One of the stories that came across the news wires this week said that the EPA is proposing to “get real with fuel economy figures.” I read that and laughed.

That statement indicates that in the past, the figures they have used are not real — which I think is true, but then I wasn’t naive to believe them in the first place.

The story said the EPA is proposing more “real-world” tests for determining how many miles you can drive per gallon of gas.

Let me translate: “Real world” means the kind of mileage you will get while driving into a wind, hauling grandma, her poodle, two suitcases and six bags of groceries on a slight incline. And with the back seats installed.

In other words, EPA says it is going to take the fairy tale out of the estimates. They have now realized that it doesn’t matter what kind of gas mileage we get the day we drive the car off the lot operating under ideal conditions. “Once upon a time” is not part of the “real world.”

In the “real world”, we have to brake, change gears occasionally and use our air conditioner. Most of us have discovered that if you go down a hill, then the odds are that you will go up another one. The only way around that is to buy your car at the top of a hill and trade it in when you get to the bottom. We would all agree that such is not realistic, although I did have one station wagon in my life where I should have done that.

I have never expected to consistently get the gas mileage that was posted on the window of any car I ever bought. And I don’t think most kids really believe their uncles are going to give them ponies, either.

Just recently, I took a long drive and ran out of gas. I just wasn’t paying attention. And now I know exactly how far my car will go when that little yellow gas pump thingy lights up on the dash panel. Fortunately, I coasted right up to the pumps at a truck stop. I don’t think there were enough fumes left in the tank to have flickered a Bic lighter.

I once went car shopping with a friend. A salesman told my friend what kind of great gas mileage a particular car would get going down the road. My friend asked him what kind of mileage would it get “going up a road.” The salesman was caught a bit off guard and then began discussing tire pressure, passenger load, head winds, spark plug quality, etc. My friend was just being a smart aleck, but the salesman didn’t pick up on his satire. I think that salesman, who appeared to be as serious as a heart attack in his dissertation on gravity and friction, would have gotten out a slide rule if my friend had not grinned at him and said, “I was just joking.”

By the way, for the younger set a slide rule is what we used in science class prior to pocket calculators.

Now I hear some people say that manufacturers could build cars that would get 60 miles per gallon or more if they wanted to but that would upset economic structures and our penchant for getting into wars.

I don’t know that this is true. I also don’t know that it is not true.

I do realize that often when you go for more mileage, you give up power. There have been days on the interstate when all I could see in my rearview mirror was that little bulldog on the front of a semi and the word Mack. In those moments, I would have preferred after-burners or at least two more cylinders to get me out of harm’s way.

I don’t really get very excited when federal and state agencies make such pronouncements such as the EPA has done. Mostly that gives me numbers that I already have embraced. Corroborating them will not help my feelings.

But just to humor me a little, I wish the General Accounting Office of the U.S. government would propose using “real world” numbers. But I would hope there would be a five-day waiting period between announcing their intentions and actually producing those numbers. I think I would need to do a little yoga or something to prepare myself for that shock.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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