The NHTSA study he cites seems pretty legit, but when you start with a graph that says "Maximum Net Societal Benefits" are the exact Bush administration plans, it seems less so.
As you hear more stories about the former administration's control over different departments and their scientific studies'(Interior Dept comes to mind), it makes you think that the NHTSA would come to a different, more liberal result under the new administration.

Mike B

Nobody seems to be mentioning the FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle) fuel millage credit that was somewhat recently regulated into the CAFE standards. This is a millage credit for any vehicle that can run on E85 biofuel. In technical terms this is just about every car made today that has a firmware upgrade and a few extra parts in its fuel system. There are millions of FFV's on the road in North America and very few new cars that can't be upgraded for about $100-$200. I forget what the credit is, but it will make the aggressive targets significantly easier to meet.

It is also worth mentioning that these millage requirements aren't actually required. Carmakers are free to ignore them and pay some defined gas guzzler penalty. Small European luxury and sports car makers get hit with these every year and consider it a cost of doing business. In essence this can be considered a carbon tax.


Unfortunately the article is from an economic adviser in the Bush years... If that alone is not enough to totally discredit him based on the horrendous record of the White House during that period I do not know what will.

AND he is obviously biased and thus more than likely manipulating the numbers in his favor.


I'm all for smaller, more efficient vehicles (though through market forces rather than government mandates), and safety is of course important too, but the argument that small cars are "death traps" needs to stop. Crash test data strongly disagrees; even if it didn't, how often are these people in horriffic crashes that the crash worthiness of a vehicle becomes a primary reason for choosing one car over another?

Perhaps it's like the mock proposal to replace airbags with big metal spikes - fear for your safety and you'll drive more safely.

Mark B

The fuel efficiency targets President Obama seeks would already be quite normal in a lot of the rest of the world, especially Europe. In fact, they are quite modest given currently available technologies. The era of the gas-guzzler is over. WUASTC America!


I thought it was a fascinating analysis. He presented a bunch of consequences and let them largely speak for themselves, but with a clear bias towards 'these are BAD things' -- and I thought 'yay, these are GOOD things' (increasing the power of the EPA, moving policy to Sacramento, etc.). He's clearly terrified by the idea that regulation of greenhouse gases may insert itself into the local planning/permitting process, but that sounds like a good thing to me too.

It's interesting that it won't help climate change much -- but it WILL reduce substantially our oil consumption, and that's a positive goal in itself. (Also interesting that he didn't do an analysis on that.)


Mike, What crash test data disagrees? Hitting a car against a wall at sub-highway speed to get a 5 star rating doesn't mean that the vehicle is safe by any stretch of the imagination. It especially doesn't change the fact that Mini and small cars have over twice the death rate per million registered vehicles than large and very large cars respectively.

More crumple and heavier car makes you safer in an accident. Crash statistics and not lab test prove it.

Search for "Driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 2005" in this link:


checking UK mpg figures for most popular UK sold cars shows that very many of these already meet or exceed the new figures.

(35 mpg US = 42 mpg with UK gallon...)

I predict that very many european and japanese cars will be sold in US !


Wouldn't it be easier just to raise gas taxes? You could reduce some other taxes if you didn't want to increase taxes overall. Or am I naive?

Mark Brucker

The old NHTSA analysis was very controversial and I believe extremely poorly done. The claim that this would do little to reduce climate change emissions I think is highly questionable. I think a far better way would be to tax driving and fuel use. The Obama proposal will have some rebound effects as people will drive more mileage because of lower fuel costs per mile. Which will increase pollution, crashes, etc. But it is still going to reduce GHG emissions almost without a doubt.


Traciatim, fair enough on small cars vs. SUVs (though note that for the deaths per registered vehicles, the increase for pickups is roughly double what it is for small cars over SUVs). Of course, I'm not all that worried about the relatively small difference in numbers. 100 deaths per million registered vehicles, BFD, who cares.

Care to address the excruciatingly improbable odds of being in a horrific crash? "OMG it's a deathtrap!" is only an issue if you're worried about either driving into a wall at 60 mph, or being hit by someone else at similar speeds. I'd suggest that if you're worrying about that, you're wasting your time.

Jeff Darcy

Traciatim, "more crumple" does not apply to SUVs which are the real offenders here and which are considerably *stiffer* than passenger cars. More people switching from 12MPG compensator-mobiles to 24MPG full-size cars would be better for safety as well as for the environment. Not subsidizing auto production and use at the expense of mass transit would be even better in both senses, as it would reduce vehicle-miles and make those vehicle-miles more efficient. Somehow I think Hennessey probably counts that as a "societal cost" rather than a benefit too.


The President's proposals will not decrease fuel consumption nor our dependence on foreign oil. They are a continuation of the failed CAFE policies that have brought us the SUV and other gas guzzlers. Claims that additional regulation will close loopholes are naive. Never underestimate the power of the market to out-smart government regulations.

Decreasing fuel consumption is an extraordinarily simple problem to solve. Increase the price of fuel. Many will probably recognize this solution from their high school economics classes. It is time tested and proven.

This one simple action also provides an automatic incentive for the market to increase research into alternative fuels.

President Bush did not have the backbone nor the charisma to advance this idea. It was my sincere hope that Obama's message of "change" would include the use of sound economic principles. Unfortunately on that issue I have been profoundly disappointed.



seems to me that if a consumer pays 650 dollars more for a car but then saves 350 dollars a year on gas it's not too terrible of a deal for the consumer.

Who knows that extra grand in a persons pocket after 5 years might even contribute to creating a job or two.


Check this out for a preliminary listing of all the CAFE loopholes. I don't understand why the greens are happy about this legislation, especially when the auto industry was fervently behind it. Gotta read the stuff more closely. CAFE is about the worst possible way to try to achieve what they say they're trying to achieve. However, if their goal is to look like they're doing something without actually doing something, then they're winning.



Sure, if you look at injuries the stats are pretty much just as skewed too. Considering the odds of being in a car accident in your lifetime are pretty good, especially if you own a car, wouldn't you prefer the mid sized sedan or larger that cuts your risk of death or injury by roughly half?

Having been in a high speed accident where a rather large car made a left turn across the passing lane on a highway (making us T-Bone the left turning car, since we were attempting to pass) I'm putting my family in a mid-sized or larger.


Jeff Darcy, my comment was specific to cars only and did not include SUVs.

Also, I agree on more people should be buying mid to large sized cars if they need a family friendly vehicle. I would assume about 20% of the people that buy SUVs actually have a need for the truck style body, the rest are just buying them as a status symbol or buy one for the one time a year they actually haul something when they could just as easily buy something the size of a Ford Fusion or similar and rent a truck when they need to haul. This would let them have the whole year saving a fortune on purchase purchase price, running costs, and insurance while still having the flexible truck when they need it.


It's fine, but higher gas taxes would be much much better.


I think the whole size of cars relative to the dangerousness of them being a game theory idea is fascinating.

The only reason that small cars are considered "dangerous" is because so many people drive BIG cars. If everyone went down to small cars, it is likely that the death rate for those driving them would drop as well, simply because the force from the small cars is much less than that of the larger cars.

I still, however, would like additional taxes on gasoline, in conjunction with fuel standards. Let those who still drive gas guzzlers subsidize those who pay more money for significantly more efficient cars...


Travis is correct. Two small cars hitting each other is much less deadly than two SUVs hitting each other.

Yes, an SUV hitting an oak tree is safer than my civic hitting an oak tree. That's pretty much where the argument for SUVs being safer ends.

Something could be said for self-determination to choose to make your family safer at everyone else's expense, by buying an Excursion. Just recognize that is what is going on there, as far as safety is concerned.