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A Government That Kills

Comment

President Obama has declared that auto companies' fleets must average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, almost double the current 27.5. Standing at his side when he made the announcement were executives from the Big Three automakers.

The New York Times reported: "It is an extraordinary shift in the relationship between the companies and Washington. But a lot has happened in the last four years, notably the $80 billion federal bailout of General Motors, Chrysler and scores of their suppliers, which removed any itch for a politically charged battle from the carmakers."

Right. They're happy to agree to stupid rules, since they are now dependent on government favors.

Obama said that under his new rule, "everyone wins. Consumers pay less for fuel, the economy as a whole runs more efficiently."

Sounds impressive, but he didn't mention the costs. The Center for Automotive Research says the new standard will raise the price of cars by about $7,000. You'd need to save a lot on fuel to break even.

But that's not the worst of it. The new rules will kill people.

Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explained this to me. The MPG standard "has been killing people for the last 30 years," Kazman said.

How can that be?

"It forces cars to be ... made smaller and lighter. ... They are simply worse in just about every type of auto collision."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration actually backs Kazman up. It estimates that smaller cars are responsible for an additional 2,000 deaths each year.

Imagine that — a government safety agency promotes a rule that kills people.

"Think about the minute risks that agencies like Environmental Protection Agency go into a tizzy about. ... If any private product had a death toll one fraction of what the miles-per-gallon rules cost, that product would have been yanked off the market years ago."

Do we at least end up using less gasoline and saving money?

No, given the increased upfront cost of the car. "It is not clear that it saves people money," Kazman said.

"If these technologies in fact save people money, you don't need a government law to force them down people's throats."

Right. We're not stupid.

Bob Deans of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of America's biggest environmental groups, said that Kazman and I are wrong.

"Cars like the Chevy Cruise — 42 miles per gallon — get top marks on safety. The Ford Focus, more than 40 miles per gallon — top marks in safety. We're getting safer cars, and they're not coming at the expense of fuel efficiency."

Deans added: "By increasing that gas mileage for our auto fleet, we can cut our oil consumption in this country by 4 million barrels per day by 2030. That would almost wipe out our OPEC purchases daily. It will make our country stronger."

But we use oil for lots of things. If we cut gasoline use by a third, unlikely as that would be, we'd still only reduce our fossil fuel use by 7 percent. That does not make much difference for $7,000 a car and 2,000 extra deaths each year.

"It's not necessarily a smaller car that we're talking about," Deans replied. "You look at Chevy Malibu. That is a 3,400-pound car. It's not a small car. It's getting 33-miles to the gallon. We believe Detroit can do this."

Maybe they can. Maybe they can't. If they could, I'd think they would do it to meet consumer demand. They'd do it without government forcing it on us.

"New technologies can make cars safer," Kazman acknowledged. "The point is, if you put the technologies in a large, heavier car, that car will be safer still. ... None of the proponents of these standards would acknowledge (the lives lost). It's always win-win, and that is nonsense."

Life involves tradeoffs. If we want to minimize deaths from auto accidents, we may use more fuel than we might otherwise use. Who should make that decision, the government? Or you and I?

In the land of the supposedly free, that really should not be a tough question.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" <http://www.johnstossel.com>>johnstossel.com</a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

11 Comments | Post Comment
Government "People" Cost. "People" Spend, or cause to be Spent, Money,
OurTax Money, Or Borrowed Money. Get rid of the "People" who
underperform. Send them out to be Americans, unemployed. If they are
so profoundly smart and know what's good for all, Maybe, just Maybe,
they'll start a business and hire some others...
Comment: #1
Posted by: Jack Schneider
Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:36 AM
Let's impose excise taxes on oil consumption to pay for the excess military expenses required to facilitate our addiction to foreign oil; as long as the market assesses all of the costs of oil consumption, it will speak accurately.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Dissenter
Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:01 AM
In my opinion, the best thing government can do to encourage better fuel economy exists already: standards to measure that fuel economy - not standards that impose it - so that consumers can make an informed choice. I agree, don't dictate to us what that choice is - but don't allow the vendors to attempt to confuse us into thinking their products do something they don't in fact do - and don't allow the vendors to make it next to impossible to compare their products with those similar products from another vendor.
Taking the idea of informing consumers better a step further: Yes, this can and ultimately should be done by non-government entities. However, until tort and liability reform happens we only have the government to do this, since the government won't be spuriously sued to get it to shut up. Then there is also the other little matter John mentioned: auto safety. The government provides standards to measure the "safety" of an automobile in the form of crash testing standards. Here as well, I would like the ability to make an informed choice, not have that choice dictated to me. Yes, this also can and should be done by non-government entities, but I see tort and liability reforms as major barriers to this happening.
Ultimately, then, I think tort and liability reform are needed to allow the free flow of useful and accurate information concerning products and services so that a free market system can work. Right now I see our tort and liability "laws" as so onerous that even government imposition of standards turns out to be less expensive!
Comment: #3
Posted by: ArtND76
Wed Aug 10, 2011 2:58 PM
The game of government is to have its population chase the next moment of crisis that it creates. If there's no crisis, there's no need to create new government programs. Our government told us our cars were too unsafe; and for our own good, they mandated that more safety equipment be installed on vehicles such as airbags and roll cages and other heavy gadgetry. Now that they are heavier, we need to improve gas mileage which creates smaller, unsafe vehicles. These changes keep unimportant people employeed at the expense of citizens that really don't need them for their life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Jeff Sherwood
Wed Aug 10, 2011 4:41 PM
ok Desenter, "post an excise tax on oil imports to pay for... [military involvement in middle east] " For the sake of argument lets assume oil is the sole reason for the 4 trillion spent in Iraq. Wouldn't the true cause of us using there oil be because it is cheap. And wouldn't it be cheaper to get oil or natural gas, or coal to natural gas, if it weren't for the EPA stopping lots of production and the lawsuits of Environmentalism stopping even more, we might have natural gas here. And the planet would be a lot better off with out these things, ecologically and economically.
Comment: #5
Posted by: John
Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:44 PM
Hey John, how about that cab ride to Boston on the 7th? Partitions in cabs, govt. regulation flawed on the municipal, state and federal levels. Care to comment?
Comment: #6
Posted by: Steven Crowell
Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:12 AM
You missed the mark. Many of the car companies have European divisions that make cars that get much better gas milage and cost less than they do in the US. Car accident deaths in Western Europe are mostly lower than that in the US. In Germany, where some of the highways have sections where there is no speed limit, their car accident deaths per 100,000 is nearly half of that of the US. And the car companies in Europe are unionized with better benefits than their counterparts in the US.
Comment: #7
Posted by: TheBaron
Sun Aug 14, 2011 6:50 AM
Re: TheBaron

Did a little fact checking on you. Your facts are way off but I'm sure you intended to mislead anyone who wouldn't take the time to check them. In Germany deaths are 7.8 per Billion Kilometers driven where as in the United States deaths are at 6.76 per Billion Kilometers driven. So Germans die at a higher rate than in the US in car accidents. I guess those higher paid union workers with better benefits aren't doing the job you were saying they did. Oh and in case anyone is wondering..France 9.6, UK 6.7, Italy 8.3, Greece 20.3.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Factchecker
Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:41 PM
It looks like politicians are so used to thinking that passing a law magically makes things happen that they think that Mother Nature will change the laws of physics because the government decreed an unrealistic fuel economy standard. i read earlier today a technical article about the new air conditioning refrigerant that is the latest government madate; it looks to be 5 to 10 times the cost of present refrigerants and is totally dependent on materials only found in China. I'm sure that the folks who wrote the statutory requirements thinks that the industry can come up with something because it is decreed from Washngton, but not necessarily at the price that we can pay. But then, affordability is out of political fashion at the moment.
Comment: #9
Posted by: partsmom
Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:08 PM
If Americans who drive these small death traps Really were interested and looked UNDER their precious imports they might be better informed. I work on these vehicles every day and believe me its frightening to see how they are made. If you had no air bags there is no chance of survival in a crash. Look...its so simple, its mass against mass and small looses every time. People give up their safety for some fuel savings and think nothing of it.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Wyominguy
Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:52 PM
Keep in mind those of you who just love those gas sipping Imports...they were designed for a market in Europe or Asia where they have Small roads and very few large vehicles..so sure a plastic box hits another plastic box its fair..in the States we have Trucks, and SUV's and they will win every time in a wreck. I agree with the article that no government should dictate mileage and how we let it happen is a mystery to me. So when you can't buy a truck and have to pay to get a piece of plywood delivered and pay twice its value keep in mind how our Government is running your life.
Thanks John for writing this piece...Ive been saying the same for years!
Comment: #11
Posted by: Wyominguy
Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:53 PM
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