WASHINGTON–Sens. Tom Daschle, D-SD, and John Kerry, D-MA, conceded today that
they lacked the votes in the Senate to pass a major increase in the corporate
average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Jerry Taylor, director of natural resour
ces studies at the Cato Institute, called it "a tremendous victory for
human health and the economy." He had the following comments:
"Environmentalists who supported an expansion of CAFE standards for
cars and light trucks are allowing their hostility to energy use to override
their common sense. For instance, the National Academy of Sciences reported
last year that the current standards are directly responsible for the deaths
of 1,300 – 2,600 motorists a year. That’s because automakers find that the
cheapest way of incr easing fuel efficiency is to reduce the size and weight
of the cars they sell, making them more dangerous to motorists in a crash.
Dramatically expanding CAFE standards would accelerate this trend and would
directly result in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of Americans.
"While the costs of expanding CAFE standards is steep, the benefits
are ephemer al. Expanded standards certainly wouldn’t reduce foreign oil imports.
For instance, since the CAFE standards were first introduced, the average
fuel economy more than doubled for new cars and grew by more than 50 percent
for new light trucks, but imported oil has increased from 35 to 52 percent
of U.S. consumptio n. Reducing oil demand would remove the most expensive
oil sources from the mar ket first, and foreign oil is the cheapest oil supply
source in the world. Dome stic producers, not foreign oil producers, would
be hit hardest if gasoline demand were to decline.
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"Nor would an expanded CAFE standard do much about global warming. Gasoline
con sumption in the United States is only responsible for 1.5 percent of all
human- related greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA reports that expanded CAFE
standards wont appreciably change that figure.
"If people want to drive fuel efficient cars, that’s their right. But
forcing people in cars they don’t otherwise wish to drive — or indirectly
taxing them through the regulatory standards for not choosing to drive cars
that environmentalists like is not only wrong, it’s dangerous."
Jerry Taylor is available for comment at 202-789-5240. To schedule an interview
, please contact Joan Kirby at 202-789-5266.
The Cato Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan public policy research foundation
dedicated to broadening policy debate consistent with the traditional American
principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.