A court just ordered that you will pay more to use less gas.
The court did not put it quite that way, of course – courts specializing in not putting things directly, much less honestly.
Like the government – which the courts serve.
The issue at hand was whether car companies should be triple fined by the government for not “complying” with regulatory decrees pertaining to how many miles the cars they make can travel on a gallon of gas. And how much higher those minimums are to be – as well as how soon.
The mandatory minimum number of miles new cars must travel per gallon – or else – has been increasing each decade since the ’70s, when the government first got into the business of telling car companies how far their cars must go – and how much you’ll pay to get there.
These MPG mandates – and attendant fines for not meeting them – cost you in other ways, too. They killed off large family sedans and station wagons, which were replaced by large SUVs and pick-ups which cost much more than the extincted-by-the-regs large family sedans and wagons. For a time, trucks and SUVs were subject to lower mandatory MPG minimums by an accident of regulatory categorization – they were “light trucks” rather than “passenger cars” – and so the car industry built more of the former to satisfy the market demand for the latter, thwarted by the regs.
Because the mandatory minimum is back on track to almost double from what it originally was when CAFE – Corporate Average Fuel Economy – regulations were first imposed, to an average of nearly 50 miles-per-gallon by about five years from now.
The fines for not meeting that “goal” are to be tripled – from $5.50 for every 0.1 MPG they fall below the standard to $14.
The cost of these fines to be passed on to you, too – in the obvious form of more expensive cars and the subtle form of fewer choices. There are only a couple of non-electric cars on the market right now that can travel 50 miles on a gallon of gasoline and they are almost electric cars.
There are no full-size trucks or SUVs on the market that can travel 35 miles on a gallon of gas and no car larger than a compact with an engine larger than a small four can travel 40. The reason so many cars – even larger ones – now come with small fours is because of mandatory MPG minimums. As these minimums increase, there will be fewer cars – and much more expensive SUVs and pick-ups.
Also more electric vehicles – since they are essentially exempted from CAFE even though they burn through petrochemicals, too. Just at a distance. And, at a cost – not merely in money, either.
The Orange Man made an attempt to “roll back” both the mandatory minimums and the fines for not meeting them. This triggered the usual chorus of outrage – and litigation. The Orange Man’s actions were also characterized as the equivalent of dumping used motor oil down the storm drain, as gas mileage mandates have been conflated with exhaust emissions – much in the way that “cases” are being conflated with illnesses – and deaths – even in the absence of any symptoms.
The reportage largely runs the same: Orange Man doesn’t care about the air; he is giving “polluters” the green light. The problem here is the same basic problem we have with “the cases! the cases!”– which is that both are free of facts. Or – more precisely – the facts are grotesquely exaggerated, in order to use fear as the argument and guilt as the cudgel.
It is true that a car powered by an internal combustion engine produces emissions. It also true that all cars built since the ’90s – which are 30 years in the rearview and so essentially all cars on the road today – produce almost no harmful emissions. Just as a Face Diaper prevents no transmissions.
The percentage of the exhaust stream that contributes to smog and so on is a fraction of the total, which is why further “reductions” are functionally meaningless. But they are always touted as Great Leaps Forward – by characterizing a reduction of half a percent as a 50 percent reduction – never qualified.
It is also why carbon dioxide became an “emission” – which it is in a technical sense since cars do “emit” it – but which it isn’t in terms of smog formation and so forth. But it is a useful emission in that there is no way to reduce them except by increasing gas mileage, providing the new pretext for not “rolling back” the CAFE mandatory minimums and tripling the fines imposed for not complying with them.
This is presented, despicably, as an air quality issue – just as Face Diapering is presented, also despicably, as a health issue.
Both deserve deconstructing.
The premise underlying CAFE is that car buyers’ desire for “efficient” cars – at any cost – is ignored by the car industry, which must be coerced via regulations to provide it regardless of cost. In other words, the car industry must be forced to build that which people are otherwise unwilling to pay for.
Just as people who aren’t sick must be forced to wear Face Diapers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit saith: “We reject the (Orange Man’s) argument that . . . the increase (in mandatory MPG minimums and fines) would create a negative economic impact. . . “
Things cost. There is no free lunch. You pay more for gas – or you pay more for a car that uses less gas.
Orange Man good. He tried – and deserves credit for at least that much since no one else in a position to do something even made the attempt.
And he may get another shot – on our behalf – if he manages to hold onto the spray tan booth at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I hope he does, because there’s no hope at all if he does not.
. . .
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