Today, the U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proudly unveil their new, improved, long-awaited, supah-dupah, “next generation” fuel economy sticker. All model year 2013 vehicles will have to display the redesigned stickers.
“The new labels, which are the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago, will provide more comprehensive fuel efficiency information, including estimated annual fuel costs, savings, as well as information on each vehicle’s environmental impact,” EPA’s press releaseenthuses. Only in the makework world of bureaucracy central would this “overhaul” of a label be hailed as “dramatic.”
As my colleague William Yeatman joked when I told him the news: “Anyone can have a sticker, but a next generation sticker — the future is here, my friend!”
In their original August 2010 regulatory proposal, the agencies wanted the new label to include letter grades based on the car’s fuel economy and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids would get an A+; the biggest, heaviest, gas guzzling SUVs would get a D.
However, in December 2010, 53 House Members sent a bipartisan letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood protesting that letter grades would “unfairly promote certain vehicles over others.” Indeed, that was the point. Stigmatize SUVs and other politically-incorrect vehicles by giving them bad grades.
Worse, grading cars implicitly means grading the people who buy them. People who buy cars with super-low or zero emissions are caring and ahead of the curve. Those who buy gas guzzlers are yokels who voted for Bush and wear baseball caps in restaurants. The South Park spoof on the “Toyonda Pius,” Smug Alert, all-too-accurately depicts the greener-than-thou pretension of EPA and NHTSA’s proposed grading system.
Rebuked by those wielding the power of the purse, the agencies relented and the “next generation” sticker does not include letter grades. To view the current sticker, click here. To see what the scolds at EPA and NHTSA originally planned to replace it with, click here.
Clearly, these folks are into behavior modification. How potent will the redesigned label be in modifying your behavior? [click to continue…]