Et tu Thomas?

trans-am.jpgA response to Thomas Friedman
I wonder sometimes why people seem shocked that automakers don’t want higher fleet standards.
Mr. Friedman should do a little more study in economics, because even if the world is flat, there are still demand curves.
Americans themselves don’t want higher fleet standards for mileage unless they can still accelerate like Burt Reynolds in a black Trans Am with a golden eagle on the hood. So, automakers don’t want higher fleet standards, because their fleet will sit on the American Car lots for longer than it does already.
High mileage, room for seven and rapid acceleration are conflicting realities.
CAFÉ standards are a backwards attempt at solving an efficiency problem that could only come out of American politics.
We can’t legislate higher mileage for a fleet of hundreds of millions of cars. We tried before, and that gave birth to the 8500+ lb SUV, because it isn’t technically a car, and thus doesn’t fall under the CAFE standards. (It still accelerates like a Black 1981 Trans AM when you put the pedal to the metal though.)
If Cafe standards start to include “cars” up to 10,000 lbs, guess how much the new Hummer H5 and the 2009 Toyota Sequoia will weigh?

You just can’t legislate your way out of this one, especially in a society that seems to regard as sacred the ability to accelerate from zero to sixty in under ten seconds going uphill despite the fact that the vehicle is pulling a Boston Whaler.
What is the average MPG of the Fleet in Europe? Higher than ours, because they pay seven dollars a gallon and more, (and there are only seven parking places for Ford Excursions over there.)
What created demand for the Prius? Carbon consciousness to some degree, a little bit of economic blindness, some Ipodesque fashion consciousness, and mostly the cost of a barrel of oil appearing to be on a rocket ship to $200.
We could raise the price of gasoline with a national tax, but politicians are too chicken to do that – for good reason, I guess, because the average voter is part Burt Reynolds. Hence, CAFE standards, the politically correct way to appease your liberal constituents, and get their votes without actually creating significant demand for a car that gets 27.5 miles per gallon.
If we as a country seriously wanted a higher fleet MPG average, we could simply raise the federal tax on Gasoline by fifty cents per year for the next ten years, starting in January.
Or, Better yet, Tax each Barrel of oil by five dollars, increasing annually by five dollars per year for ten years.
Either way,
Problem Solved by 2020.
Return half the tax money to Lower income Americans and the Oil Companies (because it will cause them both massive economic pain) via Income Tax cuts, and lo and behold, the fleet will get way, way more efficient, and faster than you can say “Cannonball Run” one hundred million times.
If gas cost nine dollars a gallon, the desire to drive a Bronco like a Bandit would be mitigated by the desire to stay out of bankruptcy, exactly the same desire that keeps Toyota et al from fighting cafe Standards, and keeps most Europeans on bicycles or in cars that fit comfortably inside the back of a Ford F350 Long Bed.
Tax the bad, subsidize the good, and don’t bother trying to Legislate either out of or into existence, Why?
Witness the legislative success of the war on drugs and the war on terrorism.
Do we really want to fight a war on bad mileage? We could be raising money with Gas Taxes to dig out of the fiscal hole we are in.