promised more progress than that?
The 10 Best 2010 Hybrids achieve 30 to 50 miles per gallon.
The EPA report confirms that average CO2 emissions have decreased and fuel economy has increased each year beginning in 2005. This positive trend beginning in 2005 reverses a long period of increasing CO2 emissions and decreasing fuel economy from 1987 through 2004, and returns CO2 emissions and fuel economy to levels of the early 1980s.
While the Senate debates if it is possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 17 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level, Americans already have us half the way there when it comes to transportation. Americans are cutting car use with flexwork, car pooling, and transit. Gas guzzlers are being replaced with fuel misers and even electric cars.
In addition, new buildings use much less electricity and heat due to better insulation, HVAC systems, and even LED lighting. Emissions will really dip if we stop subsidizing oil and coal, and put a price on carbon emissions.