May 19, 2009—Today President Obama will unveil a plan to sharply increase
federal gas mileage rules for vehicles sold in the United States, eventually bringing
the requirement up to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon. Unfortunately, these
rules – known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards – have the
deadly effect of causing new cars to be lighter, smaller and less crashworthy.
“CAFE is among the deadliest government regulations we have,
and with today’s announcement it’s going to get even deadlier,” said
Competitive Enterprise Institute General Counsel Sam Kazman . “It kills consumers by
reducing vehicle size, and now it may well kill car companies by forcing them
to produce cars that consumers don’t want.
The only redeeming aspect of the President’s announcement is that
there’ll be only one standard imposed on the industry, rather both national and
standards. But that just means carmakers
will have one noose around their necks instead of two.”
A 2002 National Research Council study found that the
federal CAFE standards contributed to about 2,000 deaths per year through their
restrictions on car size and weight. An increase in the severity of the rules will
only raise that death toll. Shockingly, the federal agency tasked with making
Americans safer on the road – the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration – has refused to acknowledge this fact, even after being
overturned by a federal court for ignoring the issue.
“As bad as CAFE is, it’s an even more ominous sign that the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration is being joined in this initiative by the
Environmental Protection Agency,” said Kazman. “Longtime observers of the EPA
know that while the agency’s mission is to protect human health and the
environment, it’s usually not in that order.”
In addition to being sold as a global
warming measure, the tightening of CAFE standards is, even less convincingly,
being promoted as a boon for economic growth. Advocates have claimed that more
fuel efficient cars are the future of the auto industry, yet have not explained
why this should require government mandates.
CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan
public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited
government. For more information about
CEI, please visit our website at www.cei.org .