New Vehicle Labels Trick Stingy Consumers Into Going Green

(Image credit: /EPA/DOE)

As consumers continue to rank economic concerns over environmental issues, the federal government has crafted an ingenious method of tricking those worried about their bottom lines into going green. 

Beginning in 2013, all vehicles – including gasoline-powered, plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric – will be labeled not only with their usual miles per gallon, but also how much consumers will save in fuel costs over five years compared to if they were to purchase an “average” vehicle, thanks to a new initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The label also states the estimated average annual cost of fuel for the vehicle, and rates the car both on greenhouse gas emissions and smog.

The emissions information will surely interest the more environmentally minded, but for those who tend to look the other way when it comes to their carbon footprint, the costs of owning a gas-guzzler could certainly be an eye-opener. As gas prices soared close to the $5-per-gallon mark in 2009, there was a marked uptick in sales of energy-efficient vehicles.

As shameful as it may be, money has proven to be the most effective motivator of consumer behavior, and I commend the government agencies for not only recognizing this truth, but using it to benefit the planet.

Of course, the system is not without its flaws. The annual costs of fueling the vehicles will invariably change along with fluctuating gas prices, thus rendering the new labels inaccurate. Moreover, each car model’s savings compared to the “average vehicle” will depend on that “average” shifting over time. For instance, a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon is now on the leading edge but may soon become “average,” affecting these calculations.

Nonetheless, the agencies have pulled off a brilliant marketing campaign – PR for emissions reduction, if you will. No, we will never convince everyone to be environmentally friendly, but saving money is something we can all agree on. Just don’t tell the climate skeptics they’re helping the Earth, too.