J.R. Dunn at American Thinker writes of Death by CAFE Standards:
Media discussions of the administration's new mileage rules have covered about everything except how many people they will kill.
Manipulating fuel efficiency standards has been a favored method of fulfilling environmental prerogatives for thirty years and more. Like most Green initiatives, it is essentially ritualistic. Rather than actually confront the problem at issue, it is instead intended to instill a sense of virtue (what economist Robert J. Samuelson calls "psychic benefits"), while at the same time acting as a punitive measure against those opposed to Green ideology. As is true of many environmentalist programs, it has the unintended side-effect of killing large numbers of unknowing individuals.
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Fuel standards are the longest-lived of an entirely futile array of attempts to address 1970s oil shortages. They first went into effect in the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program, better known as CAFE. Under the CAFE standards, domestic and foreign automobile manufacturers had to meet a certain mileage standard in their cars and light trucks. They were allowed a very short time to carry this out before fines were levied, so they met the challenge in the easiest way possible: by designing small engines that used less fuel while lowering the size and weight of new vehicles to preserve performance.
The new standards had no success in lowering fuel consumption. Quite the contrary -- since it now cost less to fill the tank, people drove more. Within a few years, this "rebound effect" doubled average fuel usage. As a result, oil imports increased from 35% of consumption in 1975 to 52% by the year 2000.
The new regulations did accomplish one thing -- they killed drivers and passengers in large numbers. By lightening cars and removing material, auto companies were inadvertently discarding the armor that protected motorists in the event of a crash. Similarly, the compressed new models lacked space for impact forces to attenuate before causing damage and injury. Drivers in lightweight cars were as much as twelve times more likely to die in a crash. It was once said about American autos that they were "built like tanks." Many of the new models from the late '70s onward more closely resembled go-carts -- and proved to be about as sturdy.
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the fatal results of mileage regulations, starting in 1989 with the Brookings Institution (in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health), followed by USA Today in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences in 2001, and at last the federal government's own National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration in 2003. This formidable lineup of organizations all came to the same conclusion: Fuel standards kill.
According to the Brookings Institution, a 500-lb weight reduction of the average car increased annual highway fatalities by 2,200-3,900 and serious injuries by 11,000 and 19,500 per year. USA Today found that 7,700 deaths occurred for every mile per gallon gained in fuel economy standards. Smaller cars accounted for up to 12,144 deaths in 1997, 37% of all vehicle fatalities for that year. The National Academy of Sciences found that smaller, lighter vehicles "probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993." The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration study demonstrated that reducing a vehicle's weight by only one hundred pounds increased the fatality rate by as much as 5.63% for light cars, 4.70% for heavier cars, and 3.06% for light trucks. These rates translated into additional traffic fatalities of 13,608 for light cars, 10,884 for heavier cars, and 14,705 for light trucks between 1996 and 1999.
How many deaths have resulted? Depending on which study you choose, the total ranges from 41,600 to 124,800. To that figure we can add between 352,000 and 624,000 people suffering serious injuries, including being crippled for life. In the past thirty years, fuel standards have become one of the major causes of death and misery in the United States -- and one almost completely attributable to human stupidity and shortsightedness.
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But the mileage standards as applied by the Obama administration (not to forget the Bush administration before them) are different. They are different because everybody knows about them. No serious dissent exists concerning the fact that the CAFE standards have killed tens of thousands of Americans. If a private company were to be found responsible for even a small fraction of this level of fatalities, the sky would crack, Congress would go into twenty-four hour sessions, and John Edwards would experience a new lease on life. (Anyone doubting this should consider Toyota's recent travails. It is uncertain that anything, anything at all, is wrong with Toyota's products. Yet the media and government are tearing at the company like a pack of wolves after an injured deer.)
But in the case of fuel standards, the government itself is responsible -- and that's different. Governments get away with things that private companies can't. Even policies that enable deaths outnumbering those of all American wars of the past seventy years. Deaths that are unnecessary, deaths that can be avoided, deaths that are being encouraged in order to solve problems that can be overcome in any number of other ways. (Not to mention those problems -- such as global warming -- that can't even be demonstrated to exist.) Yet the topic doesn't even come up in debate. Did anyone involved in the health care "debate" ever mention how many people the British National Health Care system kills every year? That number is 95,000. The equivalent number for the U.S., adjusted for population, would be 450,000 a year. That's the "change" that's coming our way.
Such regulations embody the next step in the process by which the relationship between government and people begins to resemble that of a lawnmower and an anthill.
Regulations cost Americans a mind-boggling $1.2 trillion every year. But that is just part of the story. As the unintended but entirely predictable consequences of fuel efficiency standards demonstrate, federal regulations may also cost you your life.
NABE conducted the study by polling 68 of its members who work in economic roles at private-sector firms. About 73% of those surveyed said employment at their company is neither higher nor lower as a result of the $787 billion Recovery Act, which the White House's Council of Economic Advisers says is on track to create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year.
In response to the repeated implosion of their misbegotten notions, liberals have to deny past failures by either forgetting them or falsely casting them as successes. Either approach requires the denial of memory and logic.
So we get a bowdlerized FDR, who supposedly saved us from the Great Depression, when he actually prolonged it.
We get a sanitized Bill Clinton, who was the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy, rather than his own emotional and sexual incontinence.
And we even get a misunderstood Castro, who would have done such great things for Cuba if it hadn't been for those wicked Yanquis and their nasty embargo.
Because the liberal worldview cannot survive in the clear, open air of free and unfettered rational discourse, it moves in a subterranean world of dark conspiracies, in which every failure is first blamed on nebulous enemies (Halliburton, the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, etc.) and later either recast as a success or forgotten entirely. This requires the denial of both objective reality and reason itself.
For the liberal fabulists in their Ministry of Truth, the past that cannot be rewritten soon finds itself shoved down the nearest Memory Hole, to be consumed by the waiting fires below.
CitizenJane Sturmtook the mike to ask how the brave, new world of Obamacare would treat people like her 105-year-old mother. At age 99 her mother's heart specialist confided that without a pacemaker he couldn't keep her alive, but at her advanced age he couldn't justify the operation. Jane sought out another specialist, and when he saw her mother was still very much alive and enjoying life, he agreed to do the operation.
Over five years later, her mother was still living happily with her family as a result of the highly advanced medical technology she received. So Jane, still displaying her own spirited fight for her mother's life, very articulately asked the President if under his vision for health care there would be any consideration given for a certain spirit, or joy of living, or quality of life, in providing medical care for those of advanced age. Or would there just be a cut-off at a certain age.
The President replied that we as a culture and a society have to learn to make better decisions about end of life care. And when the wise, central planning Washington bureaucrats discover the evidence shows the care is not going to improve health, they can let your doctor know, and let your mom know, maybe this is not going to help, maybe you're better off not having the surgery and taking the painkiller and going home.
Jane just told him that without the surgery her mother would be dead, and he responds with a hypothetical that maybe she would be better off taking the painkiller and going home. And President Obama's mind is so hypothetical and so theoretical that he is certain that far off Washington bureaucrats would know from the evidence when she should take the painkiller and go home, and could let her yahoo doctor know.
Moreover, from Jane's perspective, this was not an issue of end of life care. She just told him that after the surgery more than 5 years ago her mother was still very much alive and spirited. But those of us who have been paying attention have learned that President Obama is so certain that he has all the answers that he never really hears what anyone else is saying.
The message from the President to America's sickest and most vulnerable should be the theme for Election 2010, and the message the American people will now send to Washington's ruling Democrats: Take the Painkiller and Go Home.