Adding two miles per gallon is not a solution

Kevin Wilson: Local Columnist

When I took a look at the CNN Web site on Tuesday morning, I couldn’t help but give a slight amount of approval to the Bush administration, or at least the first sentence of the story I uploaded.

“The Bush administration announced new fuel economy rules Tuesday that require improved mileage for the sport/utility vehicles and other light trucks that have captured a majority of U.S. auto sales,” it said. To this news I countered, “It’s about time.”

As anybody who knows me can tell, I’m not the biggest fan of SUVs, often saying that people who knowingly buy fuel-inefficient vehicles lose future rights to complain about fuel prices. To me, paying more at the pump is the tradeoff for buying a huge luxurious SUV — think of it as somebody who moves from a two-bedroom apartment into a four-bedroom house with a two-car garage, then complaints about paying more for rent.

Since the savings on oil will accumulate with each year of new vehicles Americans purchase, even the smallest increase in mandated mileage is a good thing.

Unfortunately, the smallest in increases seems to be exactly what we’ve chosen to do. The mileage standards work differently for different vehicles, and the biggest of SUVs won’t be that much better. By the year 2011, under the mandates, minivans would have to achieve 23.3 miles per gallon instead of the current mandate of 21 mpg.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of change to me. Think about it this way: An eighth-grader at Portales Junior High School will be midway through the first year of college by the time these changes are implemented. Their savings will translate into about $5 of extra fuel. With the current rise in fuel prices, I’m guessing those savings will be eaten up by higher fuel prices and we’ll have done little to save Americans money.

This is especially troubling when we can read stories about people tinkering with their hybrids adding more batteries and pushing mileage rates past 100 mpg. Even if standardizing these results are years off, we should be dedicating money toward researching these types of practices.

It’s either that, or we can keep increasing mileage 2.5 mpg at a time every six years, and hoping we hit 100 mpg sometime in the 22nd century.

Meanwhile, private citizens are showing we can be faster and better at finding ways to cut down our dependence on foreign oil and reduce pollution.

Maybe someday I’ll get lucky and see that online.