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EPA's Fuel Standards a Waste of Money, Could Cost Lives

By Nick Loris

Tired of having to drive safe, affordable vehicles? Can’t make a decision at the car lot and want the government to narrow down the decisions for you? Well then you’re in luck. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great new regulation in store for you.

The agency is intending to use the Clean Air Act to improve the fuel efficiency to 35.5 miles per gallon fleetwide by 2016 - four years ahead of schedule when President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Sounds like a good deal. Most everyone wants his or her vehicle to get more miles to the gallon. It’s one of the things people first inquire about when buying a car. But there are many other reasons people choose certain vehicles: safety, reliability, horsepower, style, price, comfort, handling, and environmental impact. For instance, Americans use larger vehicles for practical reasons: to take their kids to practice, to tow their boat to the shore, or on small farms to haul equipment or produce. Of course, to meet these new standards, cars and trucks will need to be lighter, making them less safe. The National Academy of Sciences study pegs the cost of downsizing at 1,300 to 2,600 lives per year.

But we’re saving the planet, right? Touted as a measure to curb global warming, fuel efficiency standards have very little environmental impact. Newer vehicles with better efficiency standards may emit less carbon dioxide per mile, but increased fuel efficiency often leads to more driving and new cars “constitute a miniscule source of overall carbon dioxide emissions.” Our friends at the Institute for Energy Research note that “the rule will lead to global mean temperature being 16 thousandths of a degree Celsius lower (0.016°C) in 2100.”

But we’ll save money, right? The initial price of the vehicle may be more expensive but over time better gas mileage will negate the increase in sticker price and eventually save money. That’s what President Obama says. George Mason economist Don Boudreuax has some reservations:

We Americans are lucky. President Obama, although having zero experience as an entrepreneur or in the automotive industry, has designed fuel-efficiency standards that (he assures us) will save the average car buyer $2,800 over the life of his or her vehicle. What a deal!

No onein Detroit, in the U.K., in Japan, in Germany, in Korea, in Sweden, in Italy, in France - no one anywhere, not even persons with decades of experience producing and selling automobiles - has figured out how to devise vehicles that are so obviously attractive to American consumers — and, therefore, so rich in profit-earning potential for manufacturers — as are the ones now promised to us by the Obama administration. And we can admire not only Mr. Obama’s industrial and commercial genius, but also his magnanimity in offering to the public, free of charge, his money-saving idea. He could have earned billions of dollars in profit by putting his idea to the test in the market. But no: by simply forcing us to use his idea and charging us nothing for it, he’ll forego this profit. We Americans are lucky indeed.”

Make your voice heard. And IER has done the leg work for you. Visit their site and submit a comment today. The deadline is November 27th. Tell the Obama Administration that America needs affordable transportation to get the economy going again—not more job-killing regulations.


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