Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - Overcaffeinated CAFE - Opinion: Overcaffeinated CAFE


Praying for the insanity to blow over is the auto industry's strategy for dealing with the Obama administration latest urge to double down on fuel economy mandates. Auto makers, wishing to appear deferential to the government that bailed them out, only plead that any new targets be ratcheted up slowly so future administrations will have plenty of chance to repeal the rules before they take effect.

This, we're sad to say, is the most rational stance taken by any player in the CAFE bargaining now under way in Washington.

Economies around the world are foundering from an accumulation of policy excesses produced by the sort of straight-line, robotic thinking Obama is applying to so-called corporate average fuel economy rules.

If more money for less work is popular, thought Greece, twice as much money for half as much work will be even more popular.

If 64% of Americans owning their own homes is a good thing, thought Bill Clinton, 67% is better. If 67% is good, thought George Bush, 69% is better.

If forcing auto makers to build cars that deliver an average of 35.5 mpg is good, believes Mr. Obama, forcing them to deliver 56.2 is even better.

Engineering is absent. Any appreciation of the law of diminishing returns is absent.

Asking consumers, meanwhile, to bear the cost of fuel-economy improvement they don't value will cause them to keep their old cars on the road longer. And in pursuit of what benefits? If we junked every gasoline-powered car and truck in America, it would have no appreciable impact on global carbon dioxide. If, as Mr. Obama intends, we switch to electric cars, those cars would be powered by coal, so the alleged atmospheric dividend will be doubly elusive.





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