Honors 203/Chemistry 110

Chemistry and Issues in the Environment

CAFE Standards Issue

Should the US raise CAFE (Corporate Automobile Fuel Efficiency) standards for light trucks and SUVs?

Issue Summary

Corporate Automobile Fuel Efficiency or CAFE standards are in place to regulate the average fuel efficiency of vehicles. These are currently set at 27.5 mpg for cars and 21.2 mpg for light trucks (set to rise to 22.2 by 2007). In a given model year, an automobile corporation must manufacture autos and light trucks that are fuel-efficient enough such that their corporate averages reach these standards. The corporate average is the average mpg across their entire fleet of vehicles in the given class. It is possible for an automaker to make more or less efficient cars and trucks, as long as their average reaches the CAFE Standards. Currently, autos and light trucks/SUVs under 8500 lbs are subject to these standards. Many larger vehicles, such as Hummers, large trucks and SUVs weigh more than 8500 lbs fully loaded and are thus exempt from these regulations.

Environmental groups urge action and see raising CAFE standards as a helpful step in reducing CO2 and other tailpipe emissions. Other groups, including automakers and various political and citizen groups favor alternative approaches citing safety, economic concerns and consumer needs. In general, these groups tend to prefer voluntary programs, tax rebates on high-efficiency vehicles and free market solutions over raising CAFE standards.

Currently under consideration is a new Reformed CAFE program. In Reformed CAFE, autos are divided into classes by footprint, and different fuel economy standards would be adopted for each class.

Discussion Questions

Using the web based resources below, investigate this issue and formulate your own opinion. Some questions to consider: Bring to class a 2 page mini-essay draft describing your viewpoint. Your essay need not be long, but you should indicate your primary reasons for your decision and make appropriate references to evidence and information you have gathered from your research.

Collect all sources at the end as well as citing within the text, see: Citation Guidelines.

Web Resources

Background Information

Sites For Raising CAFE Standards:

Sites Against Raising CAFE Standards:

Sites Not Specifically Pro or Con

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Questions should be directed to Dr. Kimberly Lawler-Sagarin: ksagarin@elmhurst.edu