Another Reason To Opt For Carbon Taxes Instead Of The Obama Administration's New CAFE Standards

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 20, 2009

The implementation of the new standards will lead to a decline in auto safety:

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. But some safety experts think otherwise.

“The deadlines are so tight that downsizing will be a tempting compliance strategy” for automakers, says John Graham, the former rulemaking chief in the Office of Management and Budget.

[. . .]

The move is also an example of the clout environmentalists have with the Obama administration and comes as automakers’ dire financial straits are forcing safety to a back burner. It raises the risk that cash-strapped automakers will take the fastest and cheapest route to building more fuel-efficient vehicles: Make them smaller and lighter. Further, asGeneral Motors and Chrysler rely on federal bailout money for survival, they are ill-positioned — and disinclined — to fight proposals that some say may not be just dangerously costly, but simply dangerous.

The National Academy of Sciences, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Congressional Budget Office and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have separately concluded in multiple studies dating back about 20 years that fuel-economy standards force automakers to build more small cars, which has led to thousands more deaths in crashes annually. Even though the standards were updated in recent years to reduce the incentive for automakers to sell more small cars by allowing different fuel-economy targets for different vehicles, the fastest way to make cars more fuel-efficient is to make them smaller.

One would think that someone would pick up on all of this, confront the President on the issue of auto safety and speak truth to power. But those who try to do so . . . well, take a look:

Some safety experts worry that the administration’s green focus could reverse progress made in reducing the highway death toll. The fatality rate in car crashes reached its lowest ever in 2007 and is projected to drop even lower for 2008 — to 1.28 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.

President Obama this month withdrew the name of his nominee to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, longtime safety advocate Charles “Chuck” Hurley, after an outcry from environmentalists over Hurley’s statements linking fuel-economy rules to highway deaths.

Recall what was said in the President’s Inaugural Address, when Barack Obama said that “We’ll restore science to its rightful place.” A laughable promise, given the way in which people like Chuck Hurley were treated.

Previous post:

Next post: