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Why gas guzzlers are still going strong: U.S. fuel-efficiency standards were passed in the 1970s, so why am I still seeing so many inefficient vehicles on the road?

Gas-guzzling vehicles do still dominate the road: In 2013, three out of five top-selling vehicles in the United States were pickup trucks with fuel efficiencies of less than 18 miles per gallon of gas. When Congress enacted the federal Gas Guzzler Tax in 1978, it exempted light trucks from that category. The "light truck" classification had been created earlier in the decade to acknowledge the difficulty that work vehicles would have in meeting the same standards as cars.

The auto industry has exploited the lower safety, fuel economy and emission standards required of light trucks by introducing light-duty luxury trucks, vans and four-wheel drive SUVs primarily used for the transport of people (these luxury vehicles are rarely used for the off-road or utility purposes that allowed them to receive the exemptions).

A study by the nonprofit Friends of the Earth found that, since 1999, major automakers have avoided paying billions of dollars In Gas Guzzler Taxes by calling passenger vehicles "light trucks." Because they're cheaper to manufacture, the profit margin on these vehicles can be up to 10 times greater than that of more fuel-efficient cars.

Light truck sales grew from 30 percent of vehicle sales In 1990 to more than 50 percent of the nearly 20 million vehicles sold In the United States in 2013. As a result, the collective fuel economy of the U.S. vehicle fleet has been declining even though the law has forced Increased fuel efficiency for "cars."

Along with pushing to close this sustainable-transportation loophole, you can walk, bike and rideshare more often. And if you're shopping for a new vehicle, consider one of the 25 plug-in hybrids now available. Find out how in my article "Let Sustainable Transportation Drive Your Buying Habits" at

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Title Annotation:Ask Our Experts
Author:Heckeroth, Steve
Publication:Mother Earth News
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2014
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