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Misnamed ‘auto efficiency’ CAFE regs are actually rationing – ‘What gets rationed are highly desirable things like size, power, strength and safety’


The Trump Administration’s plan to roll back Obama’s ridiculous auto efficiency rules is a great idea. So-called auto efficiency is actually a form of rationing. What gets rationed are highly desirable things like size, power, strength and safety.

We are talking about the “Cafe” standards, where Cafe stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. Obama raised the Cafe standard for new cars and trucks to a breathtaking 54 miles per gallon by 2025, just a few years from now. This is roughly double the present standard.

The key concept here is Corporate Average. These are not requirements on specific cars. The Café standard is the average mileage that has to be hit collectively by all the cars and trucks sold by each car maker. This averaging is where the rationing comes in.

There is a misconception that these standards are met through technological progress. Cars and trucks are simply made more efficient, right? Wrong, because that is technologically impossible. In reality the standards are met by forcing people to buy smaller, lighter (less safe) and less powerful cars.

In engineering, “efficiency” means doing the same job with less energy, but in the Cafe case it means doing less of a job. Making a car or truck smaller, lighter or less powerful reduces what the car can do. This is asceticism, not efficiency.

For example, I tow a loaded horse trailer up small mountains in Virginia and West Virginia, in order to ride the back country in several wonderful National Forests. I also help maintain the trails that I ride on, riding in to do so. In the 40 years that I have been doing this riding, the most powerful cars made have become progressively less able to do the towing job, to the point where only a big truck will do it. My horses have not gotten heavier; the cars have become weaker.

When I point this out to Greens, their answer is I should not want to do this riding. Their ideal of pseudo-efficiency is not doing the job at all. The way I live is wrong according to them. Their idea of efficiency is actually lifestyle asceticism.

By the same token, my understanding is that about a third of all pickup trucks sold are used for commercial purposes. Many of these jobs likely require strength and power, both of which have already been greatly reduced by the ever more strangling Cafe standards. This is often true for personal pickups too, like mine.

In order to meet the insane Obama Cafe standard, the automakers would have to virtually eliminate all of the larger, stronger and more powerful cars and trucks that they now sell. And these are just a pale shadow of what they use to sell. That a lot of people need and would happily buy larger, stronger and more powerful vehicles is simply not allowed under the Cafe scheme.

Rationing in the name of efficiency is government tyranny personified. This whole wacky scheme grew out of the mindless energy panic in the 1970’s, over 40 years ago. It was wrong then and it is far more wrong today. Cafe is rationing misnamed as efficiency.