Trump's Lowering Car Mileage Mandates - and Collectivists Are NOT Happy

P. Gardner Goldsmith | April 3, 2018
Font Size

One of the most dangerous, paternalistic, fascistic, and intrusive practices of the federal government is being rolled back by President Trump.

Big news, but not worth gushing praise, since the immorality of the government claiming the power to engage in this behavior has not been questioned in any way.

On Monday, April 2, EPA Director Scott Pruitt announced in a press release that his group of bureaucrats would reduce the Obama-era “Green House Gas” emissions mandates and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards pushed onto auto companies making or selling vehicles in the United States.

Which will likely inspire many people to breathe sighs of relief, given the practical increases in cost and the decreases in safety that are associated with these kinds of mother-hen commands. But once those sighs are over, Americans will have to continue holding their breath, because the machinery of auto regulation will still be in place, ready to be wielded even more harshly by some future group of federal busybodies.

At the heart of the policy issue is the set of CAFÉ emissions mandates forced on automakers, sellers, and buyers in 1975, and, moreover, the very existence of the Environmental Protection Agency in general, an agency started in 1970 by his Highness, Richard Nixon. Employing an unwarranted interpretation of the Constitution’s “Interstate Commerce” clause (in Article One, Section Eight), Nixon put together an almost Soviet-style command-and-control army of bureaucrats and offices that has become incredibly intrusive into the personal use of private property and the peaceful sale of products – all to supposedly save the environment.

Shortly thereafter, in 1975, the government responded to the government-created gas shortage with the imposition of mandates on how fuel efficient cars had to be, and then added to it mandates on the kinds and amount of emissions cars could expel.

And the race was on, as the feds imposed higher and higher fuel efficiency mandates and lower and lower emissions allowances. What happens when the government tells car businesses how to make their cars?

Well, first, you get economic fascism, which is, by definition, the nominal private ownership of business under the control of the state. Sorry folks, but that’s what federal regulations are, the kind of thing Mussolini would have applauded, for the good of the state.

Second, you get needless expenses for businesses, which are mostly passed on to consumers. So, yeah… Enjoy!

And, third, you get highway deaths due to the need for the auto companies to make their cars lighter. See, the CAFE standards are an average, determined by adding all the mileage rates for the vehicle types offered by a company, and then dividing by the number of types. In order to increase gas mileage overall, auto companies often change the composition of their light cars to make them even lighter. But in doing so, something else is removed: safety.

As J.R. Dunn noted in the American Thinker a few years ago:

According to the Brookings Institution, a 500-lb weight reduction of the average car increased annual highway fatalities by 2,200-3,900 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% 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.’

But wait! There’s more!

How many deaths have resulted? Depending on which study you choose, the total ranges from 41,600 to 124,800. To that figure we can add between 352,000 and 624,000 people suffering serious injuries, including being crippled for life. In the past thirty 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.

And guess what? The government ordering manufacturers to make lighter cars at higher expense than the manufacturers and consumers would have originally spent not only brought about more death and injury, it didn’t even lead to lower fuel consumption.

Dunn also notes, when the brilliant DC minds first imposed the CAFÉ idiocy in the Seventies to “save gas”, they got:

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. As a result, oil imports increased from 35% of consumption in 1975 to 52% by the year 2000.

Have the folks from the EPA ever discussed this and apologized? Changed their ways?

Nope. In fact, in April of 2010, the Obama Administration raised the CAFÉ standards for cars and light trucks to 35.5 miles per gallon, and set a mandated target of 54.5 mpg by sales year 2025.

And carbon emissions are currently set at the arbitrary, super-mega-climate-change-battling 250 grams of CO2 per mile, which, of course, will be tested and measured by your state functionaries at higher and higher cost to you.

All of this forced onto automobiles that Obama and the bureaucrats at the EPA aren’t building or selling themselves. They are telling others how to do their work, not taking the peaceful route and offering their preferred alternative on the market.

And that’s one of the major lessons here. In addition to the disastrous practical outcomes of EPA auto policy, in addition to the unconstitutional, immoral impositions, in compounded to the politicians literally making US businesses operate under a fascist paradigm, the private market is designed to trend towards the balance of fuel efficiency and safety consumers desire, with many variations in vehicles, including cars, light trucks, and SUVs. Consumers.

People don’t want to waste money. In fact, markets are designed to economize as much as consumers want.

The new EPA under Trump may be lightening the load, but the trouble is that the principle of the matter is still being overlooked. The EPA is not sanctioned by the Constitution, and it imposes political mandates where consumer and seller equilibrium should hold sway.

Why not eliminate the agency? Why not let consumers, and the people trying to sell to them, be free to do what they want?