Monday, November 23, 2009

What's 2,600 Lives a Year?

That's the human cost of the EPA's push for higher car efficiency standards.

Tired of having to drive safe, affordable vehicles? Can’t make a decision at the car lot and want the government to narrow down the decisions for you? Well then you’re in luck. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great new regulation in store for you.

The agency is intending to use the Clean Air Act to improve the fuel efficiency to 35.5 miles per gallon fleetwide by 2016 - four years ahead of schedule when President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Sounds like a good deal. Most everyone wants his or her vehicle to get more miles to the gallon. It’s one of the things people first inquire about when buying a car. But there are many other reasons people choose certain vehicles: safety, reliability, horsepower, style, price, comfort, handling, and environmental impact. For instance, Americans use larger vehicles for practical reasons: to take their kids to practice, to tow their boat to the shore, or on small farms to haul equipment or produce. Of course, to meet these new standards, cars and trucks will need to be lighter, making them less safe. The National Academy of Sciences study pegs the cost of downsizing at 1,300 to 2,600 lives per year.

But we’re saving the planet, right? Touted as a measure to curb global warming, fuel efficiency standards have very little environmental impact. Newer vehicles with better efficiency standards may emit less carbon dioxide per mile, but increased fuel efficiency often leads to more driving and new cars “constitute a miniscule source of overall carbon dioxide emissions.” Our friends at the Institute for Energy Research note that “the rule will lead to global mean temperature being 16 thousandths of a degree Celsius lower (0.016°C) in 2100.”

Hard to continue making the global warming argument after the truth has been leaked out.