• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Government Fail: EPA's Green Letter Grades for Vehicles

    Both the Bush and Obama Administrations implemented tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles with the message that more stringent regulations will reduce carbon dioxide and save consumers money because they’ll be purchasing less gas. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced fleet-wide requirements of 34.1 miles per gallon in 2016 for all automakers in the U.S.

    Now, are the agencies trying to guilt you into buying a hybrid? The Wall Street Journal reports:

    The government proposed labeling each new passenger vehicle with a letter grade from A to D based on its fuel efficiency and emissions, part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to promote electric cars and other advanced-technology vehicles.

    Currently, the labels must show how many miles per gallon a car gets and its estimated annual fuel cost. Under the proposed changes, a new label design would carry a large letter grade assigned by regulators.

    Under the system, the only cars that would receive an A-plus, A or A-minus would be electrics and plug-in hybrids, the government said. Many compact and midsize vehicles would get Bs, while bigger and more powerful models such as sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks would get Cs or C-minuses because they burn more petroleum and pump out more carbon dioxide, officials said.

    The proposal is unnecessary and degrading to consumers who already have the information they need to purchase the vehicles they desire. Consumers have different preferences and different needs and take a number of variables into account when buying a car. Size, safety, miles-per-gallon, costs of repairs, location, and price (among others) all play important roles, and each carries a different weight per individual. Should the EPA and NHTSA arbitrarily assign grades to all these factors? There’s also a conflict-of-interest issue that arises: Should these regulatory agencies be picking winners and losers among the models and manufacturers they regulate?

    So why the obnoxious letter grade? Just as no child wants to come home with a report card full of C’s, consumers could feel guilty rolling out of a dealership with a C-minus SUV. Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said, “The proposed letter grade falls short because it is imbued with school-yard memories of passing and failing.”

    Unfortunately for automakers, more stringent fuel efficiency regulations do not come with guaranteed consumer demand for those vehicles. Gloria Bergquist, also from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said, “We have a hill to climb, and it’s steep, so we will need consumers to buy our fuel-efficient technologies in large numbers to meet this new national standard.”

    Bob Lutz, vice chairman of GM, echoed Berguist’s remarks, saying, “We’ll have to force a lot of hybrids, which people may or may not pay for.” Consumers have a wide variety of choices when it comes to purchasing a vehicle; clearly, a number of smaller, fuel-efficient cars exist on the market today—including a growing number of hybrid vehicles. Yet Jake Fisher, senior automotive engineer at Consumer Reports, asserted, “Performance hybrids and mild hybrids haven’t gained any traction in the market.” The EPA and NHTSA’s lettering system is an attempt to persuade reluctant consumers into buying those vehicles.

    Another problem is that advertising the cost savings from increased fuel efficiency relies only on government numbers. While the Obama Administration acknowledges higher sticker prices for vehicles, they may underestimate those increases. Last year, President Obama said consumers would be better off paying $1,300 more for a new car because they will save $2,800 through better gas mileage. However, some estimates place the price hikes much higher. Sandra Stojkovski of See More Systems, which specializes in systems engineering, “projects the sticker of a compact car will go up $1,800 to $2,000. The price of a mid-sized car is likely to increase $4,500 to $6,000, she says. Outfitting a full-sized pickup with a diesel, rather than a gasoline-powered V-8, and other new equipment could cost $9,000.” One should also consider the energy electricity used and output of emissions when charging an electric vehicle.

    Consumers already have access to the miles-per-gallon numbers, which is much less arbitrary than any grading system. They can do without the Hester Prynne–style marking.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Government Fail: EPA's Green Letter Grades for Vehicles

    1. Chris says:


      I thought we ALL were SPECIAL and that nobody was supposed to be exalted over the other, less fortunate ones.

      Whatever happened to the manic drive to abolish letter grades so that everyone was granted the same level of high-self-esteem (albeit abysmal achievement).

      Anyone see the ironic disconnect here?


    2. Pingback: Proposed Vehicle Labels to Include GHG Emissions and Fuel Economy Comparisons – Reuters | Efficiency

    3. Pingback: PA Pundits - International

    4. Brad, Detroit, MI says:

      I give a D in math to those who purchase hybrids.

      Avg cost of a compact Hybrid vehicle – $25,000

      Yearly fuel cost (15,000 mi / 50 MPG * $2.85 gallon) = $855

      Five years of ownership cost = $4275

      Avg cost of a normal compact vehicle – $18,000

      Yearly fuel cost (15,000 mi / 30 MPG * $2.85 gallon) = $1425

      Five years of ownership cost = $7125

      Money saved in gas with Hybrid – $2850 after 5 years

      Penalty in purchase price – $7000

      Breakeven point – 12 years and 4 months

      Not to mention the high cost of replacing the battery on a Prius or Insight. What a farce !

    5. Rick says:

      I own a Toyota Prius.

      I looked at gas mileage of about 50 mpg and made a semi-competent decision based also on the cost of the car and its reliability.

      But now … I would be able to just look at the A- and go from there?

      Thank you EPA for simplifying my next car-buying decision!

      Now I will not even have to think. I can blindly follow the grades.

    6. Pingback: » LETTER: Dirty Air Act is messy business - Taunton Daily Gazette

    7. Pingback: Pace of EPA’s Clean Air Act Rulemakings Turns Heads, Draws Lawsuits – New York Times « Contacto Latino News

    8. Pingback: Stock Investing Shop - Stock Investing Guides, Business News, Live TV and Chat

    9. Dehran Duckworth says:

      If biofuels enjoyed even a fraction of the subsidies that the petroleum industry is showered with, energy diversification would take effect immediately. In the US, it is estimated that when taking all costs into consideration including defense and the loss of jobs and capitol overseas, gasoline really costs the U.S. @ $30.00/ gallon, the petroleum industry would never survive without the government holding it's hand every step of the way. Biofuels are not given a single government subsidy and producers are left to fend for themselves. EV's are a joke on the public who's energy use can literally be measured in lbs of coal/ mile and are basically intended to fail sustainability calculations in order to perpetuate the American Petro-government's ongoing crusade to discredit and disregard all attempts to move to sustainable alternatives. Any subsidy at all for biofuels would help our country to create jobs at home and move towards energy independence, subsidies to the extent of those the petro giants receive going in the direction of alternative energy would show immediate positive results in all sectors. The fact that there is no government support whatsoever in the U.S. for alternative fuels speaks volumes to who is actually running this country and who benefits from U.S. public policy. It's a sad day when we can honestly say the U.S. is way below many countries like Brazil and China on the list of countries actually looking to face the coming energy challenges with intelligent, realistic, available solutions, and chooses to let the greedy few dictate the policies which control the lives of the hundreds of millions. Welcome to the United Corporations of America, where the life and well being of a citizen takes a back seat to that of a corporation.

      Dehran Duckworth


    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.