You might think that all the emphasis on clean and green cars in recent years -- and all the talk about people finally giving up their SUVs -- would have an effect on overall fuel economy. And you'd be right!
A new Environmental Protection Agency report concludes that the average "light duty" vehicle (cars and light trucks) got 20.8 miles per gallon in model year 2008. That's a small but heartening increase over the 20.6 mpg they got in 2007.
SUVs are going begging.
What's more, the EPA says that its study of sales data shows that subcompacts, compacts and midsized cars are the only classes meeting projections. Big gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups are down as much as 25 percent. And -- can this be the United States of America? -- the four-cylinder engine has gained ground over the six and V-8.
The EPA thinks its projections are too conservative, and that the actual increase in mileage is even more.
For those of us who had reluctantly concluded that SUVs were part of America's "sacred way of life," this is very good news. One wishes the improvements were bigger, but this is an incremental shift. The last time we saw it was from 1975 (after the Arab oil embargo) through the early 1980s. Remember Ronald Reagan removing the solar panels from the White House? That was also around the time that gas prices plummeted, and the country went to sleep on fuel economy.
The EPA actually seems passionate about reducing our fossil fuel intake even further. "Fuel economy is directly related to energy security," it says, "because light-duty vehicles account for approximately 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption, and much of this oil is imported."
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