The Relief Report ®


A newsletter covering regulatory reform efforts in Washington and across America, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research

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Issue #106 * March 14, 2002 * David A. Ridenour, Editor

Contents:

Why Not Increase Fuel Economy Without Taking Lives?

Gas Prices May Spike this Summer: Lack of Drilling and New
Refineries Partly to Blame

 

Why Not Increase Fuel Economy Without Taking Lives?

The Senate, laughably called the world's greatest deliberative body, recently found itself locked in another absurd debate, spurred on by two men whose primary motivation seems to be their desire for George W. Bush's job - Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Kerry (D-MA).

The Johns proposed that corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards be raised from the current 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 20.7 mpg for light trucks to 36 mpg for both.

The Johns are not stupid, so they had to know that such an increase is not possible without eliminating sports utility vehicles, the transportation of choice for many, including Moms who haul bevies of kids to their various games, parties and outings of all sorts. It is a choice Moms make because the current CAFE standards eliminated large family sedans and station wagons.

The Johns also know that current CAFE standards have cost thousands of lives because average vehicle weights had to be dramatically decreased to meet them. In fact, nearly as many lives have been lost to CAFE as to the Vietnam War. We know the Johns know this because the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) told them so.

The Johns also know that their proposed increase would cause additional deaths if implemented. They know this because the National Research Council told them, "...any increase in CAFE as currently structured could produce additional road casualties, unless it is specifically targeted at the largest, heaviest light trucks. If an increase in fuel economy is effected by a system that encourages either downweighting or the production and sale of more small cars, some additional traffic fatalities would be expected."

Interestingly, the Johns must also have known, as the Sierra Club's Dan Becker told Environment and Energy News, that their measure had virtually no chance of passing into law.

And it didn't.

However, since both John McCain and John Kerry have presidential aspirations, and undoubtedly see environmentalists such as Becker essential to their success, the Senate engaged itself in an absurd debate.

On the winning side was a group led by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO). Their amendment, which was approved, simply leaves it up to the NHTSA to develop mileage standards and dates for implementation. This seemingly harmless "do nothing" approach might have some chance of passage. However, it may in the end be as disastrous as the Kerry-McCain proposal would have been.

It was just such vague "leave it up to the bureaucrats" legislation that turned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into the 800-pound, answerable-to-no-one regulatory gorilla that it is today.

Fortunately, there is a third way to go providing the Johns and other politicians care as much about the safety and well-being of their constituents as they do about preening for the presidency.

Stop government from reducing fuel efficiency. Here's how: Allow expanded use of diesel engines.

Nearly every European automaker makes diesel versions of the gasoline-powered cars they send to the U.S. They get incredible mileage with great performance. Volkswagen's Golf, Jetta and New Beetle, powered by their new unit-injector turbo diesel engines, are running all over Europe getting 47/55 mpg. These engines and others like them could be built to power just about any size vehicle with dramatically improved fuel economy.

But not in the U.S.

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't like diesels because they emit fine particulate matter that the agency says aren't good for us - though they don't seem to be hurting the greener-than-thou Europeans.

And quit this business about wanting Americans to drive alternative fuel and "dual-fuel" cars. The Department of Energy and EPA's own figures show they get, pound-for-pound, about one-fourth to one-third fewer miles per gallon than gasoline-powered vehicles.

If, in the end you still want lighter vehicles, and want them to be safe, stand aside. Industry experts say amazing new technology is on the way... without government help. It hold outs the promise of making cars both lighter, which increases fuel economy, yet safer.

The Johns and their ilk are not the solution. They contribute to the problem. That's no way to run for President.

by Tom Randall, director of Environmental & Regulatory Affairs of the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of The National Center for Public Policy Research

 

A Summer of Gasoline Shortages & Higher Gas Prices May Be Looming: Lack of Drilling and Lack of New Refineries Helps Create Shortages

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the summer of 2002 could be memorable for high gasoline prices and possible gasoline shortages.

The March 6 edition of This Week in Petroleum reported that "While EIA does not forecast a return to the high prices seen the last two years, the potential for a stronger than normal seasonal increase is rising."

"That's avoiding saying the obvious," says Tom Randall, director of the George P. McGovern Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "The underlying causes of gasoline shortages and high summer prices haven't changed. What has changed is that we are in a much more precarious position going into this summer."

The EIA report shows that, despite a perceived recession, gasoline demand in February was 200,000 barrels per day higher than the previous February record in 2000. With the recession ending, the report notes, demand could be expected to increase even more. During this same time period, petroleum inventories fell by 16 million barrels in February - the second largest three-week drop in the last ten years.

Randall notes that the EIA also reported that gasoline prices jumped 2.8 cents the first week of March, the largest one-week increase since Labor Day.

"This is a very serious situation," Randall said, "with the peak summer driving season just around the corner and many refineries due to shut down for their annual June 1 conversion to Environmental Protection Agency-mandated 'summer blends.'"

Randall added: "The underlying problem is that environmentalists and the U.S. Senate leadership have made it virtually impossible to explore for domestic oil so we are at the mercy of foreign suppliers who have recently decided to cut production and force up prices."

Another factor related to our gasoline supply problems is that no new refineries have been built in the U.S. in over 25 years, primarily because of the requirement that they meet restrictive and ever-changing "New Source Review" standards imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

For more information concerning oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from The National Center for Public Policy Research, please see the following: "President Bush Urges Senate to Approve Energy Bill" (http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR12202.html), "Senate Democrats Fight Energy Bill" (http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR101801.html), "Senate Democrats' Energy Bill Promotes Global Warming Theory" (http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR121701.html), "Senator Kerry's Energy Plan Disagrees with Facts and Himself" (http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR12302.html), and "Wishes Won't Fuel Our Economy: We Need Drilling" (http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA375.html). For more information on the EIA report, go to http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/twip/twip.asp.





Editorial correspondence to The Relief Report should be directed to: The National Center for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Court, N.E. * Washington, D.C. 20002 * (202) 543-4110 * Fax (202) 543-5975 * E-mail [email protected] * Web http://www.nationalcenter.org. Copyright 2002, The National Center for Public Policy Research. Coverage of meetings, activities or statements in the Relief Report does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints of material in the Relief Report permitted provided source is credited. To receive National Center newsletters free by e-mail, visit http://www.nationalcenter.org/Subscriptions.html.


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The National Center for Public Policy Research
501 Capitol Court, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 543-4110
Fax (202) 543-5975
E-Mail: [email protected]

Web: www.nationalcenter.org