Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were originally adopted out of fear of depleting fossil fuel reserves, then fear of dependency on OPEC for oil, and most recently justified based on fear of man-made global warming.
CAFE standards trade oil for lives by making cars less safe. They limit choices for consumers who need vehicles with more seating or payload capacity during certain stages of their lives. They are a phenomenally expensive way to attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: Their social cost per ton removed is 10 or 20 times as great as readily available alternatives.
CAFE standards now require the national new car fleet to average 54.5 mpg by 2025, up from today’s 24.9 mpg. Producing such cars is likely to raise the cost of new cars by between $3,000 and $5,000 per car and kill thousands of people a year due to making cars weigh less.
CAFE standards are unattainable without major sacrifices in consumer choice and safety, so a public debate must emerge in the coming years about repealing or scaling them back.