Obama CAFE kills

by Sam Kazman on May 22, 2009

in Blog

President Obama unveiled Tuesday a plan to sharply increase federal gas mileage rules for vehicles sold in the United States, eventually bringing the requirement up to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon. Unfortunately, these rules – known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards – have the deadly effect of causing new cars to be lighter, smaller and less crashworthy.

CAFE is among the deadliest government regulations we have, and with today’s announcement it’s going to get even deadlier. It kills consumers by reducing vehicle size, and now it may well kill car companies by forcing them to produce cars that consumers don’t want. The only redeeming aspect of the President’s announcement is that there’ll be only one standard imposed on the industry, rather both national and California standards. But that just means carmakers will have one noose around their necks instead of two.

A 2002 National Research Council study found that the federal CAFE standards contributed to about 2,000 deaths per year through their restrictions on car size and weight. An increase in the severity of the rules will only raise that death toll. Shockingly, the federal agency tasked with making Americans safer on the road – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – has refused to acknowledge this fact, even after being overturned by a federal court for ignoring the issue.

As bad as CAFE is, it’s an even more ominous sign that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is being joined in this initiative by the Environmental Protection Agency. Longtime observers of the EPA know that while the agency’s mission is to protect human health and the environment, it’s usually not in that order.

In addition to being sold as a global warming measure, the tightening of CAFE standards is, even less convincingly, being promoted as a boon for economic growth. Advocates have claimed that more fuel efficient cars are the future of the auto industry, yet have not explained why this should require government mandates.

alan May 22, 2009 at 11:47 am

I don't understand the logic at all, in the premises underlying the above article. In particular:

1) The higher CAFE standards can only be achieved by building smaller cars. What about better designed engines?

2) From what you wrote, are you implying that the Transportation Dept has lowered its safety standards? I wasn't aware of any such lessening of safety standards by the Transportation Dept.

3) Do smaller cars imply less safety? By that thought process,whereby bigger cars are safer, we should go back to the big dumb bloated cars of the 60's and 70's. If you look at the statistics, you'll see that death rates were significantly higher back then.

I'm a nuclear engineer, and I don't see why it's not possible to engineer good, safe smaller cars and vehicles with more efficient engines. Unless that is, you want to keep sending more money and giving away the inherent power that comes from that shift, to OPEC countries. Again, I just don't see the logic in any of that line of argumentation.

Andy Greene May 26, 2009 at 11:58 am

I agree with Alan. This is a straw man argument. Sure you can save gas by making cars smaller and lighter, but look at the Prius (as just one example). It achieves a real world 50mpg and is very crash-worthy and not too light (thanks to the batteries).

The auto companies have demonstrated that they are incapable of taking this long term view without some incentives. Nice work Mr. Obama.

Andy Greene

Green Living Tips for Rednecks

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: