When you order a pizza, it's up to you
what the toppings will be. No government busybody or special
interest "advocate" has yet figured out a way to deprive
you of your double pepperoni - if that's what you're hankering
Why should it be any different when it
comes to cars?
The auto industry builds vehicles according
to market demand. Right now, gas is fairly inexpensive and a
lot of people really like SUVs and large cars, so the automakers
are building them. There's no conspiracy; no evil plot to gull
people into driving "wasteful" vehicles. Indeed, there
are literally dozens of highly fuel-efficient compact and subcompact
vehicles also available for those who want them - and people
can freely buy whatever type of car or truck works best for them.
It's called the free market.
Unfortunately, and unlike your last take-out
pizza, there are multiple federal and state regulatory bodies
devoted to thwarting your personal choice when it comes to vehicles
- supported by an army of self-appointed "public interest
advocates" who brazenly claim to represent you, even though
they don't represent anyone other than themselves and their own
narrow special interests. These public interest groups can't
abide that most people don't share their almost obsessive belief
that fuel efficiency should be the number-one criteria for the
automakers - even if it means smaller, less capable cars and
And so they wheedle and push for new
laws and regulations designed to do an end-run around the blunt-skulls.
If the market won't "work" they way they want it to,
they'll jimmy it - and then the blunt skulls will have no choice
but to buy "more appropriate" vehicles. Those appalling
SUVs will be gone!
The latest legislative end-run is forming
in California, always a trendsetter when it comes to bad ideas.
A bill pushed hard by Governor Gray Davis
and passed by the state assembly is the first in the nation to
categorize the carbon dioxide produced by motor vehicle engines
an "emission" subject to anti-pollution regulation.
Beginning with the 2009 model year, the automakers will be compelled
to meet strict new standards limiting the amount of C02 a motor
vehicle can lawfully produce.
The pretext is global warming theory
- the idea that human activity, such as driving an SUV, is causing
the planet to warm.
The catch here is that unlike the genuinely
noxious (and smog-forming) byproducts of internal combustion
such as oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be
almost completely eliminated by chemical exhaust scrubbers such
as catalytic converters, there is no way to reduce the amount
of C02 created by internal combustion - other than by burning
In other words, California's new regulations
are a clever way to force-feed fuel efficiency uber alles on
an unwilling public - and kill off larger vehicles, especially
Since California is the country's largest
vehicle market - and other states frequently emulate what California
does when it comes to emissions and anti-pollution regulations
- it is very likely that similar laws will be adopted elsewhere.
Presto! The bead-and-sandal set in California
have done an end-run not merely around the mean-old auto industry
and the dullard car-buying public, but also around Congress -
which by law is supposed to be in charge of setting fuel economy
standards for cars and trucks.
It has been immensely aggravating to
the gaggle of regulocrats pushing for higher federal fuel efficiency
requirements that Congress, deferring to the will of the people,
has left the 27.5-mpg standard for cars - and especially the
lower the 20.5-mpg standard for "light trucks," SUVs
and minivans - pretty much alone for almost 20 years now.
But carbon dioxide "emissions"
is the unanswerable trump card. There is no "advanced technology"
that will allow us to drive the vehicles we want that also meet
the proposed C02 reductions they insist upon. The automakers
will have to use smaller, more efficient and less powerful engines.
And they will be installed in smaller, lighter cars. V-8 SUVs
and large cars with engines bigger than small V-6s will become
totems of the very rich - like a Zil limousine in the old Soviet
Union. The blunt skull masses will have to make do with an Americanized
version of the Trabant - but hey, it'll get great gas mileage.
In Europe, this state of affairs already
exists; only the elite get to drive anything larger than what
we would consider a compact. SUVs are almost unknown. Over there,
it's because of punitive taxes on motor fuels that have pushed
the average cost of a gallon of gas to about $4.
But that approach won't sell over here;
Americans would revolt if Congress tried to add $2-$3 in taxes
to each gallon of gas. So instead, we get the environmental shuck-and-jive
about "global warming" - which appeals to our good
intentions, but also depends upon the general scientific illiteracy
of the public, which knows about as much about the validity of
the "humans cause global warming" theory as it does
about cold fusion.
Will it sell? Time will tell.
# # #
Amy Ridenour is president and
Eric Peters a senior fellow of The National Center for Public
Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. Comments may
be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.