The Freakonomics blog has a post about the Obama administration's decision to dramatically increase fuel economy standards. I found this part the most interesting:
The new regulations mandate that by 2016 the fuel economy of new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. increase to a combined city/highway m.p.g. of 35.5, up from about 27.9 under today’s CAFE standards.
Although hybrids and electric vehicles can help automakers meet these targets, enough efficiency can be reaped with internal combustion autos. This can come through improvements to things like tires, engines (e.g. smaller ones with turbocharging), air conditioning, transmissions, and vehicle weight. The administration estimates that this will cost $1,100 per vehicle but that the improvements will pay for themselves with $3,000 in fuel savings over the life of the car.
This caught my attention because my wife just returned from a trip to Richmond and was in awe that our eight year old Saturn got 38 miles to the gallon for the trip. I've been driving the Saturn back and forth to Greensboro pretty much every day and I'm averaging about 32 miles a gallon even with city driving. My Mom has a hybrid and she gets in the 40s per gallon, which is obviously better, but our car's been paid off for years and (knock on wood) hasn't needed any extensive work done on it.
Only negative to the Saturn: I'm 6'2" and when I get in and out of it I look like a circus clown, but that's a small price to pay for keeping my gas tab down.