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Argument: Fuel economy standards violate consumer choice

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Eric Peters. "No to New Fuel Economy Standards: Consumer Choice, Not Congress, Should Drive Detroit's Decisionmaking". National Policy Analysis. June 2007 - 35-mpg (and more) vehicles have been available for many years -- since the 1980s, in fact. But the market for these vehicles has always been limited, because to achieve high mileage, other attributes -- size, power and capability -- have to be sacrificed. Not everyone (or even many of us) want to drive around in a car the size of a Toyota Tercel. Some do, of course -- and the automakers have several models available to meet that need. But should Washington be force-feeding such cars on an unwilling marketplace?

And that, ultimately, is what the Markey-Platts bill is all about.

People already have a number of choices in the 35-mpg and more category -- including the latest generation of gas-electric hybrid SUVs, like Ford's Escape. True, it may cost them extra to get the additional 5-10 mpg -- as in the case of the hybrid Escape, which costs about $3,000 more than the standard, gas-only version of this vehicle. Or they may have to drive a smaller, less powerful/capable vehicle -- like the new class of "B-car" subcompacts, including the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris or Chevy's Aveo.

But the point is, the options are already out there -- no legislation required.

But if the Markey-Platts bill becomes law, these options will become a mandate -- and we'll all have to pay in one form or another. The add-on cost of the necessary research and development, specialized technology (everything from advanced engine designs to hybrid systems, etc.) will be either tacked onto the price tag of larger vehicles, or spread out and hidden in higher across-the-board costs of each automaker's entire product lineup.1 Maybe the extra 5-10 mpg that could be realized is worth an extra grand or two in "up front" costs. But maybe not.

Shouldn't the choice be the consumer's to make?

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