Debate swirls around new federal fuel efficiency mandate

Federal rules mandating that automakers double vehicles’ fuel efficiency by 2025 were finalized Tuesday, spurring  a flurry of opinions about the monumental impact of the new standard.

While supporters are calling the fuel efficiency standard a landmark boost to the environment and economy, opponents have questioned whether the goal is realistic and even dangerous.

Environment Texas, a statewide advocacy group, called the rule the nation’s single most significant effort to combat global warming.

“Future generations may well look back on today as a decisive step toward breaking our destructive oil addiction,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger in a written statement.

Some proponents argue that requiring cars to go further on less fuel will put more money in American families’ pockets, ultimately improving the economy. The average U.S. home spent a record $2,850 on gasoline in 2011, according to Jack Gillis, director of public policy for the Consumer Federation of America.

He adds that the goal is achievable, with the number of passenger vehicle models that get more than 30 miles per gallon more than quadrupling over the past five years to 52.

“The best way to insulate American families from volatile gasoline prices is to create a passenger vehicle fleet that gets more miles to the gallon,” Gillis said in a written statement.

But not everyone is on board. The Institute for Energy Research maintains that the new standard will drive up the cost of a new car and make them less safe.

Smaller, lighter vehicles provide passengers with less protection than SUVs and trucks, said IER Director of Regulatory Affiars Daniel Simmons.

“This is an undemocratic dangerous and costly decision,” Simmons said in a written release. “The Obama administration’s heavy-handed regulation overrides American’s automobile preferences and imposes the choices of unelected bureaucrats on consumers.”