Energy

A Wrong Turn on Saving Fuel

Which energy efficiency plans hold up to scrutiny?

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Of all the ideas on how to combat global warming, few have more obvious appeal than producing cars that get better mileage. The Sierra Club says a boost in fuel economy standards "is the biggest single policy step" the government can take. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., went to Detroit in May to advise the auto industry that this change would "help bring it into the 21st century." And last month, the Senate voted to require that each automaker's fleet of cars and trucks average at least 35 miles to the gallon by 2020.

Who could possibly object to cars that use less fuel? If any of us had a magic wand that would make our car go farther on a tank of gas, we'd dislocate our shoulders waving it every time we passed a sign advertising regular fuel at more than $3 a gallon.

Of course, we don't have a magic wand. But we assume Congress does. In a sense, that's true. Our lawmakers can command auto executives to do whatever is necessary to make their cars use less gas.

But the likely results of this particular mandate bring to mind the movie Bedazzled, in which a guy sells his soul to the devil in exchange for seven wishes—only to find that every time he gets a wish, it turns out to have a major catch. Asking to be rich and powerful, for example, he's transformed into a Colombian drug lord whose confederates are trying to kill him. Higher fuel economy standards, likewise, would have results that are not quite what we envision.

The first is that they won't reduce gasoline consumption much anytime soon. The reason is simple: The only vehicles affected by the change would be new ones. For the huge majority of motorists who keep their old cars and SUVs, the change represents a comfortable preservation of the status quo.

Under this measure, their vehicles will go on burning fossil fuels at the same rate for five or 10 or 15 years, until they pass on to that interstate in the sky. The owners will pay no price for continuing to churn out carbon dioxide with abandon.

The second is that among those people who buy the new, improved vehicles, higher mileage requirements won't actually discourage driving. Just the opposite. A driver who trades in a car that gets 20 mpg for one that gets 35 mpg will suddenly be more inclined to use her wheels even more than before, since the cost of any given trip is drastically lower. A 2002 study by the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies found that if Congress raised the fuel mandate to 35 mpg, the average new light truck "would log about 1,080 more miles per year."

The result will be more congestion and more accidents. The more people drive, the worse the traffic jams. The higher the number of cars on the road at any given moment, the likelier it is that one of them will run into yours.

Economists almost unanimously agree that if you want to cut greenhouse gas emissions by curbing gasoline consumption, the sensible way to do it is not by dictating the design of cars but by influencing the behavior of drivers. If you want less of something, such as pollution from cars, the surest way is to charge people more for it.

A carbon tax or a higher gasoline tax would encourage every motorist, not just those with new vehicles, to burn less fuel—by taking the bus, carpooling, telecommuting, resorting to that free mode of transit known as walking, or buying a Prius.

Many people are inclined to resist a higher gas tax because it would cost them money. What they overlook is that a law requiring cars and trucks to be more fuel-efficient would not come free, either. You wouldn't pay more for each visit to the pump. But you would pay more for a car. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over time, a gas tax would cost 27 percent less than a higher fuel-economy mandate.

None of these inconvenient truths, however, got much attention from the Senate. Raising mileage standards has great allure in Washington because the price inflicted on consumers is hidden from view, assuring that no blame will fall on our elected leaders. But by now, we should know that when politicians offer something for nothing, it's the worst deal of all.

COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. The only reason for a tax is for basic goverment fuctions.Gasoline is a heavly taxed comodity.It is taxed at ever stage.Besides,where will this money go? To the treasury to be doled out piecemeal on the whim of Congress.Anyone think gas taxes actually go just for the purpose they were meant,to build an repair roads.

  2. You are assuming that a majority (or even a large minority) of car journeys can easily be taken using a non-car substitute. I doubt that is the case. Commuting is a prime example, the car and high property prices in urban areas have encouraged people to live further and further from their place of work and commute by car where a non-car alternative is unavailable (most of the time). We’ve discovered here in the UK that demand for petrol is very inelastic because there is simply no alternative for the majority of normal people. This inelasticity allows government to raise the tax at will, confident that revenue will also increase, whilst at the same time claiming that their tax raising measures are somehow motivated by a green agenda. Petrol here is the equivalent of $8.70 per gallon, there’s been no decrease in car usage.

  3. I agree with WillS about the inelasticity of gasoline consumption. I have a job where 90% of my tasks could easily be completed by modem from my La Z Boy in my pajamas, but my employer, despite running out of office space and losing our parking garage contract refuses to even consider discussing telecommuting. (Working from home in the eyes of the boss is something only goateed slackers and distracted mothers do. Of course, yammering about football games, watching YouTube, and conducting endless “motivational” meetings at the office are hugely productive.)

    Anyway, all available solutions to the need for driving into work every day depend on the death or retirement of two generations of bosses who came of age when “computer” meant banks of refridgerator-sized metal boxes playing reel-to-reel data tapes and “internet” was something in Amazing Stories. The costs of commuting only apply to the workers, not the business and until that changes, the gas tax will only cause additional misery without any benefit.

  4. While it’s a simplistic analysis, Mr. Chapman, it is more-or-less correct. I just finished explaining this phenomenon to a liberal friend of mine.
    “How could anyone argue against better fuel economy standards?” he asked.
    I summed it up much as your article did, but left out the part about a gas tax since I don’t really support such a thing. I also included that as the total # of miles driven increases (as it would), the demand for roads would increase, and the possibility of ever having the liberal-utopia he envisions (everyone who has to drive a car is driving a fuel efficient car and everyone else living in dense communities and taking public transit) would fly right out the window. Instead, it would allow people to live further from their place of work, and merely increase the demand for more roads and other infrastructure, which will all cost us more to maintain. I didn’t bring up that new cars would cost more, and therefore cause people to keep their older, less efficient cars longer either, but it hardly would have mattered. He didn’t respond. I’m sure he’s mad at me, in denial, and thinks I’m full of shit.

  5. I suppose then if we implement Chapman’s proposals to discourage driving along with a mandate for fuel efficiency we would reduce emmissions even more than choosing one over the other. Thanks Steve!

  6. How about getting behind an alternative fuel, instead of social engineering by taxing dino juice to death in order get people to stop driving?? I know ethanol is probably not the alternative fuel of future as many envision. Its net energy gain is minimal at best is my understanding.

  7. As much as I love Harold Ramis’ work, if you reference Bedazzled it shoul be the Cook and Moore version not that awful Brendan Fraser-Elizabeth Hurley remake.

  8. CAFE standards show the folly of trying to influence individual behavior within any type of metered consumption. This is like trying to reduce overall water usage with low-flow shower heads or reduce electricity usage by legislating my choice in light bulbs. I can take a six-hour shower with water pressure akin to 3 old men with prostate problems pissing on me but I can only water my grass one day a week. I can leave every light on in the house 24 hours a day but it will be a dim, different spectrum than I want. The “solution” makes no sense at all given the reality of human nature. If the goal is to reduce water or electricity usage, or in the case of CAFE, gasoline consumption, allowing the pricing mechanism to work is the only way to encourage people to consume less and at the same time let them maximize their own utility. Perhaps I would rather mow my lawn with a reel mower or heat my house with a wood stove than drive a Toyota Pious, but thanks to this kind of central fiat I do not get to make that choice. That is the essence of the welfare state: the conceit that an agent of the government knows your own preferences better than you do.

  9. I always find it funny when various tax schemes are discussed that the users of hybrid vehicles who post on online forums start whining about how they should get a special deal. One state (I no longer remember which) was considering using a milage-based use tax in place of a gas tax (good idea IMHO) and in response to hybrid owner whining, legislators had to promise that any proposal would include a reduced rate for hybrid vehicles! WTF? And here I thought they were buying hybrids to save the environment and get a better deal on their costs…

  10. Working from home in the eyes of the boss is something only goateed slackers and distracted mothers do. Of course, yammering about football games, watching YouTube, and conducting endless “motivational” meetings at the office are hugely productive.

    Karen, the choir says, AMEN. I’ve given up making that same argument at my company. It’s funny how telecommuting is NEVER brought up by political candidates and their corporate donors during this so-called time of “environmental crisis.”

    The funny thing is that back in the 90s during the Clinton Administration, when gas was much cheaper, telecommuting was encouraged.

    If I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it is to not expect corporate America to encourage market solutions anymore than public sector bureaucrats. So, the next time I hear a CEO start yammering about “being green,” I’ll roll my eyes in the usual fashion …

  11. Ahem, Mr. pareto,

    Your preferences do not matter. It’s that we know what is best for you, despite your childish insistence on having what you actually want. It’s for your own good. Now stop all this whining about preferences, and report to your nearest reeducation camp.

  12. The time-lag argument is a weak one. Getting off fossil fuels into a carbon-light economy is a generational program. Any significant changes are going to take years to implement.

  13. Welfare State,

    I’m sure the people who throw their garbage out their car windows are perfectly capable of determining their preferences and self-interest, too. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that they are perfectly aware of what is in the public’s interest, too.

    That’s not the problem. The problem is, they don’t give a crap. So we change the incentive structure to bring their private interests in line with the public interest, through such things as littering laws – not because we think a-holes like that are incapable of knowing and acting in their own self-interest, but because we’re confident that they are.

  14. I always find it funny when various tax schemes are discussed that the users of hybrid vehicles who post on online forums start whining about how they should get a special deal.

    Me too. A gallon of evil gasoline is a gallon of evil gasoline, whether burned in a Hemi or a hybrid.

  15. “Working from home in the eyes of the boss is something only goateed slackers and distracted mothers do. Of course, yammering about football games, watching YouTube, and conducting endless “motivational” meetings at the office are hugely productive.”

    The reason those horrible, mean bosses are reluctant to allow telecommuting is that they’re concerned that their slacker employees will get paid but not do any actual work. And since even with someone able to do a surprise visit to their cubes, those employees are yammering about football and watching YouTube, it doesn’t lend those evil bosses any confidence that their work ethics would suddenly improve if even that limited oversight was removed.

  16. I’m sure the people who throw their garbage out their car windows are perfectly capable of determining their preferences and self-interest, too. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that they are perfectly aware of what is in the public’s interest, too.

    That’s not the problem. The problem is, they don’t give a crap. So we change the incentive structure to bring their private interests in line with the public interest, through such things as littering laws – not because we think a-holes like that are incapable of knowing and acting in their own self-interest, but because we’re confident that they are.

    Has nothing to do with CAFE standards, nor anything to do with how CAFE standards will fail to produce any sort of public benefit, unless you interpret more driving as public benefit.

  17. I wonder why Chevy/Geo/Suzuki stopped selling the Metro xFi. I always got 40+ MPG city, 50+ MPG hwy with mine. It was cheap to purchase, fun to drive, easy to park.

  18. BTW, you don’t get to posit that miles driven is so elastic that there will be a significant increase if fuel mileage improves, and at the same time posit that it is so inelastic that people will not reduce their miles driven in response to higher prices at the pump.

    You gotta pick one.

  19. BTW, you don’t get to posit that miles driven is so elastic that there will be a significant increase if fuel mileage improves, and at the same time posit that it is so inelastic that people will not reduce their miles driven in response to higher prices at the pump.

    You gotta pick one.

    I don’t see that anyone here has made this contradiction. Quotes?

  20. Damn, gotta say joe is spot on in his criticisms of the article.

    Not that I support mileage mandates. Ultimately, the auto companies have to sell what consumers want to buy. And the only way that most consumers are going to really care about more efficient vehicles is if the price of fuel is high.

  21. …you don’t get to posit that miles driven is so elastic that there will be a significant increase if fuel mileage improves…

    It’s not completely irrational to say both things, because driving has two components for most of us.

    There’s an inelastic floor, call it the driving-to-work number, below which most people cannot go. Elasticity occurs marginally above that, where trips to the store can be combined, and where the decision to go to vacation spot A or B (or just to take a ‘pleasure drive’ — remember those?) occurs.

  22. “BTW, you don’t get to posit that miles driven is so elastic that there will be a significant increase if fuel mileage improves, and at the same time posit that it is so inelastic that people will not reduce their miles driven in response to higher prices at the pump.

    “You gotta pick one.”

    Nice try, Joe; but consider the likelihood that there is a “floor” on miles but not a “ceiling.” There are necessary tasks and travel which cannot easily be eliminated, but there are additional trips which, as the cost of a marginal mile decreases, may be added.

  23. Doc Duck, P Brooks,

    Hmm, good point.

  24. Doctor Duck got a wheel under me.
    I suppose I could try typing faster, and proofreading less.

    Naah.

  25. The elasticity of the “driving to work” number can vary, based on the availability of alternate modes of transportation.

    Thinking about Chapman’s theory that better mileage = more congestion and, therefore, more accidents, I gotta call shennanigans. If the “additional trips” are pleasure drives, trips to vacation spots, or other non-work trips, they aren’t going to contribute to congestion problems, because congestion only really occurs during certain peak hours along certain routes in certain directions – the most popular commuting trips – which are not going to replicated by pleasure drivers on their leisure time.

    If you’ve got a road that’s at 10% of its capacity during a given time, doubling the traffic won’t double congestion. It won’t increase congestion at all.

  26. If the “additional trips” are pleasure drives, trips to vacation spots, or other non-work trips, they aren’t going to contribute to congestion problems

    You’re switching issues here. The point about elasticity was how taxes can affect total miles driven, and perhaps ‘national fuel economy’.

    Congestion is a different matter. In fact, as you point out, congestion is evidence of a relatively inelastic floor. It says nothing about the rest of the demand.

    As some cities have shown, you can affect even this somewhat inelastic core, using congestion fees. However, these can only work when there are transportation alternatives — in cities with extensive suburbs and little or no public transport, they would do nothing.

  27. in cities with extensive suburbs and little or no public transport, they would do nothing.

    In the short term, car pooling is about the only “transportation alternative” that has anywhere near the flexibility of personal car transportation in the type of cities you mention. Public transit authorities are slow to adapt, and living patterns in suburbs hardly lend themselves to efficient bus/train-systems.

  28. Doctor Duck,

    The point about congestion was raised in the original article.

  29. I’m thinking about putting a steam engine in my Volkswagen bus. I’ll run the boiler by burning styrofoam coffee cups and packing peanuts. Do I get to think of myself as “green?” Can I claim tax credits?

  30. Every idea the politicians come up with is some half-assed solution. There are no worthwhile alternative fuels, hybrids suck ass, and taxes and fuel standards cause more problems than they solve. I never hear any talk about infrastructure, which is the most important factor of energy use. If we have some cheap magic fuel, a horribly inneficient infrastructure will still waste time, money, and energy.

  31. Howdy, Colonel. How’s your brother, Ennil?

  32. Further gasoline taxes likely won’t be necessary to control demand, given the current growth in motor fuel demands and our relative inability to increase overall supplies anytime soon.

    Two years up the road $3.00-a-gallon gas and diesel may well be a fond memory, as prices nudge over the $5.00-gallon mark and stay there or higher indefinitely.

    Of course. much of the current shortage is self-inflicted, but given the Luddite mentality political climate in Washington, don’t look for this to change anytime soon either.

  33. -Michael Pack

    The only reason for a tax is for basic goverment fuctions.Gasoline is a heavly taxed comodity.It is taxed at ever stage.Besides,where will this money go?

    -WillS

    This inelasticity [of petrol demand] allows government to raise the tax at will, confident that revenue will also increase, whilst at the same time claiming that their tax raising measures are somehow motivated by a green agenda.

    -Travis

    How about getting behind an alternative fuel, instead of social engineering by taxing dino juice to death in order get people to stop driving??

    I acknowledge libertarians are fundamentally against taxes, for obvious reasons illustrated above. But, in line with joe’s comments, people’s unregulated actions can impinge on the public interest. At this point, economic externalities have to be internalized. The most relevant example of this, of course, is carbon emissions from fossil fuels combustion.

    Addressing the preceding quotes, the typical tax model suffers from unequal redistribution of funds. Therefore, simply raising the price of gas will only line the government’s pockets further. Indeed, where will this new revenue go? While it’s comforting to envision the government “sponsoring” alternative fuels from the coffers of a new gasoline tax, the bureaucratic inefficiencies loom large. Then there’s the 99.9999% chance that the “pet” alternative fuel chosen by government “experts” will 1) not be the most efficient option and 2) smother competition among competing technologies.

    A libertarian-friendly model that I’ve seen here and elsewhere that seems to address these concerns is the “revenue-neutral carbon tax.” In this model, state (hopefully!) governments tax commodities on a per-ton-of-carbon-emissions basis. Simultaneously, other state tax streams (e.g., sales tax) are directly offset, resulting in no net revenues for government, and no net expenses for consumers. Furthermore, there is a driving force in the market for regional alternative energies to become inherently more competitive, without government subsidies.

    Any thoughts?

  34. “A libertarian-friendly model that I’ve seen here and elsewhere that seems to address these concerns is the “revenue-neutral carbon tax.” In this model, state (hopefully!) governments tax commodities on a per-ton-of-carbon-emissions basis. Simultaneously, other state tax streams (e.g., sales tax) are directly offset, resulting in no net revenues for government, and no net expenses for consumers …

    Any thoughts?”

    Yeah — legislatures don’t do revenue-neutral, and carbon taxes, like all other sin taxes, would be about raising revenue above all else.

    Once you grasp that politicians are rapacious thieves, not public benefactors, the flaws in suggestions like this become obvious.

  35. Libertarians such as myself prefer to treat externalities (or “market failure”) like the crazy uncle I keep tied up in the basement: I’d rather not discuss it. But, alas, that doesn’t make either problem disappear. Many of the costs of gasoline consumption are not reflected in the price o gas: e.g. air pollution, disease, climate change, oil wars, etc. I’ve seen estimates of these costs as high as $22/gal. and as low as $4/gal. At any rate, Americans don’t come close to paying the full cost of a gallon of gas. We could argue about these costs but inevitably the number is subjective–how do you put a price on a shorter life span? Still, if gas taxes were imposed to reflect the true costs, we wouldn’t have to worry about piddling things like mileage standards. The market would do that for us.

  36. WRT cars, my MINI Cooper S has a display showing how efficient I am driving. Gaming that number is fun for me, even if I commute at 55mph==40mpg instead of 75mph==28mpg; I am less stressed out ’cause I don’t have to try to constantly pass anyone, and the threat of speeding tickets is gone.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists, while they may be liberal asshats, their Vanguard Minivan showed us just what is possible with off the shelf technology.
    Where there’s a will…
    http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/vehicles_health/ucs-vanguard.html
    …there’s a way.

    The bigger picture:
    IIRC, the overall goal is a total reduction in CO2 emmissions of 80% by 2050 (it doesn’t stop there atmospheric CO2 must still be adjusted to whatever is best for Civilization, but at least this 80% point CO2 levels are stable enough to stabilize the climate); unless one is an eco-nazi who wants to see all emmissions stop NOW irregardless fo the consequences. Anyway, from 2010, this amounts to about a 2% mean average reduction per person per year. As developing economies are going to be given some slack (so as to get rich enough to surviv the coming climate change which can’t be stopped), and as wealthier nations are both more responsible for past CO2 emmissions and more capable of reducing them, the wealthy nations should on Mean Average seek a 5% yearly reduction in CO2 from previous years. It doesn’t sound so bad now does it.

    Focusing on automobile CO2 efficiency is only a small part of the pie, though it does have a high emotional correspondence. More attention needs to be paid to home/small building efficiency, and sooner as buildings stick around longer than cars. Great Britain has begun an initiative to have all new housing be carbon Neutral by 2015. This is by fiat of course. It would be nice to see a libertarian policy to acheive as much by the same time without the use of fiat. Tax breaks for builders?

    Anyway, the 5% goal can be looked at thus:
    Improve wealth efficiency.

    Wealth consumes money, time, and energy to maintain it; some consume more of this than others for the otherwise same level of wealth. Reduce high maintenance wealth to save on those resources. Example: If you are going to get a luxury car, get one that doesn’t break down every other day. I drive a MINI Cooper and have had few problems

    Improve efficiency of money, time, and energy.

    Coupon, sales, consignment shops etc. are your money friends. TV is a huge money, time and energy waster. (at least convention cable/satellite services.) Don’t leave unneeded vampire devices plugged into the wall. Lots of basic LifehackerDOTcom stuff apply here. I just installed a solar tube in the otherwise dark kitchen in my condo; given the tax breaks available, increased resale value, and the two fewer lights it uses during nighttime usage, it might just break even with the costs; and it really brightens up the place, no lights onduring the day now.

    Improve CO2 efficiency.

    Get a car with metter mpg, drive less, take the bus/train when it is cheaper to do so, walk, ride a bike. Some energy providers offer ‘green energy’ by itself for purchase…I’d like to see some flexible arrangements for different types of energy, as nuke power isn’t all that bad, but isn’t considered ‘green’ for some dumb reason.

    Putting the above three together will probably result in the desired average reduction in CO2 and will likely make us wealthier in the process. Scarmongering from the Right about Eco-Nazis? forcing us all to live in mud huts under the heal of a Global Government to acheive as much should be ignored for garbage it is.

    The basic meme is to: do one or more things which result in 5% less CO2 from you each year. (This does not include breathing less. 😉 )

    About offsets.

    CO2 offsets when done right can in some cases reduce CO2 more cheaply than lifestyle changes. It should be pursued only when the cheap lifestyle changes have been done. But Buyer beware. Some of these might be scams; some of these erroneuosly think that merely planting trees and then ignoring the saplings is sufficient. A fair number are honestly trying to reduce CO2. The better Offset Services fund/subsidize energy efficiency, green energy as well as research into the same. The better Tree related offsets track the life of the tree as well as any wood processing; trees grown to make charcoal get little if any credit, whereas trees converted into long lasting conastruction wood get more Credit. The best tree related offsetting involves protecting existing mature forests (esp tropical), which are very good at building up carbon in the soil, and incidently provide a host of other natural economic services (watershed protection to name one). Greeny sites like GristmillDOTcom are often critical of offsets (it’s the tree issue); this is a good thing, it forces providers to prove their worth. Despite scriticism from greens and some scandals, mainly in Europe, the market is growing by leaps and bounds and billions. Incidentally, my CO2 output is minimal/below average; as a result my offsets (via TerrPass) cost me about a mere 150$/year. And I work at a Kinkos. 😛

  37. “legislatures don’t do revenue-neutral, and carbon taxes, like all other sin taxes, would be about raising revenue above all else.”

    This makes me a sad panda, because to my mind rolling the price of meddling in the middle east, all long-term military deployments, and guaranteeing freedom of the seas should be rolled into the price of gasoline would be an elegant way of reducing oil consumption, which would reduce dependence on those s–tholes, which would reduce the cost of keeping them in line, etc. A virtuous cycle.

    But then I remember that the ‘offsets’ would just become more $$$ in the porkers’ trough.

    I’m thinking more and more that we need such gas taxes, because the security of the nation demands that we cut the balls off of those rotten exporting nations (by reducing global demand, and therefore profits), and doing so is a moral imperative along the lines of destroying communism (worth any price paid, regardless of what it will take to clean up the mess).

  38. Al Gore’s proposal is to offset a carbon tax by reducing payroll taxes.

  39. I wonder why Chevy/Geo/Suzuki stopped selling the Metro xFi. I always got 40+ MPG city, 50+ MPG hwy with mine. It was cheap to purchase, fun to drive, easy to park.

    I bought a ’98 Chevy Metro (not even an XFi) and it gets 49-52 mpg on my daily commute. (note: you have to buy the 5-spd…the autos get 36 mpg because they have no overdrive gear)

    My experience with the above purchase leads me to call BS on the higher-CAFE-standards-leads-to-more-driving premise of this article. I don’t think I’ve increased my driving miles at all. I’m just enjoying the 8-gallon fill-ups to go 400+ miles. Even if I’m unique in that respect, I still don’t think driving would increase all that significantly, and certainly not proportionally to the increase in fuel economy. After all, time is still a precious resource and driving takes a lot of it.

  40. Hmmm. A website in favor of higher taxes? Is this Reason, or have I landed on Daily Kos by accident? (Damned clogged tubes of the internets.)

    I guess the form of theft being advocated is the Libertarian version of a subsidy: instead of rewarding “good” behavior (such as buying a hybrid) with a tax break, we will punish everyone according to the dictates of a junk science religion based on computer models which people “accept” rather than test, much the way fundamentalist Christians encourage people to “accept” Jesus as their personal savior. (Answer the call, indeed.)

    Since we’re letting the government dictate what’s good/not good in the market, let’s do what Japan does: require mandatory inspections that become annual once a vehicle reaches age six or seven. This essentially prices older cars out of the market by making their annual upkeep costs more expensive. As a result, there are very few old cars to be seen in Japan, even in rural areas. Of course, that requires constant production of new vehicles and a means of discarding the old vehicles, most of which get sent off to Australia and other parts of Asia where they continue to pollute.

    Go ahead and promote this and other faith-based initiatives if you wish, just don’t call yourself a Libertarian.

  41. The best solution I can see is just to let the free market handle it. So if consumers want to demand that car companies make more efficient cars, then that’s great, but I don’t think the government should be involved. Regulating and handing out subsidies aren’t going to solve the problem. I really believe gasoline and all goods should be taxed an equal percentage of their cost.

    I would rather see the government focus on infrastructure- roads and transit. Yes I know, the government shouldn’t build roads. That will never work out.

    Ultimately, the only thing that will have a real impact is the choice of consumers.

  42. Requiring more efficient cars will reduce pollution, while maintaining our current driving habits. Taxing gasoline will create a demand for more efficient cars, but not necessarily change driving habits. You get the same result either way.

  43. Well, the AEI of course is funded by the oil industry, with all the disinformation they through out I’ll trust them as much as I trust a “State of the Union” speech by Bush.

    And I disagree; it’s true people will be willing to drive more, but there is a limit. Most people commute to regular places and drive to a few specific places almost all of the time. Drivers might feel a little less inclined to conserve, but I don’ think someone who buys a new high-MPG car will just drive up and down the state for the heck of it. It’s absurd. And even if it was, 35 mpg over 20 is not that big of a difference. It’s not like there’s some gasoline ban, and then the next day it’s free. Furthermore, there’s no reason why there can’t be both a tax and higher CAFE standards. Efficiency standards complement it perfectly since then consumers will have the choices to for the incentive to work.

  44. A focus on the transportation sector misses the main source of carbon emissions: buildings. Rather than CAFE standards for cars, the regulation of building emissions gives the government a bigger bang for the buck. Of course, you can do both.

    Carbon taxes only make sense if you swap them for labor taxes. This way you change the logic that goes into the of business decisions. Now, you have to pay a bunch of taxes to add extra workers, so it makes sense to use a carbon heavy solution like a backhoe, for instance. If that backhoe was the source of your tax burden, but workers were cheaper, you might use the more carbon neutral solution of hiring more workers with shovels. Or finding a machine that is carbon efficient and saving on both costs.

  45. Basic math formula:

    8000 lb F-250
    —-[over]—-
    1100 lb CAFE car
    =
    FLAT CAFE CAR

    Take away the metal to save fuel and you take away the protection that saves lives.

  46. Look at the bright side: The mid-sized 3 in Detroit will finally be able to get rid of the last of their workforce by importing all their cars from China.

  47. See Jevon’s paradox for an explanation of the phenomenon.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

  48. I’m totally opposed to CAFE for most of the reasons plus another. Any fair economic model also needs to consider the foregone enjoyment of people like myself who like to drive certain kinds of vehicles (the kinds that use a lot of gas). Given that this is the kind of car many people choose to purchase, the loss here will certainly be considerable. If CAFE gets too out of control, I predict a thriving repair industry keeping the fun cars operating for years to come.

    I’m dismayed that there has been maybe one reply noting the fact that the whole global warming thing has yet to be proven. Is carbon really the problem? If so, are human sources even a drop in the bucket? What are the consequences if we do nothing? Is the cost of trying to do something worth the benefit? These questions have all been ignored as far as I can tell. Until they’re answered, I support the status quo.

    Having said that, I could get behind something like a carbon tax if I believed carbon was a problem. Economically, it’s an infinitely better choice than forcing me to buy a gutless car and hoping my total consumption is less than it would have been. Note that a tax like this is a fallback when you’ve given up trying to figure out who the specific recipients of the damage are. If “climate change” actually becomes a science, carbon taxes could in theory be used to do stuff like repair damage or pay off people whose property disappears from rising seas.

    I don’t agree that people won’t respond to gas prices. As noted, things like carpooling exist in the near term. As prices get very high (due to taxes or actual cost), all kinds of things will change including where people choose to live, the cars they choose to purchase, the number of telecommuters, the viability of alternative fuels and so on.

    BTW, does this site work with Firefox? I had to switch to IE to post this.

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