TTAC to DC: Let's Kill CAFE!

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

When it comes to public policy, I don't often agree with the automotive industry in general and Motown in specific. That's because the car biz is ready, willing and lobbying to suck on the federal tit whenever and wherever they can. But when it comes to federal Corporate Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations, I agree: the system is absurd. As the otherwise deeply misguided GM Car Czar Bob Lutz said, it's like trying to get people to lose weight by forcing manufacturers to sell smaller shirts. Anyway, none of the automakers or their camp followers have the balls to simply call for CAFE's abolition. Instead, they continually work to game, undermine and otherwise manipulate the system to appear to support it. You know; in principle. And now The Wall Street Journal reports that even that's in jeopardy. At a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hearing on a new CAFE draft statement, "The auto industry said federal regulators are pushing too far, too fast in their effort to raise fuel-mileage rules [to 35mpg by 2020]. The complaints from the industry, which had previously voiced support for tougher standards, underscore how economic hardship is affecting a major policy debate.they reversing their former support by claiming hardship." It gets worse. According to Automotive News [sub], "The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers questioned whether the statement was necessary, calling on NHTSA to reserve its right to not draft a statement at all." In other words, can we please torpedo this thing in private, like always? So, anyway, I sent an email to NHTSA.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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4 of 28 comments
  • Geeber Geeber on Aug 05, 2008
    psarhajinian: That’s without the light truck exemption, not without CAFE. Remove CAFE entirely and you lose the incentive to make efficient vehicles–regardless of their ride height–outside of price spikes or supply crunches. Scrap the light-truck exemption, and the pressure would have been on to scrap CAFE completely. Which would have been a good thing. CAFE only exists because of the light-truck exemption - in other words, it only exists because buyers could get around it (by buying a light truck instead of a full-size car). Every time I hear a call for elimination of the light-truck exemption, it reminds me of those who demand "strict" enforcement of speed limits on limited access highways because they mistakenly believe that anyone driving over the speed limit represents death on wheels. Never mind that the only reason people aren't pushing for higher limits is because there is an unofficial leeway allowing drivers to exceed the posted limit. Eliminate that leeway, and suddenly people will be clamoring for higher limits.
  • Ihatetrees Ihatetrees on Aug 05, 2008

    Congress is economically dumb (in a collective sense), therefore CAFE is dumb. I'm no fan of taxes. But tax the consumer end to change behavior. Set a floor of $X/gallon for wholesale gasoline. If the price goes below that, tax it up to that amount. Where the taxes go, is, unfortunately, a function of who we elect. Orian: Now now - most of our current tax dollars are being sent over seas to fund our little incursion into Iraq. That’s costing what, around $30+ million a week? At the risk taking this thread completely OT, your Iraq estimate is off by an order of magnitude+. That said, total defense spending is historically (post 1940) low GDP-wise. It's our collective middle class (sense of) entitlement - not Iraq, not Bush, not Cheney, not Blackwater contracts, not Dems or the GOP - THAT will bankrupt this country.

  • Chuckgoolsbee Chuckgoolsbee on Aug 06, 2008

    Kill CARB while you're at it. --chuck

  • Morven Morven on Aug 06, 2008

    CAFE is also, IMO, responsible for the awfulness of small, efficient cars in the US. Why? Because these cars exist only to make the CAFE numbers, and the big automakers (especially the US-based) treat them as just that. I also suspect part of the domestic auto industry's support of them was that CAFE penalties were a way to make imported luxury autos more expensive.