Commentary

Americans do not care all that much about fuel economy.

This will come as a shock to pollsters who survey registered voters, instead of recent car buyers, and to lawmakers such as Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) who wants to raise average fleet fuel economy for both cars and trucks to 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) by 2018.

Markey and supporters of his popular bill believe the myth that fuel efficiency spells success in the auto business and that consumers are waiting impatiently to buy the first plug-in hybrid vehicle.

Vehicle sales tell a very different story.

Five years after 9/11, the top two best-selling vehicles in the U.S. remain the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado fullsize pickup trucks. The beefy Dodge Ram actually climbed two notches since 2001, to the No.5 position, outselling the Honda Accord and Civic.

All three pickups, depending on engine size, average about 15 mpg (16 L/100 km).

It’s not in the top 10 yet, but with sales targeted at 200,000 units annually, the gas-gulping Toyota Tundra also is on track to handily outsell the Prius hybrid-electric vehicle in 2007, 45th on the list last year.

Here are a few other myths, begging to be debunked:

The Government will help auto makers sell more vehicles by forcing them to produce cars and trucks that meet a fleet average of 35 mpg.

No technology available now or in the future will enable auto makers to produce a fullsize pickup with more than double the average fuel economy of today that still would be affordable and able to fulfill the usual obligations of a pickup, such as carrying and towing heavy loads. That means General Motors, Ford and Chrysler will have to stop building their best, most-popular products. It will devastate their sales.

If auto makers did have such technology, as critics suggest, it already would be in use in Europe, where it would provide a huge competitive advantage because fuel already costs twice as much as in the U.S.

Fuel-economy activists are compassionate.

They do wring their hands over every polar bear that falls through the melting Arctic icecap. They also weep over the possibility of Fiji islanders being flooded out of their homes 50 years from now. But the specter of hundreds of thousands of unemployed auto workers losing their homes 50 months from now elicits no sympathy.

This latest spate of unreasonable fuel economy legislation is not an elitist attack on Middle America.

Yes it is. The idea of regular folks with five-figure incomes being able to afford a house and a cottage, plus a nice truck to tow boats and snowmobiles between the two is an alien lifestyle to those pushing the most extreme fuel economy legislation from their bases in large coastal cities.

They don’t care if Billy Bob won’t be able to go bass fishing 10 years from now, but the rest of America should, because he won’t be the last one asked to forfeit something dear for the good of the environment.

Curbing global warming requires commitment and equality of sacrifice by everyone, not just the easiest targets.

dwinter@wardsauto.com