A few years ago, I (Steve) spoke at my son’s 5th grade class about all of the wonderful things that we have today in our great country that weren’t around 100 years ago. Inventions like cars.
A pony-tailed girl in the front of the room raised her hand, and with a solemn look on her face she scolded me: “Cars are bad. They cause pollution.” Wow. These were 11 year olds. It was one of my first encounters with the green indoctrination that goes on in public schools starting in the first grade.
There wasn’t time to explain to her that when Henry Ford started rolling his Black Model T’s off the assembly lines in Michigan, the mass production of automobiles was heralded as one of the greatest environmental and health advances in the history of mankind. It replaced one of the great polluters: The horse.
Here are the stats: The average 1,000 pound horse dumps 30 pounds of feces and 2 gallons of urine a day. Can anyone imagine what a city like Washington, D.C. or Pittsburgh or New Orleans smelled like on a hot, sweltery summer day or what all that feces did to our water supply? Oh and watch where you step.
Yet, many liberals still seem to agree with Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who says that the combustible engine is one of the worst inventions of all time.
This explains why the ascendant green movement in America has for decades been trying to force Americans out of their cars. They think like that 5th grader, but these people are supposed to be rational adults.
The war on driving includes calls for carbon and gas taxes, tens of billions of gas tax money diverted to inefficient and little used mass transit projects, and opposition to building new roads and highways. One of the most nefarious initiatives has been the Obama administration’s draconian increases to federal fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards — which are a giant and hidden tax on American drivers.
Donald Trump announced last week he wants to ease those regulations. Under the Obama mandates, CAFE requirements would increase from about 35 mpg this year to almost 55 mpg by 2025. This would raise the cost of many new cars by almost $3,000. The overall hit to the economy from these rules is expected to reach a cool $500 billion over the next 50 years.
Under the new proposed rules mileage requirements would still rise every year to 37 mpg by 2024, but the left is seething in protest complaining this means the end of the planet. This would also override California’s even more stringent rules and so California Gov. Jerry Brown is throwing a hissy fit. By the way, the difference between the Trump and the Obama standards would mean a .02 degree Celsius higher global temperatures by the year 2200. Is that really worth $500 billion?
One objective of the Obama and California rules is to achieve 100 percent electric cars sold by 2050. Today, even with massive government subsidies and the federal government writing you a check for $2,500 or more if you buy a Tesla or other battery-vehicle, less than 2 percent of new car sales are battery operated vehicles.
Consumers don’t like these cars very much. The batteries to operate electric cars can pollute as much as the combustible engine they replace. (Do liberals really think that electric cars are going to be powered by windmills?)
The Department of Transportation has found that the best way to get cleaner air is to incentivize families to buy new cars because they pollute less than older gas guzzlers. But because CAFE standards raise car prices, they delay the purchase of new cars, which increases pollution levels.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the new Trump standards is that they are expected to save about 1,000 lives a year due to lower highway deaths. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has found that CAFE standards kill people for two reasons: First, they induce the car companies to build lighter cars in order to meet the fuel standards. Second, because the regulations keep old cars on the road longer, Americans are more likely to be driving in less safe vehicles. The Trump administration has science firmly on its side here.
It wasn’t so long ago liberals opposed military intervention in the Middle East by chanting “no blood for oil,” but with higher CAFE standards they are willing to tolerate more blood on the highways to save on oil.
A hearty congratulations to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for a new rule that saves lives, reduces pollution, grows the economy, and lets people buy the car they want — including SUVs, minivans and sports cars. This is a great victory for common sense and a windshield against the left’s war on cars. As for those misguided 5th graders, they will figure out the virtues of cars once they are old enough to get their driver’s license. But when will liberals grow up?
• Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is a columnist for The Washington Times. He was a senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign. Andrew Vanderplas is an economic research associate at Heritage.