MPG in Wonderland

by Henry Payne

“You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy,” said President Barack Obama accepting his party’s nomination for a second term. “We raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.”

Forget the Orwellian line about giving Americans more choice when the intent of fuel standards is to limit vehicle choice. The promise of doubling your mpg is flat out false.

In fact, the Obama administration’s new 55 mpg-by-2025 fuel economy mandate is a mind-numbing trip through Alice’s Wonderland that imposes huge burdens on automakers even as it allows industry lobbyists to buy loopholes that will allow them to continue to sell large vehicles that customers demand – and that come nowhere near 55 mpg. In truth, Obama’s mpg rules are a microcosm of Obamanomics: They are a false promise that concentrate more power with Washington pols by bringing a major industry’s products under more federal review.

How byzantine are the finalized 55-by-2025 rules? Follow the Wall Street Journal down the rabbit hole:

By 2025, the U.S. government wants large pickup trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado to get about 44% better mileage than today. But GM has improved the Silverado’s fuel efficiency by 20% since 2002, and it will have a variety of paths to meet the government’s future target-including never having to attain it at all.

That’s right. “Never having to attain it at all.”

That’s because the Obama rules are an arbitrary fiction (why not a 100 mpg standard? 250 mpg, anyone?) that have no correlation to market reality. Current law mandates that vehicle fleets average 35.5 mpg by 2015 — that is, cars that are in production now — yet industry analyst TrueCar reports that average fuel economy in August was just 23.2 mpg (compared to 21.7 mpg a year ago). That small increase is due to market forces ($4 a gallon gas) and is over 50 percent below what the feds will require in just two years.

Even Hyundai, the industry leader at 28.1 mpg for all its vehicles, is nowhere near Lewis Carroll’s — er, the feds’ — average (and barely above the 2011 standard of 27 mpg). Federally-owned GM comes in at a mere 21 mpg.

How will manufacturers meet 55-by-2025? By spending lots of money to meet federal rules (meaning the “engines will be smaller, the car bodies lighter, and the sticker prices higher,” reports the Journal) — then gaming the system when they still fall short.

“In the real world,” records the Journal, acknowledging Obama’s beltway fantasy land, “an automaker could still sell significant numbers of vehicles that don’t meet that target. Auto makers do have a big incentive to build cars that get better mileage than required for their size. That generates credits that can cover for the failure of a future large pickup to meet the administration’s goals.”

Got that? It’s language only lobbyists understand — which is how Obamanomics works. Government dictates your market (health care, energy, autos), unless you are rich enough to afford lobbyists that can carve loopholes you can drive an SUV through.

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