J. R. Dunn, who blogs at the American Thinker, wrote a book entitled Death by Liberalism. It is about how well-meaning government policies can actually cost lives. Small cars made to comply with the federal fuel standards, for example, are often more dangerous to drive than the larger cars they replace. I thought of Dunn’s book this morning when I read this headline in the Wall Street Journal:
Why Your New Car Doesn’t Have a Spare Tire
In the article Sam Kazman, general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, explains that automakers comply with fuel mandates by making cars lighter and therefore often more dangerous. Next time you have a flat on a long country road and don’t have a spare, thank Washington. Here, says Kazman, is what you can expect:
Fewer tires, higher taxes.
That may be what’s in store for drivers under the federal government’s spiraling fuel economy mandates (known as CAFE, for Corporate Average Fuel Economy). The Department of Transportation is floating 62 mpg as a possible standard for 2025, more than double the current 27.5 mpg standard. How the industry can meet that target, and at what cost, is anyone’s guess. A new study in mid-June by the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. put the tab at about $10,000 extra per new vehicle, while admitting that even this estimate might be far too low.
And that’s not the only bad news; in the past few weeks there have been two other unwelcome developments. First, GM announced that several versions of its compact Chevy Cruze would no longer have spare tires; instead, they’ll have vehicle-powered sealant repair kits. This is a major jump in the trend toward eliminating spare tires, a trend due largely to CAFE’s drive to shed every possible ounce of car weight.
Some argue that spare tires are unnecessary, given the growing presence of run-flat tires, tire pressure monitors, and roadside assistance systems. But the fact that spares are being eliminated in the name of fuel economy, rather than market demand, demolishes one of the chief claims of CAFE’s advocates. For several decades, the need to reduce vehicle size and weight in order to raise mileage has been CAFE’s Achilles’ heel. Smaller, lighter cars not only hold fewer passengers and less baggage; they’re also less crashworthy. CAFE-induced downsizing causes several thousand additional traffic deaths per year.
Kazman says that CAFÉ standards force manufacturers demand mileage standards above what drivers want and ultimately put drivers and manufacturers against each other.
All of these standards are the magic wand form of governing: We make rules and then businesses comply. But the rules have consequences. A recent study shows that bigger cars continue to be safer:
The politics of energy efficiency may have gone insane, but the law of physics remains.