Better gas mileage comes with cost

Freedom New Mexico

Driving your car soon will become less safe. That’s because President Barack Obama and the major automakers – pressured by the government — agreed to increase new vehicles’ fuel mileage. The main way to do that is to reduce the size of vehicles.

By 2025, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy for each automaker must be 55.4 mpg for passenger cars. That’s up from the 2009 Obama mandate of 35.5 mpg by 2016. The current CAFE standard for 2011 is 30.2 mpg. Light trucks come under slightly less-onerous standards.

The Obama administration claims the new standards will save the average consumer $8,200 in fuel over the life of a car. And from now until 2015, Americans supposedly will save $1.7 trillion on fuel costs, eliminate 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution and use 12 billion less barrels of oil.

Environmentalists cheered the new standards. In his public announcement July 29, President Obama said, “This agreement on fuel standards represents the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The president was joined by executives of several auto companies, including Detroit’s Big Three: Chrysler, GM and Ford. Chrysler and GM recently were bailed out of insolvency by Obama — using taxpayer money. The government still owns 27 percent of GM, and the United Auto Workers union, which is allied with the Obama administration and backs the CAFE standards, owns 46.5 percent of Chrysler.

Then, there’s the downside. “I’ve been involved in this issue for three decades and have yet to meet an advocate who admits it kills anyone,” Sam Kazman told us; he’s general counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “The current (mileage) standards are killing on the order or 2,000 Americans a year, and it will only get worse.” He cited studies in 2002 by the National Academy of Science and in 1989 by the Brookings Institution and Harvard University, showing clear increases in fatalities when CAFE standards have been increased.

But really, it’s simple physics. A small object is going to get the worst of it when it hits a large object. CAFE backers contend that recent technology improvements have made cars safer overall. That’s true, Kazman said, but “it’s like a man taking up smoking and running at the same time, saying the running makes him healthier. But he would be healthier still if he took up the running without the smoking.”

Obama also exaggerates America’s “dependence” on foreign oil. The Energy Department says that, in May, two of the three largest importers of oil to the U.S. were neighbors Canada and Mexico. Saudi Arabia was No. 2.

Unfortunately, it will take a new president to drive the CAFE folly into a ditch, where it belongs.