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Pollution and Misguided Emissions Laws

These are responses to the last editorial.

The editorial writer's reply

One thing I wanted to avoid was getting the last word in. However, in support of my position...

  • Alternative fuel sources are an excellent idea. However, their development would languish were it not for regulations on the standard gasoline engine. The only real incentive automakers have to develop things like fuel cells and solar cars is the upcoming zero-emissions regulations in California, CAFE, and similar regulatory issues. I support the development of both alternative fuels and the regulations which force their use.
  • The best solution is the elimination of unnecessary and sometimes unwanted cars. I do not want to restrain the enthusiasts, but I do feel that many people would, given the opportunity, prefer a low-cost, convenient mass transit solution. These are generally lacking within the United States. However, a quick look at the English and French transit systems showed us that trains are an excellent solution, when implemented well. Most Americans have never experienced a well-run transit system.
  • With regard to towing, we could argue that a unified CAFE system would have avoided the problem by making cars more attractive to automakers. Having a high standard for cars and a low standard for trucks is the problem we were arguing against in our original editorial.
  • We do not believe a totally free market is possible. Let us look at what could happen:
    • First, there could be no laws on illicit pharmaceuticals or prescriptions.
    • Second, no consumer protections at all.
    • Third, before long companies would band together into trusts, dominate the market, and make it un-free. This occured long ago - is the reason why Standard Oil became many different companies - and the evidence remains, thanks to Microsoft, that given the chance unethical companies will do whatever it takes to eliminate any freedom in the marketplace. Give up government interference, and you still will not have a free market.
    • Fourth, as Adam Smith himself pointed out, there is the problem of the green - the common resource. Use of it costs nothing, so why not use more? The problem is that if all do this, the green is eroded, whether through over-grazing (in the "problem of the green" example, the "green" is the village green, a shared grazing field) leading to no grass for anyone, or through pollution making water undrinkable and creating the fogs London became famous for, or ... you get the idea. In short, even the man who promoted the free market believed it should have limits. A free market for its own sake is merely dogma and is no more desirable than communism.
    • Fifth, may I point out that some of the nicest countries in the world are "over-regulated" socialist nations, such as Canada, Sweden, England, France, Germany... need I go on? Compared to a pure capitalist standard, the US is socialist, with its Medicare, Social Security, public works projects, and various corporate welfare programs.
    • Sixth, the public should not get everything it seems to desire. Looks like the public wants free opium and cocaine. Shall we do it? The public wanted cars without seat belts, with leaded gas, without airbags (still does), etc. Not a good argument.
  • I certainly agree with many of the points you made and the issues you raised. CAFE is by no means perfect, but I can't see anything better coming along. Some alternatives are...
    • Taxing vehicles by weight.
    • Taxing vehicles by engine size as done in Europe. (Not a good idea IMHO).
    • Taxing vehicles by gas mileage.
  • In the time since I wrote this editorial, I have noticed that many very large vehicles, in the full-size truck and SUV categories, have begun to drive quite recklessly, as though the drivers switched from having small sports cars to having big trucks without quite thinking through the differences in visibility and weight. I frequently see accidents involving these vehicles and cars. I think many drivers of these big trucks just don't care about killing those in smaller vehicles, or simply don't think it can happen to them because they're "such good drivers." Think again, bozos.
  • Trucks adhere to different pollution standards than cars. California is phasing in an equal-standards program and the automakers have yelled about it.
  • Even if the percentage of pollutants emitted was the same, a vehicle with lower gas mileage would create more pollution per mile than one with higher gas mileage.
  • Your turn again!

(New!) Bryan wrote:

CAFE ... actually can increase the use of oil. I wanted a large car. It gets better gas mileage than a truck. The Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 and Chevrolet Malibu 9C1 can tow 5000 pounds. They get good gas mileage. Better than my Dodge Ram. However, in the mid 1980s. I can get a car that gets 25 mpg and still tow 3000 pounds. 3000 pounds tows a good trailer. Yet the mid size car can still tow. Towing and fuel economy. Those people found out later that newer cars a few years down the road found themselve worse cars. Like light cars with tow ratings of only 2000 pounds, etc. This made people my trucks. Therefore wasting more fuel. People had to make an overkill just to tow 3500 pounds. An old midsize car can do that! However, midsize cars cannot tow anymore. Therefore people waste more gas using trucks to tow heavy trailers. Up to 3500 pounds and more. My truck tows 8100 pounds.

The tow ratings for the 1989 Plymouth Gran Fury was 4000 pounds. How about the 1998 Dodge Intrepid? It only tows 1500 pounds. The 1994 Dodge Intrepid towed more. The 1994 Dodge INtrepid towed some 2000 pounds. Even the 1997 Dodge towed 2000 pounds. I am so mad with CAFE and the lack of towing capacity. My 1989 Volvo can tow 3300 pounds. Very good tow rating. Volvo recommends 3300 pounds with a max tougue weight of only 200 pounds. The recommended tongue weight is only 143 to 154 pounds. With this formula I can cheat on the 1998 Dodge Intrepid. The tow rating is only 1500 pounds. However, I can tow 3300 pounds. I can use a tongue weight of only 143 pounds or 150 pounds on the Dodge. I can tow 3300 pounds with only 150 tongue weight. Or better yet a 200 pound tongue weight. That should pull up that motor. If I get into an accident with the 1998 Dodge and trailer, I can sue the government. I want to overload my trailer bad. I want to show off that a big Dodge can tow.

Sincerely, Bryan  

Ibdnw wrote:

The real problem is the number of cars and trucks that are:

  1. either too old to have effective pollution reducing devices or
  2. the high number of vehicles that are not properly tuned or
  3. the ones that are exempt from requirements.

I live in Los Angeles and I see eveyday too many cars from the fifties, sixties or seventies on the freeways : those cars emit too much pollution (and have a terrible gas mileage ) to be allowed to be used as regular transportation. Being stuck behind such cars in a convertible is the worst!!

The second problem is that too many vehicle are improperly tuned: the smog check should be stricter and rather than giving a ridiculously high number of speeding tickets, cops and highway patrol should consider targeting the ones that pollute too much.

The third problem is vehicles that seem to be exempt of any rules: I see every day many many RTA buses ( public transportation in LA) that are falling apart and are constantly moving in a huge cloud of black smoke ....

Today, many new cars & trucks seem to have reach an acceptable level of pollution: let's make sure that everybody keep their vehicle properly tuned, let's get rid of old cars and make sure that the pollution requirements are applied to everybody equally!

Doug wrote:

I agree with most of your thoughts on the cafe article except for the part about why heavy pickups are exempt from cafe. I think most people who buy these trucks use them for hauling or towing heavy loads(eg. farmers, construction workers). Therfore the axle ratios on these trucks need to be geared for pulling power rather than fuel economy. If one included these trucks in the calculation it would make the minimum standard almost imposible to meet.

Our response: true, as long as the definitions do not allow "sneak attacks" such as GM's apparently successful attempt to make the Yukon exempt.

Klaus Wilkens wrote:

Your point is well taken but I do disagree with the concept of CAFE rules in a free market society. They are nothing but an attempt to add an additional tax to the public through the automakers.

It has been consistantly shown that the American public buys the cars they like at any given economic time period. The public likes large comforatable cars and Cafe is nothing more than a penalty paid to the government for the public consumers desires.

Pontiac Aspire, Ford festiva, Chevy Metro, Honda Civic coupe are all cars which either are or were available with CAFE ratings in the 40 - 50 mpg range. the dealers can bare;ly give them away, few people want them, so why is the governemnt trying to force us to buy them ?

From an economic stand point when petroleum based fuels become too expensive an alternate source will be found. Today the cost of discovery is far greater than the cost of reliance on petroleum. Also when I was in grade school in the late 1950s we were told that all the petroleum would be gone by 1980, that's 20 years ago (almost) and we're still finding new sources. Certain groups have grossly underestimated the worlds petroleum reserves to serve their own agenda.

As far as the the safety iossue, this is not a new phenomena, weight differential has existed since motorized transportation eveolved. Big trucks, Semis, Dump Trucks, Fire trucks will not cease to exist. Concrete abutments, trees, buildings, etc all pose a threat to vehicles out of control. We can not rule the road by lowest common denominator or we will all be riding bicycles or walking.

This is a free country based on a free economy and every attempt to to direct our economy in the direction sought by the self annointed few has disasterous consequences.

FWIW I drive and enjoy small agile cars.

Marlin wrote:

It is true that cars are safer, etc... But the thing about the amount of land required for junk yards being lower, where did you pull that one out of? My '95 Intrepid is about the same length and width as any one of these "light trucks" and you don't se very many full size trucks in junk-yards. Besides all that, the size of junkyards depends on how the wrecks are arranged, and the amount of JUNK to spread out! For instance, my local scrap yard has the cars arranged by make, each section is pretty damn big, trucks or no trucks. As for roads being made narrower...Back to my Dodge Intrepid. It is wider and longer than most cars, similar in size only to auto's like the lincoln town car and some cadillacs. Making roads narrower will only result in people like me driving with one side outside the right line. We're not in the UK, we don't all drive very light and very efficient sedans and coupes. It is unrealistic to consider narrowing roads.

The basic idea that by creating a standard CAFE would decrease the number of trucks on the road is absurd. People have always bought trucks, will always buy trucks and if the automakers are forced to raise the gas mileage, all that will do is raise their R/D costs, in turn raising the cost of the trucks. With the disgustingly low gas mileage displayed by most trucks and SUV's, and their horridly high popularity, you can be assured that if they are built to achieve 25 or 27.5mpg, the number of them on the road will burgeon. After all, why buy a car when you can buy a tank and get the same gas mileage?

The examples of "light trucks" you gave are not light trucks, they are full size trucks and that is why they are exempt. They don't cause any more pollution than my Intrepid or a Toyota Corolla. When fuel is burned, it creates pollution, increasing the gas mileage will not lessen the amount of pollution emitted, it will only lengthen the amount of time needed to create the same amount of pollution. Of course automakers will vie for bigger trucks that are exempt, because once they are exempt, they can either cut their R/D budget or move on to something else, all the while making a fortune on gas guzzleing engines. All the trucks you quoted, as I stated are large trucks... How come you fail to provide any data on the Ford Ranger, Chevy S-10, or Dodge Dakota? Those are the real *light trucks* and if you tell a dealer you are looking for a light truck, they will point out those 3. Light trucks don't get exemption because they average 25mpg, unless you're talking trucks like the Dakota R/T...I shudder to imagine the amount of gasoline that thing drinks.

If you want a smaller, better handling car with better accelleration and better visibility, look elsewhere than Chrysler... Try an MG B, or a Volkswagon Golf with the VR6 engine. Both are tiny, handle like they are on rails, and have all the acceleration of the space shuttle at liftoff. At 3500lb's, my Intrepid has excellent visibility, superb handleing, and accelerates like a rocket...but has piss poor gas mileage, averaging 20-22mpg on average if I am lucky.

If this was a perfect world, everybody would be driving MG B's, getting 40mpg, and driving just under a 75mph speed limit... The fact is as Americans, we want things to be bigger, better, and faster. No vehicle should be allowed on the road in this day and age without getting at least 25mpg on average, however the idea that people will buy less trucks and Detroit will produce less trucks if the CAFE is uinified at a higher mpg rating, is not realistic. It will just force Detroit to build more efficient and *more expensive* trucks.

Someone else wrote:

(Paraphrased)

We are missing the point when we discuss miles per gallon - the real action is in switching to alternative fuels. Compressed natural gas, which burns very cleanly, is a very practical alternative, for example - hydrogen is another. Major automakers are experimenting with both [and there are New York City taxis and buses powered by compressed natural gas, or CNG]. Gas mileage and vehicle size are irrelevant - the correct fuel is what matters.

Ray Westafer wrote:

(Paraphrased) The other issue is that CAFE does not take air conditioning usage into account.

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