While U.S. lawmakers try to impose a 35 mpg mandate on US manufacturers by 2020, it’s worth noting that similar mandates – enacted 17 years ago – are now failing even in heavily gas-taxed Europe.
On the global warming-mad European continent, fuel efficiency is measured by carbon dioxide emissions rather than miles-per-gallon, and the European Commission has mandated 120 grams/kilometer (equivalent to a staggering 62 mpg) by 2012.
They aren’t going to make it.
This week in Belgium, officials acknowledged that an interim goal of 140 g/km (48 mpg) by next year is already beyond reach, as the average emissions of vehicles today is “only” 160 g/km (42 mpg). Even bureaucrats are now suggesting the 120 g/km goal be pushed off to 2015. Why are the Europeans missing their targets? Because pols can incentivize markets with gas taxes, but they cannot control what consumers buy. The fastest growing segment in Europe these days is – gasp! – the SUV.
In fact, even as he lectures manufacturers to make smaller cars, the EC President himself, José Manuel Barroso, drives an SUV (Volkswagen Toureg)!
European elites like to think of themselves as superior to their grubby American counterparts, but the European fuel efficiency discussion sounds remarkably like the U.S. discussion.
Just like its U.S. counterpart (the Alliance of Automobile Manufactureres), the European vehicle manufacturers trade association (ACEA) estimates the average vehicle retail price would increase by nearly $5,000 to achieve the 120 g/km target (echo GM’s Bob Lutz).
Just like its U.S. counterpart, the ACEA has consistently argued for an “integrated approach” whereby loopholes for biofuels, for example, should be factored in to CO2 targets (echo the U.S. ethanol loophole).
And like his U.S. counterparts, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says that the EC mandate unfairly singles out the automotive industry (echo Rep. John Dingell!). Says Marchionne: the EC aims are “not doable at the Fiat level and not doable at the European level.”
Greens, naturally, are hopping made.
Says Jos Dings, director of the influential environmental lobby group, Transport & Environment, fumes: “The 120 g/km target was agreed in 1995, and the car makers originally had 10 years. 17 years is more than enough.”
And as in the U.S., no industry achievement is ever enough for Greens. Though European cars currently average a phenomenal 42 per gallon and sport such whiz-bang technology as clean diesel, direct-injection systems, moralists like Dings accuse automakers of a conspiracy to withhold better technologies as they lecture that the EC shouldn’t be “conned by the hysterical lobbying of ACEA.”
It seems Americans and Europeans aren’t so different after all.