I think we should have higher gasoline taxes in this country, ones that make drivers pay for the negative externalities that they cause (i.e., environmental harm, health problems, road congestion). If we had taxes that were a correct assessment of these externalities, then we would not need fleet standards. However, this seems to be politically impossible in the US. Even environmentalists often oppose gas taxes, because they would hurt the poor. The simple solution to that problem would be to make income taxes more progressive.
While gasoline taxes remain the best way of reducing fuel emissions, fleet standards are also an acceptable method since gas taxes seem to be politically impossible in our current political environment. However, the two largest problems with fleet standards right now are their exclusion of certain types of vehicles and the current methods of calculation.
Minivans and sport utility vehicles should be included in fleet fuel efficiency standards. That they are excluded has led to aggressive marketing by auto companies to target these types of vehicles to the audience who otherwise would have bought inefficient cars. Since these vehicles have worse fuel efficiency than cars, in general, their increase has led to increase in gasoline consumption, or at least has significantly slowed the decrease. Low gasoline prices are contributing to these very inefficient vehicles.
The problems with the calculation of fleet standards are almost as serious. Under the current system, in which the standards specify a fleet average number of miles per gallon (mpg), a change from 38 to 40 mpg is considered as significant as one from 8 to 10 mpg. In reality, a change from 8 to 10 mpg saves one gallon every 40 miles, while a change from 38 to 40 mpg saves one gallon every 760 miles. Instead, the standards should be calculated as a fleet average of gallons per mile (gal./mi.), and unit which should be called fuel consumption rather than fuel efficiency. A change of 0.03 gal./mi. causes the same change in fuel consumption regardless of the current fuel consumption of the vehicle.
In conclusion, I would want to propose the following standards. The standards take into account the increase in electric and solar vehicles which should take place in the near future. These vehicles have a fuel consumption of zero. I would expect vehicles that use combined power sources to get between 0.005 gal./mi. and 0.02 gal./mi. (50 to 200 mpg).
|By the year||Fuel consumption
|Equivalent fuel efficiency|
of average (mpg)
- April 11, 1998
Arguments on road pricing are clearly put forth in:
"Jam today, road pricing tomorrow." The Economist. December 6, 1997. 15-16.
"No room, no room." The Economist. December 6, 1997. 21-23.
(Back to Views, David Baron)