Our federal government is at it again. Seemingly heedless of the economic hardship many families and businesses are facing, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are moving toward a drastic increase in the fuel efficiency standards. Those two federal agencies have already imposed a 40 percent increase in fleet fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon, phased in during the 2012-16 interval. Now they are poised to increase the average fleet standard for automobile manufacturers to somewhere between 47 and 62 miles per gallon during the 2017-25 time frame. If such action is taken, it will have severe economic consequences.
Our domestic automobile manufacturers have been suffering through hard times during the last decade—and one of the reasons for that has been the edicts the federal government places on their operations that increase costs and dampen consumer enthusiasm for their products. Most Americans do not share the verve Europeans have for extremely small vehicles. Most American drivers do not live in urban compounds. Instead, they populate suburbs and less densely populated areas—and demographic trends indicate continuing declines in urban populations. While the government may be infatuated with the idea of totally electric cars that must be recharged after being driven relatively short distances, most Americans don’t share that enthusiasm.
The federal government seems determined to wean Americans away from their current vehicle choices and force them into subcompacts and plug-in electric vehicles. The government’s weapon for doing that is the huge increases in fuel efficiency standards on the way. The feds don’t care if young families need more room in their vehicles for the car seats that are required for their young children. Consumer choice—long a hallmark of our free enterprise system—is under threat by the EPA and DOT when it comes to choosing what vehicle we purchase for our families and businesses.
Only a few years ago, our domestic automobile manufacturers were in dire straits. Some had to receive an infusion of tax dollars to survive, and all of them were shedding jobs and losing market share to foreign competitors. Those key industries are struggling to make a comeback. Now they face the real possibility that federal mandates will force them to manufacture vehicles that customers don’t want and phase out lines that are popular with consumers. That is not a good recipe for their survival. It is, however, typical of the rocks that our federal government continues to put into the pockets of businesses and families that inhibit the path toward economic recovery.
Attempting to force consumers to purchase vehicles they don’t want will lead to families and businesses holding on to their current vehicles far longer than usual. That will severely impact jobs and investment by automobile manufacturers and their suppliers. Instead of trying to force consumers into smaller vehicles, the federal government would better serve our citizens by expanding domestic drilling for oil and gas; expediting the oil pipelines from Canada that are being held up by the Obama administration; and incentivizing the use of compressed natural gas in our national vehicle fleet.
The fuel efficiency standards that are barreling toward American consumers are going to be another anchor on the bottom lines of families, businesses, and manufacturers. Americans do not need a federal government that continues to increase their cost of living while expanding regulatory bureaucracies that increase the deficit and the national debt. A government that cannot keep its own financial house in order should not continue to wreak havoc on those trying to balance their checkbooks in trying times.
We have enough federal government rocks in our pockets. Leave us alone!