Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fuel Me Once, Shame On You

This was the best they could do?
The Obama administration's sweeping fuel-economy and emissions initiative announced Tuesday reopens a fierce debate over tradeoffs between fuel economy and auto safety.

[...]The plan requires automakers to sell cars that average 35.5 miles-per-gallon by 2016, a little more and a lot sooner than current law. It has been heralded as a brilliant solution to the nettlesome mix of problems related to fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Oh brother!

So many problems in this nation could be solved if we actually broke our addiction to oil (perhaps the one truth Bush spoke in eight years). Right now, we are spending more in military aid and supporting troops in the Middle East than the net value of all the crude we are getting from there.

And the best step we could take at this time is to, you know, tweak things a little?

Here's what should have been done:

1) Raise the CAFE standards to 40 mpg. The 2016 time table is fine, for what it is, but at 35.5 mpg Detroit can meet that with minimal disruption. Since Detroit has been relying on the US government for twenty years as a bailout plan, perhaps a little discomfort for them will go a long way.

2) Remove the exemption for light trucks and SUVs. Factor them in as a fleet on their own right. In fact, I'd go one step further and insist these be reclassified as trucks, subject to the rules of the road and insurance and licensing requirements that truckers have to meet (including bonding).

We can, of course, offer some form of assistance to people whom this might impact adversely, like small farmers or poor people with large families who absolutely must have an SUV, minivan, or pickup truck, but lets face facts: any asshole who drives a Hummer to Starbucks because of that three degree incline on the entrance ramp at the mall parking lot will likely grasp with both hands the right to be called a "trucker". We can even throw in a hat.

This is a legtimate beef, by the way. SUVs and pickups use more gas, cause more wear and tear on the nation's infrastructure and are responsible for more fatalities and injuries than cars.

Yes, I'm aware of the apparent rise in fatalities when automakers increase their car fleet, but look at those accidents more closely.

First, automakers in an attempt to cut corners make vital safety components out of cheaper material, rather than re-engineer a car for safety. Second, many of those fatalities occured in accidents with an SUV or pick up!

Substantially reduce the number of those on the road, and auto fatalities will decline permanently. It's a simple matter of physics. When two masses collide, the smaller mass usually bears the brunt of the damage.

Of course, looking at how people who use four wheel drive vehicles behave, apparently, they believe the laws of physics no longer apply to them.

This is much like the steroids argument: if you want to make it a fair game, then take the supercharged ubersized vehicles off the road.