Let us pave the way | VailDaily.com

Let us pave the way

Sen. Ken Salazar finally caved into pressure from environmentalists last week to support new gas mileage standards.

His endorsement may have appeased the green half of his Democratic base, but we would have been more impressed if Salazar had followed his first instinct.

The standards, which would raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy ” or CAFE ” standards to 35 mpg by 2020, are a great goal.

But do we really need another law to get us there?

CAFE is a straw man, something that makes people think the government is doing something. But the market usually has other ideas.

In the past decade or so, that’s been bigger, more powerful vehicles, not necessarily gas-sippy ones.

Consider that despite those supposedly outrageous prices at the pump, a new study revealed last week that more American than ever are driving to work solo.

When people want fuel-efficient vehicles, they’ll buy them. And if Ford, GM and Chrysler want to stay in business, they’ll build vehicles people want to buy. It’s called shaking out the market.

We’re already seeing the trend. More and more people are buying hybrid cars, trading in their big SUVs for more fuel-efficient sedans. There isn’t a groundswell, sure, but even our local county government decided to switch out the fleet for a flock of Priuses, partly, they say, to save a little taxpayer money at the pump.

The recent trend you’ve seen toward more efficient vehicles from Detroit is in response to market demands, not government mandates.

The proposed requirements come at a pretty steep price to the American auto industry, as well ” about $114 million, they estimate. Auto makers in our country are already struggling to survive; what good does it do to force them to build vehicles that consumers don’t want to drive?

Additionally, the current proposal would reach beyond the current CAFE standards ” which apply only to cars and light trucks ” and also take aim at medium-size and heavy-duty trucks, which many Coloradans drive.

Are you ready to trade in that SUV for a minivan?

We hope someday you are. We also hope that our leaders in Washington will allow you that choice.

” Tamara Miller and Scott Miller for the Editorial Board

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