- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2008


SamKazman is general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in Washington. CEI is a nonprofit which advocates freedom of choice for consumers in the marketplace. Mr. Kazman runs the CEI “Death by Regulation” project which analyzes government regulation that makes products harmful to consumers. In 1992, Mr. Kazman won a federal appeals court ruling that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had illegally concealed the lethal effects on highway safety of its auto fuel economy standards. Now, Mr. Kazman is fighting to educate the public and Congress on the need for less stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

TWT: Why do you think Congress should relax the CAFE standards for carmakers and consumers?

SK: Because it encourages carmakers to downsize cars. Smaller cars can provide more fuel volume, but the size causes people to be killed more easily in car accidents. About 2,000 people die every year in accidents for this reason.

TWT: Some people would argue that large cars like SUVs, which use more fuel, are more likely to kill people in smaller cars on impact. If we didn’t have them on the road, wouldn’t fewer people die in car accidents?

SK: One half of all car accidents occur when a car hits an object that is not a car - like a tree, for example. An SUV is far less likely to get wrapped around a tree in an accident. There is also a disparity - SUVs are not all to blame - a large sedan can kill a passenger in a small car collision and it can cause more damage than an SUV.

TWT: But many small car advocates say they are safer now because of advanced safety features?

SK: Despite new technologies that make smaller cars safer, larger cars mean safer still.

TWT: What does CEI want Congress to understand about CAFE standards?

SK: CEI contends it is one thing to push for more fuel economy; people should be allowed to choose what they want. Some people are looking for fuel efficiency and others are looking for safety or towing capacity.

TWT: Consumers have been discouraged from buying larger cars because of gas prices. What do you think of the current situation?

SK: As gas sinks down to lower than $2 a gallon, consumers should be able to get back to larger vehicles. CAFE standards are becoming more stringent, so that is harder for them to do.

TWT: Who are some of your opponents on this issue?

SK: Ralph Nader, a former presidential candidate, has taken the opposite side and said these CAFE standards are necessary.

TWT: Wasn’t Ralph Nader against small cars at one time for crash safety reasons?

SK: Mr. Nader attacked Volkswagen in the 70’s, but changed his opinion once large SUVs were being attacked.

TWT: What would you say to Congress in closing?

TWT: Fuel economy has become a Holy Grail that no one questions. A government mandate on fuel standards is deadly.

Deborah Kay Corey is an editorial writer for The Washington Times.

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