Friday, May 22, 2009

Hi. My name is Mike. (Hi Mike.) And sometimes I listen to NPR.

But yesterday I almost drove off the road remembering why I listen less and less frequently. Sure, the news and talk shows can be very informative, and the weekend shows are very funny. But when I tuned in during a commercial break from another station I heard this report, which is the most infuriating thing I've heard in a while.


Kai Ryssdal: Earlier this week the president announced tougher fuel economy and emissions standards for car and truck makers. The White House figures the new rules will save almost two billion barrels of oil over the next nine years and at the same time make it easier for us to breathe. Seems like common sense. But commentator Paul Kedrosky says good economic sense is something else again.

PAUL KEDROSKY: After years of auto companies saying that higher fuel-efficiency standards would bankrupt them, the Obama administration figured out a fix. Cleverly, it wiped out the auto industry first, and then raised fuel standards.

Yeah, that sure was clever of him. (If you're not yet sure if Kedrosky is seriously patting Obama on the back for this or just being tongue-in-cheek, keep reading. It'll become crystal clear in a minute.)

The right calls the standards an unnecessary intrusion into the economic lives of average Americans. If people want to buy massive, steel-clad gunboats and race down highways at top speed, getting 5 miles per gallon, all the while padding the pockets of America-hating fuel exporters, then that should be their right.

Or, God forbid, buying a vehicle big enough to carry their larger-than-1.2-kids-per-family-family around anywhere...

Environmental sorts on the left have complaints too. Some are already saying that 39 miles per gallon is not high enough. They point to Europe, where it is common now for many popular cars to get 50 miles per gallon and more.

But a more compelling criticism comes from recent economics research. To an economist, most things come down to price. A car that gets 39 miles per gallon is cheaper per mile to drive than a car that gets 18 miles per gallon. Make iPods cheaper, and more get sold. Make the cost per mile of driving cheaper, and people will drive more.

OK, there's your first mistake, Houdini. Maybe people will just pocket the money they save to pay their BILLS! He also plays bait and switch by comparing buying a low-cost product that, once bought, is essentially free to operate with buying another product with a highly-inflated purchase price that runs more efficiently but is still expensive to maintain. Genius.

How much more? Research says it may be as much as 10-20 percent. People may not loiter on their way to work, but they will make more discretionary trips with their high-efficiency cars. And that has other effects too, like more highway congestion, and even more accidents and deaths.

More doom and gloom. But Kedrosky changes the subject here because more driving in a more fuel-efficient vehicle is still better for the enviro-crazies. Don't go out to the store to buy milk for the children, dear, that's bound to cause an accident and kill someone. (But wouldn't that in the end mean one less driver on the road polluting the environment?)

Most sane people, even economists, want more efficient cars on the roads. But is the best way to do it making cars cheaper to drive? To an economist, the answer is obvious: we need to make it more expensive to drive, not cheaper. The best way to do that? Raise fuel prices. Higher gas taxes will cause people to drive less, cause emissions to tumble and motivate companies to build and sell more efficient cars. Granted, it might not be the same auto companies doing it, but I think we're all OK with that.

IDIOT! How much discretionary driving does this guy think people do? As far as I know, the Miracle Mile is long gone, cruise nights are quaint and far between, and the driving for driving's sake like in car commercials only happens in car commercials.

I drive from home to work, to the store and back home. My commute is almost an hour. This bonehead proposal would only serve to make it more expensive for me (and millions of others like me) to go to work. It's not going to lessen people's need to drive places. It's one more way that the government would decide who should be doing what, when, how often, and in what way. And Paul Kedrowsky thinks he's the one to decide this?

And I am not OK with taking over American companies, bleeding their few remaining resources and then saddling them with regulations that they can not possibly navigate. Yet Kedrowsky seems to be gloating about it. There's a word for people like that. 3704558.

Furthermore... (sorry, I usually write better the second time) this guy must not understand the concept of taxes. See, taxes are collected in order to pay for necessary goods and services, not so that someone can conduct their social engineering experiments with my family's already stretched finances. Such grand-scheme planning may or may not have the long-term effect that Kedrowsky hopes for, but the immediate financial impact to families like mine is almost certain.

This is why the concept of limited government is so important: to protect our freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from mini-tyrants having the authority to impose their pet projects with real consequences on the rest of us.

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