New Congressional report exposes the fact that fuel economy mandates are ideologically driven and will put Americans’ safety at risk

For years we at the Institute for Energy Research have highlighted the problems with the Obama administration’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) mandate. We have written comments to the administration (here and here) and explained how raising the fuel economy standard will reduce safety, price drivers out of the market, and reduce automobile choice and mobility itself. Today Rep. Darrell Issa, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released a report entitled A Dismissal of Safety, Choice, and Cost: The Obama Administration’s New Auto Regulations.  The report, which examines the administration’s justifications for the new CAFE standards, reaches many of the same conclusions as our comments to the administration.

The Committee on Oversight’s report found that the administration “places ideology over science and politics over process” and that these extreme fuel economy mandates have “serious consequences for consumers in the choice, cost, and safety of vehicles.” One example of this is a report from the National Automobile Dealers Association which found that these regulations will increase the price of cars so much that 7 million drivers will no longer be able to afford to drive. Of course, the administration’s rule did not consider the harm that would be caused by making mobility more difficult for 7 million Americans. Instead, the administration had an ideological goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions at any cost.

It is disconcerting to read the many parts of the Committee on Oversight’s report. One alarming section in particular is one that details how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board teamed up to marginalize the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and steadily deemphasize “NHTSA’s expertise in safety, costs, and consumer preference and a corresponding overemphasis on environmental stringency.” (See pages 18-21).

As we noted in our comments to EPA, to achieve the result they want, EPA assumes that Americans do not make good decisions about fuel economy. Because EPA believes that Americans aren’t smart enough to decide what car would best meet their needs, EPA is therefore justified in raising the fuel economy mandate because that will make Americans better off. EPA’s argument is absurd, but it is part of the basis for the regulation.

Everyone wants better fuel economy. Who wouldn’t want an SUV that gets 55 mph when we know how much it costs to fill up our tanks and how far we can go on a tank? The average American sees the price of gasoline nearly every day and frequently scores of times a day as they fill up their cars and as they drive past gasoline station signs. But what EPA doesn’t understand is that fuel economy is just one thing Americans care about in a car. We also care about safety and convenience. But safety and convenience do not matter to the bureaucrats at EPA, who only focus on the impact the rule would have on reducing global carbon dioxide emissions.

The Committee on Oversight’s report highlights how the administration is putting ideology over safety. Our environmental regulations should never compromise safety in the pursuit of ideology, but that is exactly what EPA has done in this case.

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