“Here’s one good way to consider the vote in 2012: It’s about whether to re-elect President Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which these days runs most the U.S. economy,” says the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
The EPA heaved its weight against another industry this month, issuing a regulation to sharply increase fuel economy. Under this new rule, America’s fleet of passenger cars and light trucks will have to meet an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a doubling of today’s average of about 27 mpg. By the EPA’s estimate the rule will cost $157 billion, meaning the real number is vastly greater.
The fuel-economy rule is classic Obama EPA. Until this Administration, fuel standards were the remit of Congress, via its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. In 2007, the legislative branch raised those standards with a bill requiring the U.S. fleet to hit 35 miles per gallon by 2020, a 40% increase. The industry is struggling to keep pace with those steep requirements.
President Jackson is now casting aside 35 years of Congressional prerogative. Because the Obama EPA has declared carbon dioxide a “pollutant,” and because cars emit CO2, Ms. Jackson is citing the Clean Air Act in her bid to commandeer Detroit. While the EPA officially worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Nhtsa, the agency previously in charge of efficiency standards), it’s clear the EPA is calling the shots.
At least when Nhtsa was overseeing efficiency, it was charged by Congress with taking into account vehicle safety and a rule’s effect on the economy and consumer demand. The EPA can’t be bothered with such detail.
The National Automobile Dealers Association, which has opposed the EPA rule, has compiled Obama Administration documents showing the average price of a new vehicle will increase by $3,100 by 2025, thanks to the cumulative fuel-efficiency rules. Vehicles that currently cost $15,000 or less will effectively be regulated out of existence. The rule will reduce the mass of a car by 15% to 25%, decreasing safety.
The only way Detroit can hit these averages will be by turning at least 25% of its fleet into hybrids. But hybrid sales peaked in the U.S. two years ago at 3% of the market and are declining. The EPA’s $157 billion price tag includes only the estimate of what manufacturers will have to invest in new technology, not the billions more that will hemorrhage when nobody buys their EPA-approved products.
Yes, 13 automakers agreed to this standard in July, confirming behavioral science on hostages. The industry has been living for years under the threat of California’s strict efficiency mandate. Federal law pre-empts states from setting their own standards, and the Bush Administration refused to grant California a waiver. But the Obama administration made clear to automakers that their choice was between one crushing EPA-devised rule, or a national patchwork of crushing rules from California and acolyte states. They chose the federal poison.
House Republicans are pushing to return efficiency standards to the one regulator Congress has decreed: Nhtsa. They note that not only are California bureaucrats dictating federal policy, but the EPA has wasted $25 million to duplicate or demolish Nhtsa rules.
The EPA is seeking to impose, by fiat, greenhouse gas reductions that even a Democratic Congress rejected with the Waxman-Markey bill in 2009, and that would drive policy at least 13 years past this Administration. It’s all more than a tad authoritarian. Welcome to the Obama-Jackson Presidency.