Grading cars

Every time you think the burgeoning Nanny State can't go any further ...

The EPA and the Transportation Department on Monday released proposed new rules for the "mileage stickers" car dealers are required to slap on the windows of their products. It's no longer enough to merely tell consumers how many miles per gallon the vehicles are supposed to achieve. No, no: "We think a new label is absolutely needed to help consumers make the right decision for their wallets and the environment," says Gina McCarthy, the EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation.

The "right" decision? You've got four kids or a dog to haul around, or you need a pickup for use on the job, but someone in Washington thinks she knows the "right" vehicle for you?

First they mandated seat belts, bells and beepers. Then they told us to change our toilet tanks, then our air conditioning refrigerant, then our light bulbs and shower heads, then to get rid of our top-loading washing machines. We'd be tempted to ask, if the new "letter grade" stickers don't work out, whether Washington will mandate that the interiors of the "D" cars be sprayed with stinky cat urine to help car-buyers make the "right" decision, but we've learned not to joke around with these people.

So now, cars will carry a big letter grade, from A-plus for all-electric go-karts like the Nissan "Leaf" to a nasty, near-failing "D" for gas-guzzling sports cars or SUVs promising 12 mpg or below.

The whole idea is to convey the idea that teacher will be very pleased if you buy an "A" or "B" vehicle, of course, but that reform school may well loom in your future if you can't do any better than a "D."

Get this, though. While the whole idea is to convince Americans to buy cars that fight "pollution," the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday the new labels will contain no "information on the environmental impact of the electricity used to charge electric cars" -- the so called "upstream" pollution caused by coal-fired power plants.

The new mileage label rules are scheduled to go into effect next year. If they do, mark "2012" on your calendar: That's the year the first big scandal will break, revealing deceptive practices and political favoritism in the awarding of "Bs" to cars that should have been "Cs."

We even know what the scandal will be dubbed:

"Grade inflation."