Automobile Fuel Efficiency Standards – Is There A Happy Medium?

We all want clean air.
In 2010, USA automobile manufactures reported figures that indicate that the American consumer is not yet willing to sacrifice comfort and safety for fuel efficiency. Sales of Trucks and SUV’s were up 20 to 30 % in 2010 while sales for hybrid cars were down.
The argument for hybrid vehicle sales is that these cars are more fuel efficient, and therefore the planet will be better off, with lower fuel consumption and cleaner air. However there are experts out there who claim that the energy and carbons burned used to create the lead acid batteries that go into manufacturing the batteries that power these hybrid vehicles exceeds more than the amount burned when driving traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. So why continue down this path? Is it just political correctness? We don’t claim to be experts on this subject. But we would like to raise questions before we make such a sweeping decision such as raising the fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards of cars on American roads, which is scheduled to come up. CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. The current standards require cars to get 27.5 MPG. This will be raised to 35.1 in 2016.
There is also a safety concern. The NHTSA, (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has concerns that smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles will lead to increased injuries and fatalities during accidents. Due to increasing fuel efficiency requirements, some experts attribute 2500 more fatalities each year because of smaller, less safe cars that sacrifice safety because of less steel. Auto manufacturers have to cut somewhere to create vehicles that meet the mandates of the government to meet more strict fuel efficiency standards, (called CAFE Standards).
These more complex hybrid and fuel efficient automobiles also cost dramatically more to produce, further creating a burden on an increasingly struggling consumer. They also cost more to repair, as there is more technology involved, and when a technician has these vehicles up on the Automotive Lift, he needs to be trained properly to service these specialty vehicles. So consumers pay more, and are less safe, due to these policies.
The question is, how much more are you willing to pay as a consumer, to gain the cleaner air that lower fuel consuming cars and lower emissions vehicles create, and how much safety are you willing to sacrifice in order to make the air we breath cleaner, and to cut back on our reliance on foreign oil?
There are costs for everything. The end goal is admirable, and desirable, but is the cost worth it? Can we strike a balance? What do you think? Where would the happy medium be?