The administration wants to keep vehicle size constant but to force automakers to use materials and technologies that will improve fuel economy in whatever size vehicle is offered.
In March, when transportation officials rewrote the truck standard, the new rules demanded only a small increase in overall mileage, although they pushed the minimum required fuel economy for some small sport utility vehicles to above the level now required for cars.
Setting the standard vehicle by vehicle is important because existing car standards make no difference to some manufacturers. For example, for 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Toyota and Honda both averaged 33.1 m.p.g., partly because they sold a lot of small cars, and they had no CAFE concerns.
DaimlerChrysler averaged 26.6, and Ford, 26.9, and unlike Toyota and Honda, both manufacturers had to worry about technology and sales mix. If cars were judged individually, even small cars that performed poorly considering their size would have to be improved. Thus, the burden would fall for the first time on companies that make mostly smaller cars, generally imports.
To be honest, I will take whatever at this point of time to help increase the fuel economy. I do not think personally that size/attribute based standards will create a long term perverse incentive to build bigger vehicles just to avoid stricter CAFE stnadards. Rep. Boehlert (R-NY) is in favor of much stricter fuel economy standards than what is likely to be palatable in Congress, but I guess he will take any increase in fuel economy standards just like me!
Tom Daschle and Vinod Khosla co-wrote an op-ed titled Miles per Cob advocating Carbon Alternative Fuel Equivalent.
The CAFE standard does nothing to encourage that change (...towards renewable fuels). It requires American automakers to build cars and trucks that meet a minimum standard of average mileage traveled per gallon of gasoline. But the current standard for minimum mileage traveled per gallon of gas consumed is both too low and focused on the wrong challenge.
We need to upgrade to a new CAFE: Carbon Alternative Fuel Equivalent. This new CAFE will measure "petroleum mileage" and give automakers incentives and credits for increasing ethanol consumption as a percentage of fuel use of their vehicles, not least by promoting flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on either gasoline or E85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. This approach promises several significant benefits.
I am not sure of Mr. Khosla is aware of the dual fuel credits, but I presume that Mr. Daschle is. Unfortunately, the 1.2 million or so flex fuel vehicle on road are rarely filled up with E85. Not only are most owners of E85 aware that their vehicle can run on E85, in most cases they will be unable to fill up with E85 due to lack of availability of sufficient ethanol fueling stations. Personally, I am not sure that E85 should be pushed on a nation-wide basis. Creating regional clusters -- starting with midwest of course -- may be a more prudent strategy.