According to GM, the new federal fuel requirements will costs four to ten thousand dollars per car,
mostly to use more expensive weight savings materials. Some
environmentalists might dispute the numbers or cheer anything that
makes cars more expensive to own, in the hope that fewer people are
able to afford driving. However, that will not be the only impact.
If the amount the average person is willing to pay for a car does
not change, people will respond to higher prices in two ways: they will
keep their existing cars longer and buy smaller, cheaper cars. Keeping existing
cars will delay the introduction of more efficient and luxurious cars
in the future. Switching to cheaper, more efficient cars will increase
efficiency at the cost of both luxury and safety. More families will be
forced to squeeze into Honda Civics rather than Toyota Camry’s. Money
that would have been spent on safety improvements will be diverted to
increasing efficient. Smaller cars are not inherently unsafe, but they
are inherently less safe, and thus the cost of the new fuel efficiency
standards can be measured in both dollars and human lives. The cost in
human lives of traffic accidents is well known – about 42 thousand lives
each year in the U.S. How many people will the warming from the unspent
gasoline kill? Actually, the oil not burned in cars will even not be
“saved.” More efficient cars will simply make that oil available for
other uses, which may or may not be more efficient.
Just how many lives is a billionth of a degree of global warming worth? Can we look forward to a new “no blood for freezing winters” campaign?