CAFE kills … in an alternative reality

I had read about this article called “CAFE standards kill” in the National Review Online (NRO) back in April but thought I should hold my fire till its D-Day. It would not be amiss of me to say that the NRO, the GOP and the oil industry have been tarred (no pun intended) by the same brush. So we should keep that in mind when ruminating about what the author, Deroy Murdock has to say.

The premise of the article is that CAFE will lead automakers to lighten their cars by using thinner sheetmetal thereby crumpling more easily and leading to increased fatalities. Or cars might become pricier with all the technology. Never mind the fact that a more fuel efficient car could be more affordable. Or there might be economies of scale in all this technology. There is a kaotic kombination  of airheads blowing a lot of hot air over this issue – they remind me of the Kardashians. A lot of talk without really saying anything.

First things first, CAFE was brought in to rein in fuel consumption because lawmakers were unwilling to price the real cost of cars on the road. This would include money needed to combat the effects of emissions, the upkeep of roads and bridges and most importantly, the wars we fight in search of oil … like in Iraq. But the gas tax in the United States, which is one of the lowest in the world, is not indexed to inflation and has not been raised since 1993. That leaves us with no choice but to increase CAFE standards in line with reality. 

So now the author does not want us to update CAFE either because it might increase the fatality rate. That would be the case only if there was no safety regulation and automakers could get away with reducing safety using thinner/cheaper metal. Thankfully for us, that is not the case.

Is the author, Murdock remotely aware that we have something called NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Authority) , the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) and EuroNCAP which makes and implements safety regulations. Incidentally, the lawmakers of the era which created the NHTSA had a lot more common sense that ones who have been repealing helmet laws around the country.

Is Murdock aware that automakers spend billions of dollars to hire the best brains and engineer the safety systems. The capability of automotive safety systems, unlike those of some lawmakers, always go on increasing.

Is he aware that the automakers, in addition to using airbags and seatbelts, also invest heavily in the design of the vehicle’s structure. The author might want to know about these exotic metals like Aluminum used in vehicles to make them lighter and stronger at the same time.

Incidentally, the automakers don’t live in Romney’s alternative reality. They have to meet stringent safety regulations while meeting CAFE numbers – a delicate balancing act even without the NRO crying wolf all the time.

We don’t go around driving East German Trabants. We don’t buy cars without looking at the safety ratings. Even though regulation is a dirty word in some political circles, we have faith in the safety regulations and the automakers capability to meet them.

If the author thinks that yesteryear’s cars are safer by dint of their weight, he or the supporters of the article are free to buy one of the land yachts (and pay for the gas) while we will throw our votes (and dollars) behind newer, more well engineered and safer cars.


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