President Obama’s automobile choice shows that he cares about features other than fuel economy, so why is he forcing the American people to choose fuel economy first and foremost?

When President Obama took office, he got a new car—an 8 mile-per-gallon custom Cadillac limousine. The reason his car gets such poor fuel economy is that it is designed to protect the Commander-in-Chief from multiple threats. The limo’s body is composed of sophisticated titanium, steel, ceramic and aluminum armor to stop projectiles. The armored doors are 8-inches thick and the undercarriage is protected with a 5-inch thick reinforced steel plate. The car is equipped with night vision cameras and Obama’s seat features a foldaway desk, laptop, and satellite phone so he can conduct business on the go. Because the car’s armor and accessories weigh so much, the car is powered by a 6.5 liter diesel engine.

With these safety features and accessories, it is not surprising his limousine only gets 8 miles to the gallon. President Obama didn’t have the luxury of choosing a fuel-efficient car. His car was chosen for him based on several factors, most importantly the need to protect the President of the United States. Unfortunately, with this new national fuel efficiency standard, President Obama is not giving Americans the ability to select the car of their choosing.

When the average American chooses a new car, she considers her needs, her financial situation, the size of her family and her personal preferences. Some people want cars that are very fuel efficient. Others want lots of cup holders. Safety is an important consideration for many. Many small businesses need trucks to do their jobs. Still others participate in community car polls that require the ability to carry kids to and from soccer practice.

President Obama, however, is proposing to limit American’s automobile choices and force Americans to buy more fuel economy than they would choose on their own. He is proposing a fuel-economy mandate that cars in 2016 model cars will have to get at least 39 miles per gallon.

Currently there are only three cars that get 35 miles per gallon or better, the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic hybrid, and the Ford Fusion hybrid. In just over 5 years, automakers need to improve the fuel economy of the entire fleet by 40 percent. Possible? Yes. Costly? Most definitely.

More Fuel Efficient Cars Will be Expensive to Manufacture

It is possible to build more fuel efficient cars. For example, automakers can build smaller cars, but the American people, prefer certain amenities like safety, comfort, and ability to carry passengers over fuel economy. Cars can also be built out of exotic materials to make them lighter and more fuel efficient, but this increases the price. A study by Global Insight found that this kind of regulation would increase power-train costs by $1,000 for small cars and $5,000 for larger vehicles.

Additional Manufacturing Costs Will Destroy Almost 50,000 Jobs in the Automotive Industry

According to a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, implementing a fuel economy mandate as stringent as the President has called for will likely destroy over 48,000 jobs in the automotive industry.[1]

The reason this mandate will reduce jobs in the automotive industry is simple economics. As NHTSA explains in its report, fuel economy mandates increase the price of cars and trucks. These higher vehicle prices lead to reduced demand for new vehicles, which in turn reduces the amount of jobs in the automotive industry (fewer workers and needed to build fewer cars). [2]

Safety First

Besides costing American jobs, this mandate will also come at a cost of American lives. A 2002 study from the National Research Council found that the federal government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandate contributed to 2,000 deaths per year.

The reason for this death toll is that frequently there is a tradeoff between fuel economy and safety. Smaller, lighter cars are generally more fuel efficient than larger, heavier cars. Cars have become safer, but today’s small, fuel efficient cars are still more dangerous than other cars in two-car frontal offset collisions, even again medium sized cars.

To meet President Obama’s fuel economy regulations, automakers will likely make their cars smaller. This will reduce the safety of the cars. As Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety told the USA Today, “leave the automakers the option of downsizing, clearly we’re going to have some safety consequences," Lund says. “Smaller vehicles do not protect their occupants as well as large ones.”

President Obama didn’t have to choose between safety and fuel economy when it came to his limo. He shouldn’t force the American people to be forced to choose smaller, more fuel efficient and less-safe cars.

Environment Last

In the past, fuel economy mandates were implemented to save oil. President Obama is not only promoting the oil savings of more fuel efficient cars, but also touting this regulation as protecting us from global warming. Some environmentalists called the President’s plan the “biggest single step to curb global warming”. But even setting aside the fact that the Earth has not warmed since 2001 despite rising greenhouse gas emissions, this mandate will have no affect on global warming.

The NHTSA study used the MAGICC climate model to model the climate impact increases in fuel economy requirements. They found that the scenario similar to President Obama’s reduced global temperature by 0.001 C in 2030, 0.003 C in 2060, and 0.007 C in 2100.[3]

The reason is for this infinitesimally small reduction in global temperature is because future carbon dioxide emissions from the developing world will swamp our modest automobile-related reductions. If every car and truck complied with President Obama’s new fuel economy mandate (in reality, the mandate will only apply to new cars and trucks), U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases would decrease by 5 percent overnight.[4] But emissions from the rest of the world are incr

easing so dramatically that by the end of September, [5] emissions increases from the rest of the world make our decrease moot. In short, this costly policy would have no noticeable impact on global concentrations of carbon dioxide emissions.

American jobs, American workers, and American family budgets will suffer. All in the name of a reduction of global temperature by 1/1000th of a degree Celsius by 2030.



[1] See National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Average Fuel Economy Standards, Passenger Cars and Light Trucks. Model Years 2011-2015, available at The NHTSA looked at six options in their report. The TC = TB option (Total Cost = Total Benefit) is a very close analogue to President Obama’s proposed plan. (See VII-2 Average Required CAFE levels, p. 608). The TC = TB option raised CAFE to 34.6 in 2015, while the Obama plan increased the average fleet fuel economy standard to 35.5 in 2016. The jobs data is on p. 586.

[2] See National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Average Fuel Economy Standards, Passenger Cars and Light Trucks. Model Years 2011-2015, at 585–586.

[3] See National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Average Fuel Economy Standards, Passenger Cars and Light Trucks. Model Years 2011-2015, at 624.

[4] According to the Energy Information Administration report Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2007, p. 5, U.S. transportation emissions account for 28% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. According to p. 19 of the same report, motor gasoline accounts for 59% of the total U.S. transportation emissions. The California regulations will reduction greenhouse gas emissions by 30%

[5] Calculated using the emissions data from the Global Carbon Project. According to EIA (see footnote 1), the GHG emissions from the transportation sector total 28% of total U.S. emissions in 2007. Twenty-eight percent of the U.S.’s 2007 carbon dioxide emissions are 444,139 GgC. The burning of motor gasoline accounts for 59% of the total transportation emissions. Fifty-nine percent of 444,139 GgC is 262,042 GgC. California’s regulations would reduce this amount by 30% or 78,612 GgC. From 2006 to 2007, the world’s carbon dioxide emissions (excluding the United States) increased by 213,436 GgC. At this rate of change, the reductions brought about by applying California’s regulation to the entire transportation system today would be replaced in 134 days.

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