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Department of Unintended Consequences

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As The Post's Steven Mufson reports today, the new CAFE/emissions standards are a big deal. The average car will have to hit 39 miles per gallon by 2016 -- a serious increase over the current 27 mpg requirement. And for the first time, tailpipe emissions will be regulated, too. Come 2016, your car will be allowed to emit 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. That's 130 grams below the 2009 average. That's you being less dirty.

The backstory here is that the automakers sued California over the state's uniquely stringent carbon dioxide and fuel efficiency regulations. One of their arguments was that there should be a single national standard -- states can't force automakers to produce 50 different kinds of cars. And now there will be a single national standard. The automakers won! Sort of! The problem, for the automakers, is that the single national standard will be California's standard. It's like a kid complaining to the principal that his teacher is harder than all the others only to have the principal rule that all the other teachers must become equally demanding. Oops. And it's not as if Detroit has much capacity to object right now. They are, after all, effectively owned by the federal government.

(AP Photo/The Tribune, Tom Stromme.)

By Ezra Klein  |  May 19, 2009; 9:38 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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After today's election in California, where the voters will turn down the ballot proposals that would increase taxes by $16.3BB, the golden state will then fall into a well deserved, chaotic, disastrous bankruptcy. It appears that Saint Obama plans to follow California in that endeavor too.

The Big-3 automakers have crashed for two reasons: The egregious UAW contracts, and the government's CAFE standards that apply only to American automakers.

So what does Obama do? He steals the companies from their owners and creditors, and gives them to the UAW, then he tightens the CAFE standards. The only thing that will be able to keep GM and Chrysler alive will be government handouts.

Posted by: mike85 | May 19, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

God help our great country survive four years of this dangerous, ignorant zealot and his unthinking flock.

Posted by: zjr78xva | May 19, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

This idiotic rule will punish Ford and its workers, who to their everlasting credit have avoided capitulating to Obama and his thugs.

Posted by: zjr78xva | May 19, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

mike85, the CAFE standards apply to all manufacturers that SELL cars in the US. That includes Toyota, Honda and everybody else. Go and Google it, starting with the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority's "CAFE Overview" site.

I don't see this rule punishing Ford at all, seeing as they're ahead of the other manufacturers -- domestic and foreign -- in terms of having the technology to meet the standard. They already produce a 70mph diesel, and the diesel engines in BMW's small cars like the Mini Cooper D (unfortunately not available in the US yet) come from . . . . Ford.

Posted by: dblissmn | May 19, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

That would be a 70mpg diesel that does over 100mph.

Posted by: dblissmn | May 19, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

California is a bankrupt nightmare that goes another $2 Billion in the hole EACH MONTH. Laws passed by Sacramento should definitely NOT be adopted at the Federal level.

Posted by: millionea7 | May 19, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Yeah I wanna be like CA. Please make my state broke and fill it with illegals too. Let's see lets increase the cost of cars. BTW lets say they all become much more efficient. Great except what will governments do when they start losing tax revenue since it's tacked on per gallon at the pump?

Posted by: FLvet | May 19, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"Yeah I wanna be like CA. Please make my state broke and fill it with illegals too."

Dude, your state is *already* filled with illegals - who do you think is picking all those oranges, grapefruit, and strawberries?

And rumor has it that your current governor is running for Senate to get out of the mess he's left your state in before it catches up with his political fortunes.

Posted by: rt42 | May 19, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

rt42 the Cubans make good food though....

Posted by: FLvet | May 19, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

To Mike85:

The economy and country would be well served if you got a job or a life. Your opinions of the national economy and attacks on our, yes, saintly and brilliant, president, are silly, unintelligent, and ill-informed.

Posted by: walden1 | May 19, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

To Mike85:

The economy and country would be well served if you got a job or a life. Your opinions of the national economy and attacks on our, yes, saintly and brilliant, president, are silly, unintelligent, and ill-informed.

Posted by: walden1 | May 19, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey Mike85,

Why hasn't Ford fell into this state? Mmmm, because Ford is better managed perhaps? Builds a better vehicle, perhaps? Had some vision and applied it, perhaps? Lets look at both sides of the story not just YOURS!

By-the-way, GM and Chrysler would be fine if their major benefactor, the oil cartel of BP-Amoco, Exxon-Mobil and Shell, would invest in them. Hey, GM and Chrysler keep building inefficient vehicles that consume oil and gas which helps the oil cartel make their record profits, so they should get some reciprosity from the oil cartel, don't you think, Mike?

Posted by: ajackson3 | May 19, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I think we are well on our way to duplicating the California Miracle of tapped-out taxpayers, job-killing regulation, voracious public-sector unions and lots of illegal aliens clogging up what little public services there are.

We follow up the pathetic and incompetent Bush with someone who seems determined to model his administration on Detroit and Cleveland.

Posted by: cletus1 | May 19, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it's great! Obama made the US into California, for emissions purposes. This is exactly what should be happening.

Next, once gas hits passes $4.00/gal., he needs to implement a floor on the price of gas, of around $2.00/gal. Tell Americans that they will never again pay less than $2.00 per gallon. It will seem unimportant at the time, but it will decouple us from having all the progress we make on car mileage evaporate when our oil suppliers try to drop the price on us to keep us hooked.

I drive an '04 Civic Hybrid with a bumper sticker:

"I'm supporting our troops by getting 45 mpg".

When I get a plug-in hybrid, hopefully from an American brand, I'll bump that up to 100 mpg.

Posted by: leptoquark | May 19, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Another interesting "unintended consequence" run out:

Posted by: bdballard | May 19, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Is that picture supposed to have something to do with this story - as though tailpipe emissions have some causal relationship with floods? How ridiculous! If anything, the picture is a metaphor for ordinary car owners being drowned in taxes and government regulation. Where does the US Constitution give the President this authority? And if the US Constitution doesn't give him the authority, then whence does he derive it? This is yet another example of liberals (ironic term) infringing on personal freedoms. Anthroprogenic climate change is a wholesale myth designed to make people fearful enough to give away their freedom... and it's working.

Posted by: michaeljmcfadden1 | May 19, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Ezra's gotta love his new commenters! You got yourself a regular fever swamp here! Where does WaPo find these freaks? I guess it must be all conservatives getting laid off these days -- they've got plenty of time on their hands to heap abuse on "liberals" on WaPo.

Posted by: jjhare | May 19, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

mike85 and other neo-cons apparently never read, only shout. What caused California's meltdown was first the "tax revolt" of Prop. 13, which limited not only the State but counties and cities abilities to raise revenues, and then a series of propositions that forced increasing spending on prisons, etc. But of course so-called conservatives (who are really anti-tax radicals) continue to bleat out the anti-tax message like the sheep they are.

Posted by: calbooster | May 19, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse


Stop spewing your anti-Prop 13 propaganda!
In California, local cities and counties can raise taxes under Prop 13. All that must be done is put any tax increase to a vote of the people! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT?

My city just voted and approved a property tax increase to support the local middle school district! So YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY WRONG ABOUT PROPOSITION 13.
Oh, and lets not forget about, sewer fees, water well fees, waste disposal fees, local television competition fees....etc. Though not called taxes, that is in fact what they are and they all continue to go up and up and up in my city and county.
Imagine what our taxes would be if the current California government could raise taxes at their whim!!!! My God!

Posted by: JeffVader | May 19, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

As a proud share OWNER of Ford, I look forward to the level playing field and certainty of future regulatory impacts that this provides all participants in the vehicle markets.

Uncertainty leads to denial.

Certainty leads to planning and action.

Kudos, President Obama! Thank you for leading our nation forward and delivering this body blow to the al-Qaeda funding source of Saudi Arabia, which to this day provide more than 90 percent of all al-Qaeda money and volunteers, and all of the religious extremist madrassas.

A proud patriotic nation thanks you for your action!

Posted by: WillSeattle | May 19, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

The average for cars has been 27.5 MPG since 1990--19 years ago for the math challenged. We're overdue for improvements.

Ford hybrids kick the behinds of GM and Chrysler hybrids. With cars sales down, but hybrid sales up, Ford is thriving while GM and Chrysler flirt with bankruptcy.

Seems Congress is to blame--for not acting sooner, demanding higher CAFE standards sooner, and possibly saving GM and Chrysler from themselves.

Volt, Fusion hybrid, Focus EV, Escape PHEV, Transit Connect EV, ENVI, et al. It's the future. It will be here soon.

Posted by: kengrubb | May 19, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Although I am a conservative, this CA mess is everyone's fault. In the USA, it is very difficult to say "no" to any constituent group. As well, many people did not look at the fast growing tab for all the services they requested for 2 very human reasons. 1) The economy was expanding so it was possible that additional expenditures would be covered by an increased revenues. 2) Many people saw the income as coming from "other" sources: corporate taxes or taxing the rich.
Now we have to pay the tab and it is very painful. However, this is what we are experiencing on a national level with medical care for the poor and the elderly. We have to say "no" to some people. For example, with a limited budget for health care, do we vaccinate 10,000 children or one kidney transplant for a senior citizen? In the past the answer was "do both." Alas, we cannot do that anymore so we need to make decisions.

I applaud the CA voters for rejecting delayed solutions that are not truly solutions. Instead, the government must choose its priorities. I would hope that the decision making process would also be by referendum so that it is a democratic process. R. Nemetsky

Posted by: rafijn | May 20, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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