Copyright: Public Domain / Used With Permission

We’ve yet another of these sensible pieces of political action by the Trump Administration. He keeps this up and we might all have to admit that there’s something to the guy. Alternatively it could just be that having sidelined the activists the adults are now able to make reasonable decisions based upon actual evidence.

That evidence being that the sort of CAFE and the like fuel standards so beloved of the American left are not only a grossly expensive and inefficient manner of reaching the desired goal they’re even counter productive. It was this sort of regulation that created the SUV in the first place, after all.

So, this is good news:

The White House announced Thursday that it is moving ahead on its much-anticipated plan to roll back the fuel economy mandate set by the Obama administration. The move is likely to mean fewer high-efficiency, zero-pollution cars on the road.

The previous guidelines, which were reached during Obama’s first term, call for automakers to each reach a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — though with credits and other modifications, the actual figure is expected to wind up in the low to mid-40 mpg range. Thursday’s announcement means the new standard is set at 37 mpg.

Well, the complete and total destruction of those regulations and standards would be better but still :

With the goal of reducing the costs of new cars and improving safety by letting more people buy new vehicles, the Trump administration on Thursday proposed a freeze on fuel-efficiency standards after 2020.

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation said the improvements required by the old old standards would make new cars too pricey for many American families, and that freezing them in 2020 would allow more people to buy safer, more fuel efficient cars.

Well, that’s a justification of sorts. Who knows, it might even be a reasonable and true one. It’s still not the way to do it of course:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to massively roll back its undeniably successful car greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards while totally ignoring the technical and scientific facts, as well as its world-renowned federal, career staff. This is unprecedented and will go down as one of the most anti-science and anti-transparency actions in agency history.

Over the previous decade, EPA’s technical staff published nearly 10,000 pages of analysis strongly supporting the car GHG standards. The comprehensive and sophisticated federal automotive technology analysis was developed using new tools recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, which had never been used by any regulatory agency.

Isn’t that amazing, bureaucracy publishes documents showing that bureaucracy is doing a grand job. We’re all flabbergasted, of course we are.

The thing is, let’s go with the assumption that we do desire to limit greenhouse gas emissions. I’m certainly on board with that idea even if much of the regular readership here isn’t. So, how should we do this?

It is always true that the most efficient method of rationing something is by price. There might be other reasons we don’t at some point, moral issues perhaps, but there’s nothing about gas mileage of the car fleet that concerns those distributional moral intuitions. We just want the most effective, most efficient, method of still gaining access to transport while also limiting emissions. So, charge for emissions.

We’ve even got the mechanism already set up to do this. There is a Federal gasoline tax. Increase it. Somewhere between 50 cents and a $ a gallon and we’re done. We’ve imposed the correct Pigou Tax to meet our climate change responsibilities and we’ve done it all in the most efficient manner possible. We could, and should, lower other taxes (the payroll tax!) to make it revenue neutral.

Hey, we even know that it works. Gasoline is much more expensive in Europe, Europeans drive fewer miles in smaller engined cars. It works.

And the thing is these CAFE standards don’t work. It’s actually arguable that they have increased emissions. For there are – at least – two sets. One for the standard passenger car, another for something on a pick up truck chassis. Effectively, an SUV is a standard car body on a pick up truck chassis and, crucially, something like a pick up truck engine. They didn’t exist before the CAFE standards. They mot certainly do after them. The reason being that people wanted, as long as they didn’t have to pay the pollution costs for, those larger engines. If we instead tax the actual thing that matters, fuel use, then the price change cannot be escaped.

That the gas mileage standards are being relaxed is just fine. But better would have been that they are abolished in their entirety. For it’s always better to tax and thus ration by price than create a bureaucracy to write counterproductive rules and standards. CAFE being an excellent specific example of this more general contention.