Do New CAFE Regs Reduce Safety?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I reckon it’s a nonsensical question. Again, President Obama’s new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations are nothing more than fantasy pandering. By the time the feds factor in ethanol and (inevitable) electric vehicle credits, calculate the “footprint” requirements (per given vehicle type and size), average those out across a given manufacturer’s fleet, and do the hokey-cokey, the CAFE standards will look like swiss cheese. Just like the current ones. In fact, I think it’s awesome that the MSM got so worked-up—in a gloating sort of way—about EPA CAFE. Holy smokes! The industry doesn’t oppose federally mandated fuel efficiency? Motown’s CEOs were in the Rose Garden for the announcement? Despite this media love fest, USA Today just couldn’t resist ye olde “Safety could suffer if we boost mileage by making cars smaller” shtick. Hey, how ’bout these apples?

The Obama administration’s sweeping fuel-economy and emissions initiative announced Tuesday reopens a fierce debate over tradeoffs between fuel economy and auto safety.

The government says no tradeoff exists, because nothing in the new rules would force automakers to sell more small cars, which are more dangerous in crashes than larger ones.

Huh? Scan, scan, scan. Safety studies . . . Environmentalists . . . Bankrupt automakers “skimping” by selling small cars to, uh, someone . . . Ah! Here it is!

“Because every (size) category has to get more efficient, if the soccer mom wants to buy her minivan, it will be a more fuel-efficient minivan. If someone wants to buy a big SUV, it will be a more fuel-efficient SUV,” said Carol Browner, director of theWhite House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

She said companies can use advanced technologies to improve fuel efficiency without dramatically changing their fleets.

In other words, loopholes!

Think of it this way: a Chevy Tahoe gets 14/20 mpg EPA (let’s forget about the E85 Flex-Fuel credit, even if the ethanol-fed Obama administration won’t). If you’re looking for a 20 percent improvement in its fuel economy, all you need is 16.8/24 mpg. Doable? Doable!

A few tweaks here and there (remember: Obama’s already talking about an additional $1300 per new vehicle sold), and Bob’s your uncle. And with those hard-to-forget E85 Flex-fuel credits and, say, a prototype Volt or six to even things out (if only in theory), Government Motors might not even have to dig that deep. Or, in fact, at all.

USA Today ends its “investigation” with more talk about bankruptcy’s effect on automotive safety, arguing that new safety regs have already been delayed or ameliorated to take account of the struggling domestics. In other words, they think the fix is in. Coincidentally enough, they’re right.

[If you believe that EPA CAFE is for real, here’s an excellent article on why it sucks.]

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  • Quasimondo Quasimondo on May 20, 2009

    Yeah, let's bring back the Dodge Rampage.

  • M1EK M1EK on May 22, 2009

    johnthacker, there's not a right-wing talking point that you won't swoop out of the ether to defend, is there.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)