The Fight for Fuel Economy

New cars and trucks continue to notch up better gas mileage than their predecessors, but that progress hasn’t stopped the car industry from trying to weaken forthcoming government fuel-efficiency rules.

Enacted by Congress, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are meant to keep energy consumption in check. And according to a new report published by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, an added benefit is significant savings for buyers of new vehicles that meet the forthcoming 2025 standard. It raises the average automotive fuel economy to 40 mpg (from the current 25.5 mpg) and will begin to be phased in starting with the 2017 model year.

Factoring in the costs of the technology required to enhance a vehicle’s fuel efficiency, drivers will probably save at least $3,000 per car and $4,200 per truck over the life of the automobile. Should prices at the pumps rise to around $4.50 per gallon, the savings would climb to $5,600 per car and $7,300 per truck.

“We’re already seeing automakers beating today’s standards,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, energy policy counsel for Consumers Union. “With existing and emerging technologies in this field, we believe there is great potential for even more progress in this space, even if gas prices remain low.”

Our report (PDF) comes at a critical time when federal regulators review whether to maintain the 2025 goal.

We’ve long supported increased fuel economy standards, filing comments and testifying in favor of the upcoming standards at public hearings. We’ll continue to push back against industry pressure to weaken the rules. Go to ConsumersUnion.­org/­topic/energy to read our full report.

Removing Dangerous Furniture

After three separate fatalities within two years caused by Ikea dressers tipping over onto toddlers in their homes, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the retailer announced the jointly agreed-upon recall of 29 million chests and dressers. Ikea also pledged to sell only furniture that meets the most up-to-date industry safety standards.

Since the first incident, in 2014, Consumer Reports and other safety groups have called on the CPSC and Ikea to take strong action to protect children from those tip-over hazards.

The deaths linked to the recall are tragic reminders of how urgent it is for consumers with those products to immediately return them to the store or ask Ikea to repair them. For more information, go to cpsc.gov/recalls.

A Victory for Net Neutrality

Consumer Reports believes in Net neutrality—the idea that internet providers shouldn’t be able to play favorites with websites, apps, and streaming video services, allowing some faster internet speeds for a price while blocking or slowing down others.

That’s also the Federal Communications Commission’s position, and in 2015 it approved rules to ensure that providers treat all legal online content equally. During the rule-­making process we met with the FCC to voice our support (as did other advocacy organizations), and millions of people wrote to the agency in favor of the final rules.

However, no good rule goes unchallenged. Communications companies­—including AT&T—and several major trade-industry groups filed lawsuits against the FCC, arguing that it lacked the authority to implement those measures. When a federal court took up the case, Consumer Reports was one of many groups that filed legal briefs supporting Net neutrality and the FCC’s jurisdiction.

In June, after months of consideration, the court ruled in favor of the FCC, allowing the rules to remain in effect. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the decision “a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures that the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression, and economic growth.”

We agree. And though we know that some companies will keep fighting to overturn Net neutrality, Consumer Reports will continue working to help make sure that the internet remains fair for everyone.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the September 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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