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Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency: Safety Issues Misconstrued

March 24, 1991

Letters Editor
New York Times
229 W 43 St
NYC 10036

To the Editor:

Reading the editorial "Save Gasoline a Better Way" was a pleasant surprise for its call for an increased gas tax. The editorial, though, misconstrued the safety issue related to increasing Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards (CAFE).

The Times correctly asserts that auto manufacturers have been selling smaller cars in order to increase fuel efficiency. The manufacturers do not necessarily need to sell smaller cars to achieve CAFE standards. Component weight can be significantly reduced by using new alloys, metals and composites while not making the body less solid. Improvements in engine technology have much to offer too. Internal combustion engines are highly inefficient, converting only 35% of energy into forward motion. There are gasoline engines which work on completely different physical principles which render efficiencies over 50%.

Even if vehicle weights are lessened, safety will not be a major issue. The severity of an impact is dependent upon the weight of the objects involved. As the average vehicle become lighter, the severity of the average accident will decrease.

To touch on the greater picture, we need to increase both the price of fuel and the efficiency of its use. Increasing the price to reflect its external costs discourages unneeded use. Increasing efficiency reduces the impacts each time we use fuel.


Dan Convissor

The points in this letter were included in the Times' subsequent coverage

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Last updated: 4 April 1999