Congress Will Pass a Not-So-Favorable Energy Bill

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Congress, more specifically the House of Representatives, will likely be voting on an Energy Bill today as you read this blog. Included in the bill will be new, higher CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements. And, unfortunately, they’re not as favorable to trailer boating as we have tried to steer them.
While our industry lobbying team in Washington does not yet have the final language, informed sources tell us the bill will call for increasing CAFE for the vehicle fleet to 35 mpg by 2020, a 40% hike. Currently, the CAFE standards are 27 mpg for cars, 22 mpg for light trucks. In addition, the auto manufacturers will have to make “ratable” progress toward the 35 mpg requirement in the years leading up to 2020.

CAFE standards were first enacted in 1975 and revised upward in small increments several times. In recent years environmental activists have been pushing hard for higher CAFE standards while the auto, boat, RV and allied industries have successfully held off the changes. This time, however, the CAFE issue has gotten muddled into the whole global warming debate and it appears we’re going to take a “big hit” this time. Or are we?

It may appear so a first glance, but after reflection it’s not very likely to be the disaster we’ve claimed it would be.

True, previous increases eliminated the family car as a suitable tow vehicle for boats, leaving only the light truck and SUV to do the job. Now they will likely be down-sized and lightened in the future. In fact, the SUV and/or light pickup might disappear altogether. All is not lost, however.

On the plus side, there’s a 13-year window to develop new engines, new materials, new transmissions and so on in the auto industry. Even more to the point, the diesel engine is not part of the CAFE standards. Thus, diesel power may be the way SUV’s and light trucks will now go. What’s more, diesels get better economy than gas engines.

So, after being in the ring on this issue for 30 years, we finally have the decision. Now, we can lament about losing the fight but it seems to me, in the final analysis, the worst we got was a cut over the eye. We can and will deal with it and move forward as always.

As Dennis Jay blogged here back on August 23 in response to my Blog calling CAFE a pending disaster for boating: “Sorry, Norm. . .Our customers are in tune with the environment and we must be too. This is America. We have the ingenuity to build a fuel-efficient light truck with enough power to tow a boat. We just need to give the truck manufacturers an incentive to do so. Support the CAFE standards for the good of everyone.”

Well spoken, Dennis. I’m tired of hearing about CAFE anyway. Let’s move on!

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