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...