Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
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In pursuit of his misguided climate obsession, President Barack Obama has opened yet another front in his continuing war against America’s 260 million car owners.
Starting in the 2025 model year, less than a decade away, new vehicles will have to achieve a whopping average 54.5 mpg.
This phase of his climate crusade will force motorists into smaller vehicles that are less safe and more expensive. It constitutes a deadly assault that will result in thousands of unnecessary deaths each year.
Congress established the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards in 1975 in an effort to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
The law required car manufacturers to meet mandated fuel economy targets or pay a hefty tax on gas-guzzling sedans.
The results? Many people switched to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Others, however, started driving trucks, and a new category of vehicles was born: SUVs and minivans.
Ironically, the popularity of trucks, SUVs and minivans came as a direct result of environmentalists’ efforts to force people out of the large, comfortable, powerful cars they liked.
Trucks, SUVs and minivans didn’t have to meet the most stringent fuel economy standards, so to keep features they liked, millions of people replaced the family sedan with an SUV or truck.
As fuel efficiency increased, driving became cheaper, so people drove more miles, negating the marginal gains of using more fuel-efficient vehicles. Higher CAFE standards now apply to this class of vehicles, further reducing consumer choice and safety.
Although CAFE standards did not reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, they did cost thousands of lives.
The fastest way to increase fuel economy is to shed vehicle weight, which compromises safety. Research has shown the size and weight reductions of passenger vehicles undertaken to meet CAFE standards resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
For instance, researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution found for every 100 pounds shaved off new cars to meet CAFE standards, between 440-780 additional people were killed in auto accidents in the United States, or a total of 2,200-3,900 lives lost per model year.
As a result, since it began in 1975, CAFE has resulted in more deaths than all the lives of U.S. soldiers lost in the Vietnam War.
The laws of physics don’t change. In a crash, larger and heavier is better than lighter and smaller. Naturally, the Obama administration doesn’t like to talk about this.
Now environmental radicals and the Obama administration have shifted their argument, saying people should drive small vehicles not to defund Middle East tyrants but to prevent global warming.
But this view is problematic. The National Academy of Sciences has found shifting to more fuel-efficient cars does not prevent or even slow purported global warming.
The academy found higher CAFE standards shifts greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipe to the factory, because vehicles using lighter-weight materials require more energy consumption for the production of substitute materials, offsetting any decreases of greenhouse gas emissions achieved through fuel efficiency.
If environmental activism uninfluenced by facts is the driving force behind your purchasing decisions, you are free to buy electric, hybrid or clean diesel vehicles.
If comfort, power and the ability to haul a boat or ferry a soccer team are your goals, you should be free to buy the type of large, powerful vehicle that fits your needs.
Choose the car you want. The life you save may be your own, and the planet won’t care.