Findings from a national survey of 2,000 representative Americans by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), reveal that a “very large majority” (85 percent) are concerned about gas prices, 87 percent believe it’s important to reduce oil consumption and 85 percent say it’s important to increase fuel economy standards.
Pain at the pump is real
While this concern is understandable, given the recent spike in gas prices, the CFA, which regularly examines the issues of fuel economy and mileage standards, says that even in the past when gas prices were lower, consumers understood the tradeoff and support higher fuel economy standards by a wide margin.
“Concern about volatile gasoline prices and support for higher standards is driven by the huge and rising bite gasoline expenditures are taking from household budgets – from less than $2,000 in 2009 to more than $3,000 this year,” said Mark Cooper, CFA’s research director and energy expert.
The survey, analyzed in a report entitled Rising Gasoline Prices and Households Expenditures: Will Policymakers Get Serious About Ending Our “Addiction to Oil” by Supporting a 60 Mile Per Gallon Standard?, was commissioned by CFA and undertaken by Opinion Research Corporation April 14-18, 2011.
Although gas prices spike and then stabilize, the CFA survey and charts (in the full report) show that annual family gasoline expenditures have been trending upward for several years. The only exceptions are the recession years of 2001-2002 and 2009-2010. The CFA projects that the average household will spend almost $3,100 in gasoline in 2011, which is another record.
Diving further into the results of the survey, it’s a bit surprising that Democrats and Republicans are not sharply divided on the issue of increased motor vehicle fuel economy. In fact, more than three-fifths of both Democrats and Republicans think it’s important to increase fuel economy, favor an average 60-mpg standard, with a five-year payback period, by 2025.
Why is this important to us right now? Two federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), as leader of the Clean Cars Program adopted by 14 states, are now considering standards that will affect fuel economy and vehicle emissions out to year 2025. One of the proposals being considered would increase fuel economy six percent a year beginning in 2017 and more than double light duty vehicle fleet economy to more than 60 mpg by 2025.
Fuel-efficient cars more readily available
Citing the fact that there are more than 60 models in 2011 that get over 30 mpg highway fuel economy, up from 14 models in 2008, CFA points further to the fact that consumers are buying these more fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2008, only six percent of the top 100 selling vehicles purchased got over 30 mpg. In 2011, that percentage has jumped to 15 percent.
CFA says further that General Motors and Toyota have said they “could comply” with a 60-mpg standard by 2025. The number of fuel-efficient vehicles, including electrics, available across automakers continues to increase with each model year.
Just a few family cars that come to mind from both automakers include the 2012 Buick Regal mid-size sedan and LaCrosse full-size luxury sedan with eAssist technology that will offer an estimated 37 mpg highway and the mid-size 2013 Chevrolet Malibu ECO, also with eAssist, that is estimated to achieve 26 mpg city/38 mpg highway fuel economy. The 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric provides a total range of up to 379 miles. The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, coming out in early 2012, will allow an estimated 475 miles between charges. The third-generation 2011 Prius, meanwhile, continues to get EPA-estimated 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway/50 mpg combined.