It’s wonderful what the government can accomplish with a little gentle arm-twisting, especially after it’s set an example by seizing control of General Motors and turning over part ownership to the unions, as their reward for driving the car-maker to the brink of bankruptcy in the first place.
On Aug. 28, for instance, the Obama administration announced a final “agreement” with auto makers which by 2025 will increase the cost of an average new car by $3,000 to $4,800.
Even better, the flimsier, lighter-weight cars that manufacturers just “agreed” to build (at a time when their biggest profits come from pickups) will result in thousands of additional highway deaths per year, and tens of thousands more serious injuries.
That’s not the way the new standards were announced, of course.
No, no: “These standards will protect consumers from high gas prices, curb global warming pollution, cut our oil use, and create new jobs in the American auto industry and around the nation,” purred Michelle Robinson, director of Clean Vehicles program of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Actually, correcting for inflation, gasoline costs less now than it did in the 1960s. It’s about as likely that we can impact the earth’s climate by throwing salt over our left shoulders as by choosing which cars to build and buy. And we could also “create new jobs” by drafting 10 million Americans to dig ditches and another 10 million to fill them in – a plan that reportedly came in second, but is still under consideration.
Meantime, “Media discussions of the administration’s new mileage rules have covered about everything except how many people they will kill,” notes J.R. Dunn, consulting editor of American Thinker, at http://tinyurl.com/8kyx2rv
Like most Green initiatives, manipulating fuel efficiency standards “is essentially ritualistic,” Mr. Dunn notes. It is “intended to instill a sense of virtue … while at the same time acting as a punitive measure against those opposed to Green ideology. As is true of many environmentalist programs, it has the unintended side-effect of killing large numbers of unknowing individuals.”
Mileage regulation was a product of the 1970s, Dunn notes. “The decade was marked by several ‘oil shortages,’ which media, government, and Green activists all attributed to resource depletion. In truth, they were triggered by Arab manipulation of oil prices in an attempt to undercut support for Israel, then amplified by U.S. government incompetence and public hysteria generated by the Greens.”
Today, of course, talk of “fossil fuel shortages” – excepting bottlenecks artificially created by foot-dragging regulators – is the stuff of stand-up comedy. Thanks to new extraction technologies and newly discovered reserves, the Institute for Energy Research has calculated that the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico alone have 1.7 trillion barrels of recoverable oil reserves — enough to meet current U.S. needs for another 250 years.
“Fuel standards are the longest-lived of an entirely futile array of attempts to address 1970s oil shortages,” Dunn notes. Unfortunately, the standards (introduced in 1975) had no success in lowering fuel consumption. “Quite the contrary – since it now cost less to fill the tank, people drove more.” Within a few years, this “rebound effect” doubled average fuel usage.
But “The new regulations did accomplish one thing,” Mr. Dunn notes. “They killed drivers and passengers in large numbers. By lightening cars and removing material, auto companies were inadvertently discarding the armor that protected motorists in the event of a crash.” Drivers in lightweight cars were as much as 12 times more likely to die in a crash.
According to the Brookings Institution, a 500-pound weight reduction of the average car increased annual highway fatalities by 2,200 to 3,900 and serious injuries by 11,000 and 19,500 per year. USA Today found that 7,700 deaths occurred for every mile per gallon gained in fuel economy standards. The National Academy of Sciences found that smaller, lighter vehicles “probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993.”
Depending on which study you choose, the CAFE standards have caused 41,600 to 124,800 additional unnecessary deaths. To that figure we can add between 352,000 and 624,000 people suffering serious injuries, including being crippled for life. In the past 30 years, “Fuel standards have become one of the major causes of death and misery in the United States – and one almost completely attributable to human stupidity and shortsightedness,” Dunn concludes.
Mind you, manufacturers won’t really build many 50-miles-per-gallon trucks. It’s not that they don’t know how to build flimsy plastic vehicles with complicated hybrid power plants. The question is whether anyone who needs to haul or tow heavy loads will buy such a thing.
Maintenance and repair costs will also be huge.
While the premium on restored used trucks with pre-2010 engines will soar, what this deal really means is that manufacturers will churn out hundreds of thousands of flimsy little plastic-and-aluminum go-carts that will sit on car lots, unsold, in order to improve their “fleet-wide” averages.
And we’ll all pay for those lots full of cars no one wants, directly or indirectly.
To answer that question, you need to understand the true Green goal – reversing Henry Ford’s affordable-transportation revolution, turning a motor vehicle back into a luxury affordable only by the rich, while the great masses of new American peons huddle in their “Agenda 21” concentration centers, barred from the vast Gaia-sacred bulk of the North American land mass, riding to their assigned work stations on “fuel-efficient” little electric trolleys.
The higher costs being imposed mean six million to 11 million low-income drivers will be unable to afford new vehicles, according to the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA). They’ll go looking for used cars.
But guess what? Far fewer used cars are available today, thanks to the mind-boggling $3 billion “cash for clunkers” program that destroyed 690,000 perfectly good cars and trucks.
And the average price of used cars and trucks has already shot up, from $8,150 in December, 2008, to $11,850, according to NADA and the Wall Street Journal.
Vin Suprynowicz is an editorial writer at the Review-Journal and author of “Send in the Waco Killers” and the novel “The Black Arrow.” See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.