Skip to comments.54.5 MPG and The Law of Unintended Consequences
Posted on 08/08/2012 5:37:53 AM PDT by Kaslin
Legislators and regulators need to observe a fundamental Golden Rule: Do not implement new laws if you have not considered or cannot control important unintended consequences.
A perfect example is the Obama Administrations plan to increase new car mileage standards, from the currently legislated requirement of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 to 54.5 mpg by 2025, as an average across each automakers complete line of cars and light trucks.
Carmakers reluctantly agreed to the new requirements, to avoid even more onerous standards, or different standards in different states. But the deal does nothing to alter the harsh realities of such a requirement.
First, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) analyses indicate that the mileage standards will add $3,000 to $4,800 to the average price of new vehicles for models from now until 2025. Moreover, this price increase does not include the $2,000 to $6,000 in total interest charges that many borrowers would have to pay over the life of a 36-60 month loan.
The consequence: 6 million to 11 million low-income drivers will be unable to afford new vehicles during this 13-year period, according to the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA). These drivers will essentially be eliminated from the new vehicle market, because they cannot afford even the least expensive new cars without a loan and many cannot meet minimal lending standards to get that loan.
These drivers will be forced into the used car market. However, far fewer used cars are available today, because the $3-billion cash for clunkers program destroyed 690,000 perfectly drivable cars and trucks that otherwise would have ended up in used car lots. In addition, the poor economy is causing many families to hold onto their older cars longer than ever before.
Exacerbating the situation, the average price of used cars and trucks shot from $8,150 in December 2008 to $11,850 three years later, say the NADA and Wall Street Journal. With interest rates of 5-10% (depending on the bank, its lending standards and a borrowers financial profile), even used cars are unaffordable for many poor families, if they can find one.
All this forces many poor families to buy hoopties, pieces of junk that cost much more to operate than a decent low-mileage used car. These higher operating costs can cripple families in borderline poverty situations.
The compounded financial impact is a regressive tax and a war on the poor.
Another, far worse consequence of the skyrocketing mileage requirements is that many cars will need to be made smaller, lighter, and with thinner metal and more plastic, to achieve the new corporate average fleet economy (CAFÉ) standards.
These vehicles even with seatbelts, air bags and expensive vehicle modifications will not be as safe as they would be if mileage werent a major consideration. They will have less armor to protect drivers and passengers, and less space between vehicle occupants and whatever car, truck, bus, wall, tree or embankment their car might hit.
The NHTSA, Brookings Institution, Harvard School of Public Health, National Academy of Sciences and USA Today discovered a shocking reality. Even past and current mileage standards have resulted in thousands of additional fatalities, and tens of thousands of serious injuries, every year above what would have happened if the government had not imposed those standards.
They also learned that drivers in lightweight cars were up to twelve times more likely to die in a crash and far more likely to suffer serious injury and permanent disabilities.
Increasing mileage requirements by a whopping 19 mpg above current rules will make nearly all cars even less safe than they are today.
For obvious reasons, most legislators, regulators and environmental activists have not wanted to discuss these issues. But they need to do so, before existing mileage requirements are made even more stringent.
These affordability and safety problems may be unintended. However, no government officials elected or unelected can claim they are unaware of them.
Finally, the asserted goals of CAFÉ standards may once have been somewhat persuasive. The standards were necessary, it was argued, to preserve US oil reserves that were rapidly being depleted, reduce oil imports from unstable parts of the world, and prevent dangerous global warming. However, the rationales used to justify these onerous, unfair, injurious and lethal mileage standards are no longer persuasive.
New seismic, drilling and production technologies have dramatically increased our nations oil and natural gas reserves. Opening some of the publicly owned lands that are currently off limits would increase reserves even more. Using government and industry data, the Institute for Energy Research has calculated that the USA, Canada and Mexico alone have 1.7 trillion barrels of recoverable oil reserves enough to meet current US needs for another 250 years and another 175 years of natural gas.
As to global warming, even the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now backing away from previous claims about alarming changes in global temperatures, sea levels, polar ice caps and major storms, due to greenhouse gas emissions.
All of us should conserve energy and be responsible stewards of the Earth and its bounties, which God has given us. However, to ignore the unpleasant realities of existing and proposed mileage mandates is unethical, immoral and unjust.
We must not emphasize fuel savings at the cost of excluding poor families from the automobile market and putting people at greater risk of serious injury or death.
Doesn’t matter. There won’t be anywhere worth going to by then.
I wonder which models will become the equivalent to Cuba’s ‘56 Chevy? Because that’s where we are headed.
And since the undocumented and minorities will be “hardest hit” the feds will undoubtedly look the other way while the law-abiding citizen once again carries the brunt.
They didn’t even mention that one of the reasons for the high price of good used cars is that so many were destroyed in the President’s “Cash for Clunkers” program. Less cars = higher prices.
I would rather drive an older Peterbilt than a new GM econfoilmobile.
Add human powered pedal cars to the product line and use them to skew the MPG average.
The author incorrectly assumes the consequences are unitended.
If the Volt II gets 300 MPG, and the other 9 models only get 30 MPG ... the average will be 57 MPG ... and the car company meets the regulations.
What an utterly stupid law.
Noting unintended about it.
The solution to the problem is obvious to any conservative - take CAFE out behind the barn, and kill it with an ax.
The government should not be dictating corporate average fuel economy. The marketplace should by the cars the individual buyers choose to purchase. Fire the bureaucracy that creates, tabulates, and enforces this nonsense and force them to get out and make an honest living.
VW offers a car, right now, that gets over 70 mpg. It’s only available in Europe. Their blue motion Jetta cannot be sold in the US because its particulate emission per gallon burned is higher than allowed. Despite, of course, that it emits fewer particles per mile than compliant cars due to its high mileage. The EPA cannot figure that out. Rules is rules. If you visit the VW UK site, the specifications for their vehicles are listed.
And many of those destroyed cars were still in good condition
You must have stopped reading at the 5th paragraph because it’s mentioned in the 6th.
As I saw on a magazine cover in Whole Foods, the new family vehicle is the Cargo Bike.
Wonder what big brother’s plans are when people start raising cain over this. Even the most stupid useful idiot has his limits.
The milage of old VW’s and Honda’s were great. Then they install all those complex systems to prevent emissions. They have been trying to recover from that for years.
My motorcycle doesn’t get 54 mile per gallon.
Our Government is out of control and is destroying this Country........
But then this is only a money making scheme anyhow. No car company can have an entire line getting 54mpg by 2025 or likely ever. So as the deadline approaches and the car companies are not there yet the Government will grant waivers for “monetary penalties”
If you stick one hand in a bucket of ice water and the other hand in a bucket of boiling water, on the average you should be perfectly comfortable.
What a great article.
I have to laugh when I see folks driving around in those little roller-skate Fiat 500s or Fart Cars. They’re hardly any bigger than the bugs on my car’s grill. Splat...
Of course Zero can make that happen.
All downhill. Zero gallons a mile.
What’s being overlooked here is that you can’t legislate technology advances and innovation. That happens as a part of Capitalism & the free market economic model.
If the geniuses in Washington really believe that all they have to do is pass a law to fix a problem, why don’t they dictate that medicine develop a cure for cancer by 2015?
Don’t the care about us?
Light trucks were previously exempt from these rules, but the Obama Administration now includes them in the targeted 54.5 mpg CAFE average.
This is not going to impact just cars, but SUVs and work trucks.
Perhaps the worst “unintended consequence” of CAFE can be seen by examining the aftermath of the first round of standards begun in the late 70’s.
The automakers did succeed in increasing the fuel economy of cars by roughly 50%. This means that the cost per mile driven went down significantly.
Over time, these more efficient vehicles enabled the exodus from city centers to suburbs and beyond. Commuting an hour or more to work became the norm instead of the exception.
CAFE accelerated urban sprawl and created the shopping mall.
It is estimated that we drive some 35% more today than we did pre-CAFE.
Those of us already outside city centers probably cannot drive much more than we already do, but is it not possible that the future government mandated efficiency will engender further exit from our cities, and thus increase the amount of fuel we use?
In which alternative universe can the conservation of a commodity be increased by making it cheaper to use?
These kinds of policies always make me wonder: do progressives hate poor people?
Don’t you love Central Planning.
Pray for America
Saw a lot of sparse streets with old cars, buses, odd carts, bikes & carriage contraptions. The only newish looking things were these little putt-putt things that looked like the "antique cars" you drive at the amusement park.
Here's my fave (I'm guessing it's from Asia somwhere?
Along the way you can make vroomvroom noises and a scrreeeeech noise when you stop or go around corners.
Just a few weeks a guy said that very thing to me.
I stopped to help him start his car. He had just bought it 3 days before, and it was dead on side of the road.
He said because of the Cash for Clunkers all he could afford was a pile of junk.
He said he was trying to keep working and not go on welfare but it was getting too expensive for him to work. There wasn't anything left to live on.
There was one black voter that had no intention of voting for Zippo again.
I agree with all but one word:
Nothing by this administration is unintended. It’s all going according to plan.
By 2025, we’ll all be dying in fiery crashes that today, would “buff out” with a little wax.
But they drove with pride.
I just bought a 2002 Audi TT, AWD. Of course it’s a convertible. I spent $11K on it and can’t imagine any new car for under $30K I would like as much.
If you have basic mechanical skills, a used car can be a great option.
Because of CAFE, they will have to sell the small cars at almost no profit...and tack on a huge prmium to the larger vehicles.
I have long thought that the higher CAFE had the INTENDED consequence of making it harder for Joe Siz Pack to own a pickup truck. With a truck, you can do crazy things, like start a small (non-union/non crony capitalism) business....and in general have way too much independence.
Just a guess but I think that the average American simply flouts the law. They'll keep their old cars on the road. Disconnecting advanced systems (emissions, electronic ignition, etc) as they fail. A whole black/grey-market industry will spring-up to keep older cars on the road. Gypsy garages, too.
Then the "ball" will be in the government's court. Do the ignore the violators? They probably will if they are confined to favored minority groups living in no-go areas where regulations are already being flouted. Or do they get agressive with rolling inspections? If that happens then you're going to see sparks of violence.
Yes, regulation makes the big boys too big to fail.
How about getting the inefficient Ethanol out of the fuel chain first. You’d see vehicle mileage increase accordingly.
C for C destroyed an incredible amount of perfectly good used cars. A total sin.
How much pollution and resources were consumed to create the new vehicles to replace these perfectly good used vehicles?
The idiotic fools in government destroy everything they touch.
I'm 50 years old, 6-5" tall and weigh 215-lbs. I have the usual lumbar problems from athletics and a work-a-day life. I physically do not fit into these roller skates that they are building now. If CAFE mandates nothing but Prius' & Smart Cars, I'm quite literally in a world of hurt.
Unintended consequences? The cost of aluminum is going to soar due to increased demand in the auto industry. So the price of everything else made of aluminum will soar, too. Expect increases in the cost of air travel (aluminum in planes), canned beverages and aluminum foil.
Realistically, now. Who could possibly have anticipated increases in the cost of corn when half the supply goes into our gas tanks?
Reading past the headline often pays rewards.
Progressives have “solved poverty” by making it illegal.
Prohibiting affordable transportation is just one of many ways they’ve implemented a practical ban on functional poverty. Poor and need a car? sorry, all the viable “clunkers” were destroyed (at a cost of $24,000 per car), gas taxes raise per-gallon prices 33%, cumulative mileage & safety minimums double base prices, and financing what is available jacks resale prices. But there’s mass transit that goes from where you aren’t to where you’re not going!
It's on the interstate, doing 70+. When there is any traffic, especially big rigs, the car literally spends more time blowing around on the road than touching it.
I've come to grips with the fact that I'm going to see it one morning, crumpled like a beer can.
A smart car is an excellent idea for a retirement community. Or, for someone like my Mom, who drives 2 miles to church a couple of times a week, and maybe occasionally to the grocery store (6-7 miles). Other use, especially on the interstate, is taking your life into your own hands.
Things that make you go “hmmm.” The guy who calls himself “FLAMING DEATH” writes about “fiery crashes.”
Anyway, I suspect the upcoming fiery crashes are a secret Obama plan to thin the herd so the nation can cut back on health care spending.
I agree with this article completely. I would add, however, that a larger portion of the problem is higher up the food chain at regulation of energy and association with environmental protection. It inhibits free market choice of fuel options for transportation, locking us into government’s choice of fuel, leading to politically motivated and incoherent regulatory actions such as these in addition to economic issues rising from neglect of serious supply issues regarding the choice fuel. It’s a central planning nightmare that puts us all in the poorhouse, if we survive long enough to get there.
Never mind that aluminum overall soars, the price to fix autos containing the aluminum will jump. Whole parts, especially engines, will need to be replaced and cannot be simply pounded out with a hammer. Previous repairs costing $700 will be $3700. After driving it a few years, folks will simply walk away as they do with houses and the landfills grow and grow.
Precisely right. Autobody shops will decline. Wholesale replacement of entire body panels will greatly increase. It is very difficult to form and mold alumninum. Cars will become disposable. The poor, when they can afford to buy a car, will get a used car full of crumpled body panels. The overall appearance of the nation will become like that of a third-world country.
It doesn’t take a very deep crystal ball to see all this coming, does it?
No, they don't. Their brains are wired differently. I remember from one of Glenn Beck's terrific lectures that the leftist's pecking order of life is upside down compared to normal people. Man is at the bottom of their pyramid, and the planet is at the top. To them, even plants and animals are more important than man. Man is at the very bottom and 100% despised. Great explanation. I wonder if that particular Beck lecture is still available, I'd love to see it again.
I'd guess that full-sized pickups have the best shot at serious longevity, mostly the 3/4 ton and other heavy-duty models. Cars of the '50s were built with a minimum of plastic and with an eye towards ease of maintenance. In many of today's vehicles, you can't even change the damned suspension ball joints - gotta replace the entire control arm assembly... and the included ball joint will be "sealed" with no grease fitting.
There's something to be said for the simplicity of a carburetor, too. Oh, EFI is superior in most ways, but it's dependeant upon a computer which was built with crappy lead-free solder.
I suspect that my '65 Mustang will be running long after most of today's new cars have rolled their last mile.
It may have been God at the very bottom, I sort of forget. As I said, I would love to see Beck’s lecture again.
Aluminum cracks. Not good for a cheap unibody car bumping down a pot-holed Pennsylvania highway. Plus, as you note, aluminum work-hardens — IOW’s you can’t pull-out dents. The auto industry had a heck of a time learning how to deal with the deliterious effects to their tooling when they shifted to galvanized steel. My father had nightmares about that. (Tool & Die-maker at an automotive body stamper)