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 (rather than allowing an orderly bankruptcy, which would have allowed the outfit to escape its crippling labor contracts) and turning over part ownership of that once proud industrial giant 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 (who were promised that any failure to “agree” would net them something much worse) which by 2025 will increase the cost of an average new car in America by $3,000 to $4,800, while additionally increasing by $2,000 to $6,000 the interest charges most borrowers will pay over the life of a typical auto loan.
Even better, the flimsier, lighter-weight cars the manufacturers just “agreed” to build (at a time when they only hang on due to their profits from popular pickups trucks and SUVs) 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: “The finalization of historic new federal automobile standards covering new passenger vehicles sold between 2017 and 2025 is one of the biggest actions ever taken to reduce U.S. oil use,” the Union of Concerned Scientists proclaimed.
“This is truly a watershed moment. Twenty years from now we’ll be looking back on this as the day we chose innovation over stagnation,” purred Michelle Robinson, director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles program. “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.”
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 to this one, 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. “Rather than actually confront the problem at issue, it is instead 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 government regulators — is the stuff of stand-up comedy.
New extraction technologies and newly discovered North American reserves mean America has enough coal, oil, and natural gas to meet our needs for centuries. 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 -– and another 175 years of natural gas.
“Fuel standards are the longest-lived of an entirely futile array of attempts to address 1970s oil shortages,” Dunn notes, dating from the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which introduced the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program, or “CAFE.”
Unfortunately, the new standards “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. Oil imports increased from 35 percent of consumption in 1975 to 52 percent by the year 2000.
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. Smaller cars accounted for up to 12,144 deaths in 1997 — 37 percent of all vehicle fatalities for that year. 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, through tax rebates and cost-averaging.
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 the NADA and the Wall Street Journal.