CAFE standards paving way to a better world?

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By The Staff

Hannah Hayes

The survival of our planet depends upon a large-scale shift in consciousness. Increasing the number of miles per gallon a car is required to achieve isn’t going to create enough change. If you are not already embracing a responsible 21st-century lifestyle, the journey might be uncomfortable at first, but it’s absolutely necessary. Reversing global warming and gearing up for sustainability requires steering outside of those double yellow lines and parking in an entirely new spot.

Our idea of what is truly desirable has to change. Sun bathers had to learn to see tanned skin as damaged and dangerous, while having a dirty car during the drought took on some chic. Blood diamonds are no longer a girl’s best friend, and fur is still dead.

A newspaper headline boasts, “Car buyers’ needs won’t change but car companies will have to get more creative at meeting them.” Consumer-driven transmogrifications are constantly happening in the marketplace. Instead of being paid to bring your own grocery sack, soon you’ll be charged if you haven’t brought one. And those caught-in-the-wind plastic bags themselves may soon disappear. But, for car owners it’s not about need. Cars are an American high-ticket status symbol. It’s time to question if you really need a Hummer in the suburban jungle. Yes, it’s “a beast slightly tamed” while “like nothing else,” but should it really be exempted from federal fuel efficiency regulations because it weighs over 8,500 pounds? Getting 10 to 13 mpg must not earn the reward of a tax break sometimes totaling as much as $10,000. With carbon emissions that are double those of a Chevy Malibu, Hummer’s conspicuous consumption ought to belong to the past.

Have you made “reduce, reuse and recycle” a mantra in your house? No one wants to limit choices, but evolving to an ecologically sound strategy on a voluntary basis may come too slowly for planet Earth. Wastefully, tap water has been packaged and sold to the detriment of the environment. In 2006, $15 billion was spent consuming 2.6 billion cases of water here in the U.S. Non-recyclers are filling up dumps with plastic bottles. Transporting water to compete with clean and safe public water is imprudent. It really struck me when I sipped a bottle of water from Iceland and it tasted just like Aquafina and plastic. All kinds of local regulations are in place to eliminate bottled water when tap water is available, and car buyers can shift their driving habits as well.

New rides are larger and heavier, with more safety features. Technology exists that enables these dream machines to exceed 35 mpg before 2010. Biodiesel, hybrid and electric cars are available for those willing to steer a different course. How about that Tesla Roadster! Until everyone wants to be driving a car that gets the most miles per gallon and uses the cleanest renewable fuel, the government must offer some guidelines.


The U.S. consumes 19.6 billion barrels of oil per day, and that amount increases by about 2 percent a year. ANWR’s contribution is “a drop in the bucket” that would lower prices by 50 cents a barrel, and cause imports to shift from 70 to 66 percent, according to an Energy Department report. For 20 years environmentalists have successfully blocked drilling in the wildlife refuge.

And, because of advocates like Ralph Nader working over the past 50 years, manufacturers improved car safety. Efficiency and emissions are the next challenges. Tim Graim of Stevinson Toyota West says, “Gas mileage is one of my customers’ first questions. In years past it was seldom discussed.” According to Automotive News, in 2007 Prius sales were up 68 percent and Camry Hybrid 73 percent.

Energy independence will happen through improved renewable technologies using wind and sun. Not everyone is hell bent on depleting resources. Those who care must ask themselves if there isn’t just one more thing they can do to help safeguard our planet and compensate for those thinking only of themselves.

A former educator, Hannah Hayes is a wife, mother and third-generation immigrant. She runs a national business in the natural products industry and is a co-founder of Evergreen Peace.

Kelly Weist

I drive a Chevy Tahoe and I love it. It gets only18 mpg. The government has decided that I shouldn’t be driving it.

The recent federal energy legislation promises to increase fuel efficiency and decrease our foreign oil dependence. Instead, it has several serious problems for our economy, not the least of which is the mandated increase in car mileage estimates, known as CAF% standards. Who wouldn’t like better gas mileage in their vehicles? As a vague statement, not many can disagree with this. However, the real world doesn’t work that way. Mandating something through government action doesn’t mean it can really happen. The free market, if given the chance to work, will innovate to increase the efficiency of its products all on its own, if there is a demand. Oil companies and car companies cannot mandate demand — they can only respond to it. Funny thing, there doesn’t seem to be a large demand for increased mileage estimates, except from government.

There are many models of high mileage vehicles on the market right now. Several models get upwards of 30 miles per gallon, and electric hybrid vehicles can get upwards of 50 miles to the gallon. The demand for these vehicles is not going through the roof. In fact, the vehicles in the highest demand have lower to moderate gas mileage estimates. How can this be, if there is a groundswell of demand for higher mileage estimates, as Congress asserts?

It comes down to two things: price and safety. Would you like to pay up to $6,000 more for your car? Some studies estimate this will be the average cost of increasing mileage estimates to 35 mpg. Take out the calculator. Are you really saving any money?

More importantly to me, and most moms out there, is the safety cost. Smaller vehicles, which are what Detroit would have to produce to get to 35 mpg per vehicle, have a much worse safety profile than larger vehicles. Studies estimate that 4,000 more lives per year would be lost due to the mandate. Give me a Chevy any day.

I will definitely trade fuel efficiency for safety and price. It would be great if we could have inexpensive vehicles with great gas mileage that are very, very safe. It would also be great if diamonds grew on conifers. Since government can’t mandate the latter, it’s pretty stupid to mandate the former.

I guess liberals would rather increase our costs and our risks than to move toward real energy independence. ANWR alone would provide us with enough oil reserves to lower gasoline prices and decrease our foreign oil dependence, and if we talk about coastal reserves and nuclear power, we would really be serious about energy independence. Smaller cars and toxic light bulbs are the height of frivolity. Unfortunately, that seems to be the definition of Congress these days.


The idea that our planet will crumple up and die without a complete tanking of our economy is the height of hubris and pretty stupid besides. We do know that our planet engages in fluctuations in temperatures over long stretches of time, without our help or interference. In fact, a slight rise in temperature may save lives across the planet, since winter kills more people every year than heat does, and temperature increase could increase food supply in the poorest areas.

All the rest of the doomsday stuff is so much blather. It’s the latest move on the part of the anti-growth activists to decrease our living standards, decrease our wealth and to ultimately diminish America and move it into socialism. Giving up our liberty and restricting our economy incrementally by government fiat doesn’t save anyone and takes money out of the market which could be solving the very problems the activists say they want to solve. Technology and free market demand for it will bring us better air, water and lives, just as it has in the past.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.