EPA to reduce mileage figure

If you discount the fuel-economy figure on the window sticker of a new car, you're absolutely right. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) numbers, which long have long been attacked for being in the realm of improbability, will soon be reduced.

The EPA is proposing a cut of 22 percent in the highway mileage figure, thus, it hopes, bringing it more in line with what an average motorist can expect to get on the road. The city figure would be cut by 10 percent (this is the figure that is posted on the side-window sticker).

The agency, of course, has never claimed that the mileage figures were part of the real world, anyway. Rather, they were to be used as guidelines by which car mileages could be compared.

The EPA arrives at its mpg figures as part of its emissions-testing program, but the cars are never actually run on the highway. Mileage figures are affected by individual driving habits, the mechanical shape of the car itself as well as the tires, condition of the road, weather, whether the air-conditioning system is working, and so on.

The EPA figures have long been a topic of criticism. Some years ago when the highway mileage figure also was posted on a new car, automakers used it in their advertising, thus further clouding the line between fact and fiction.

Ultimately, under a barrage of criticism, the EPA declared that only the so-called city figure would be posted on the car. Critics now charge that even a 10 percent cut in the figure is not enough.

The EPA is asking for public comments on its proposal and will hold a public hearing before making the change.

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