Fuel economy standards intended to be set in Sacramento, not Washington

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, California Gov. Gray Davis and his allies in the state legislature enacted a law designed to effectively regulate the fuel economy of all of California\’s automobiles. In the process, they will not merely thumb their noses at the U.S. Senate, which wisely voted 56 to 44 not to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards in March of this year, but more importantly, they will brazenly overstep their bounds of authority, since the determination of fuel economy standards is the exclusive domain of the federal government.

The new law will require the California Air Resources Board to promulgate regulations by the end of 2005 (to take effect in 2009) intended to reduce the emission of "greenhouse gases", the primary culprit being carbon dioxide. However, it\’s worth noting that carbon dioxide is not classified as a regulated emission by the Environmental Protection Agency, largely because it\’s essentially impossible to regulate – every creature on the planet exhales it.

Though California may set its own automobile emission standards, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions will ultimately require that less fuel be consumed – consequently, it will necessarily entail increasing fuel economy standards, which California has no legal power to either mandate or enforce. And increasing fuel economy standards means making cars lighter, and therefore far more dangerous. (A study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis concluded that the move to smaller cars is responsible for a 14-27 percent increase in car occupant fatalities.)

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, commented, "This would be a bad idea even if this were something that California could do. Fortunately, California can\’t, and I\’m confident that the courts will stop this dead in its tracks. Still, daffy schemes like this one are becoming all too commonplace in Gray Davis\’ California." Norquist concluded, "Washington declined to shove America\’s drivers into gas-sipping, paper-thin death traps. Sacramento should have done likewise for California\’s drivers."