NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 16, 2007

Raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would only accomplish two things: eliminate consumers' freedom of choice concerning the types of vehicles they can drive; and place drivers at greater risk of serious injury or death in the event of an accident, says H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Consider the loss of consumer choice, says Burnett:

  • People can choose fuel-efficient cars if they want them -- there are more than 60 models of cars sold today that get more than 30 miles per galleon and more than 30 that get more than 40 mpg.
  • None of these vehicles are best-sellers because most people choose vehicles based on factors other than fuel economy.
  • You can get good fuel economy or you can get power, comfort and room, but you can't have both, and the public wants the latter more than the former.

Further, raising CAFE standards would result in needless deaths and serious injuries on the nation's roads and highways, says Burnett:

  • Researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution found that, on average, for every 100 pounds shaved off new cars to meet CAFE standards, between 440 and 780 additional people were killed in auto accidents -- or a total of 2,200 to 3,900 lives lost per model year.
  • And using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety, USA Today calculated that size and weight reductions undertaken to meet current CAFE standards had resulted in more than 46,000 deaths.

The Senate's defense for this indefensible policy is that it wishes to reduce gasoline consumption and thereby reduce our reliance on foreign oil.  Yet, history shows that CAFE would not do this.  Since 1974, domestic new car fuel economy has increased 114 percent and light truck fuel economy has increased 56 percent.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Should Congress include significantly higher mileage standards for automakers in its omnibus energy bill?  No.  They are a morally bankrupt policy," San Diego Union-Tribune, July 13, 2007.


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