Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
Washington, DC, July 18, 2001— The Competitive Enterprise Institute today argued that a new National Academy of Sciences’ report on federal auto gas mileage standards provides no support for making those standards more stringent. While the report has not been released, it was leaked to the New York Times before today’s House Commerce Committee vote on the issue.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
While advocates of higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are claiming that the report supports their position, CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman argued just the opposite. “It seems the most important point of the Academy’s report is its admission that CAFE caused thousands of deaths due to vehicle downsizing. The Academy missed this issue in its 1992 CAFE study. Now it’s back saying that while CAFE was deadly in the past, it should still be expanded in the future. Whom are they kidding?”
CEI also pointed to the highly speculative nature of the new study’s claim that expensive new technologies would pay for themselves. Mr. Kazman stated: “The study is talking about 14-year payback periods that are highly dependent on gas price projections. The notion that we can predict gas prices for next year, let alone for the next decade, is ridiculous.”
Finally, while the report claims that new technologies can improve fuel efficiency without compromising safety, it criticizes the auto industry for using such technologies to save lives rather than gasoline. It argues, for example, that the industry used improved engines to produce larger, heavier cars. But this demonstrates exactly the opposite of the report’s alleged conclusion—it shows that there is an inevitable trade-off between safety and fuel economy, and that higher CAFE standards force us to give up safety in order to conserve fuel.
In 1992 CEI won a federal appeals court ruling that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had illegally concealed CAFE’s lethal effects on safety. “It took the Academy another decade to recognize this point. It ought to at least acknowledge its own fallibility, rather than come up with a new prescription for disaster,” Mr. Kazman stated.
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