Perspective | New Cars, Cleaner Air

Changes in EPA, Transportation tactics will make travel safer, too

By Pat Freibert

What do the president’s proposed changes in federal CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards have to do with the average American? And how has the U.S. been able to reduce its carbon emissions by 65 percent since the year 2000. 

In an effort to reduce such emissions into the atmosphere, CAFE standards were dramatically increased by the Obama administration. Some of those CAFE standards produced a significant hidden tax on American drivers and a drag on the economy. If left unchanged, these standards can result in CAFE requirements mandating a rise in fuel efficiency from its present 35 miles per gallon to 54 mpg in 2025. That would raise the cost of many new cars by $3,000.

To address these and other negative results from the draconian requirements scheduled in existing regulations, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler have developed a new rule “that can save lives, reduce pollution, grow the economy and let people buy the cars they want.”

The Department of Transportation finds that the best way to achieve cleaner air is when families can afford to buy new cars, getting older and higher polluting ones off the road. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the new standards are expected to save about 1,000 lives yearly. In the effort to save on oil, existing CAFE standards have tolerated standards that encourage car manufacturers to build ever lighter cars to meet the mandatory fuel standards. But lighter cars built with plastics rather than steel provide less safety for the occupants of the automobiles, trading better fuel efficiency and less safety for occupants. Even with the proposed Trump changes, the mileage requirements would still rise to 42 mpg by 2025. 

It is a fact that the U.S. has been steadily and dramatically reducing its carbon emissions, largely due to market forces and not federal regulations. On the other hand, while the U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases have declined by 65 percent since 1980, emissions by Russia and China during the same period have risen by nearly twice as much as ours have dropped.

Market forces, not burdensome and expensive federal regulations, are credited with producing much of America’s decreased emissions of greenhouse gases. Fracking has lowered the price of natural gas so that it is cheaper than coal, dramatically cutting carbon emissions. The private sector’s “can do” approach along with certain federal  requirements are both necessary to continue the effort to lower carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Former Vice President Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and other left-wing spokesmen and women have continued to preach sermons in an effort to force Americans out of their cars. Remember Gore’s refrain, “the combustible engine is one of the worst inventions of all time.” Stephen Moore, economist and adviser to presidents, reminds us what the combustible engine replaced: the horse, “one of the most prodigious polluters of all time. The average 1,000-pound horse dumps 30 pounds of feces and 2 gallons of urine a day. Can anyone imagine what Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh or New Orleans smelled like on a hot, sweltering summer day or what all that feces did to our water supply. Oh, and watch where you step!”

Horses need to be on beautiful Blue Grass farms or race tracks, not transporting goods and people across the country. Henry Ford’s mass production of automobiles gave our horses a rest.

By the way, Secretary Chao tells us that the Department of Transportation is also carefully studying implications of driverless cars. For those fearful of such automobiles, consider the positive side of driverless cars such as no more drivers applying makeup while driving, drivers focusing their attention on their iPhones, sending texts, receiving texts, talking on their cell phones, combing their hair, disciplining their children or blasting their sound systems to entertain those in other cars nearby.

Thank you, Secretary of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, for listening to Americans and trying to work out the proposed changes in CAFE standards.

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