And Pink, Your SUV Must be Pink

By May 8, 2007Energy, Global Warming

Meant to note this earlier in the week, the Senate Commerce Committee will be convening an executive session at 10 a.m. today to mark-up legislation to increase the average federal fuel economy standard for all vehicles from 25 mpg to 35 mpg by 2019, and include the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard for SUVs.

The idea of Members of Congress deciding which vehicle designs best meet the demands of the marketplace is tough to swallow, but that’s this bill’s end result. Perhaps they can hire the Union of Concerned Scientists as the design engineers. And you can see what kind of perverse results these mandates produce up in Canada, where companies are deciding to remove safety devices from vehicles so they meet the new efficiency standards.

The deadly consequences of increasing the CAFE standards are well-known, but for the Senators today, we’ll repeat them one more time. From a WSJ editorial:

It is undeniable that higher CAFE standards kill people: Larger, heavier cars have lower death rates in crashes. Because automakers have met CAFE standards largely by reducing automobile weight, traffic fatalities in smaller cars have increased. The National Academy of Sciences once focused on the impact of CAFE standards in a single year, 1993, and estimated that they resulted in as many as 2,600 additional deaths. Average car and light-truck weight rose a bit in the 1990s, and in 2002 the Academy wrote that this increase, “though detrimental to fuel economy,” had “saved lives in return.”

And the correct conclusion, drawn from facts and an appreciation of a free-market economy:

As for saving gas, there’s little evidence that CAFE standards matter all that much. Americans tend to drive more miles in high-mileage cars, and when gas prices are lower they shift to SUVs and other vehicles that give them space and a greater sense of security. The best gas-saving plan around is today’s high prices.

If Americans want to pay what amounts to a virtue premium for buying a Toyota Prius or a Mini, no one is stopping them. But the government shouldn’t regulate away the right of other Americans to buy a larger car, along with the greater safety it provides.