Good article, especially the last part. I thought you guys might like it. "Good gas mileage" is of definite value--but is it the most valuable thing about a new car or truck? How about vehicle size? Or good performance? Or the ability to carry heavy loads? These are values, too. The question is: Should the consumer be the one who determines which values are most important, or should that be the job of politicians, government bureaucrats, and special-interest groups? Some believe the government should put fuel economy at the top of the list, and force the automakers to design and build their vehicles accordingly, even if that means size, performance, and capability must be sacrificed to meet the edict of good gas mileage over all else. For years, this has been done via federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements. Under CAFE, each automaker's fleet of cars and trucks must meet a certain combined (and arbitrarily chosen) average fuel-economy figure; the CAFE requirement is now 27.5 miles per gallon for passenger cars, and 20.5 mpg for "light trucks," SUVs, and minivans. If the fleet average exceeds either figure, the automaker is punished with "gas-guzzler" penalties and taxes that drive up the cost of its vehicles. To satisfy the fuel-economy rules, the automakers have had to do several things that have distorted the marketplace for new cars and trucks, altering the way it would operate absent the artificial pressure exerted by CAFE. One such measure has been the "downsizing" of the average new car--which, on average, has lost about 1,000 pounds since the 1970s. The automakers have also had to build, and offer for sale, so-called "loss leader" subcompact models that are not especially profitable. Without CAFE, these loss leaders would either be discontinued entirely, or made larger, safer, and more attractive to consumers, even if it meant losing a few miles per gallon. Instead, each automaker builds and sells, each year--at either a loss or nominal profit--hundreds of thousands of these extremely small, not-especially-appealing vehicles, simply to even out the CAFE average. This enables them to sell the larger, safer, more powerful vehicles that people actually want to buy, without incurring the "gas-guzzler" penalties. Of course, the economic costs of the loss leaders are transferred (in the form of generally higher sticker prices) to buyers of the more popular models; the automakers, like any other business, must make a profit in order to stay in business. As always, such costs are not borne by "big business," but are simply passed on to consumers. And the public pays in other ways. The smaller, lighter vehicles we have today are also less safe than they would otherwise be, because mass and size provide an inherent safety cushion that no air bag or other safety add-on can compensate for. A big car is almost always more crashworthy than a small car. But the public, as a result of CAFE, has had to sacrifice safety on the altar of fuel efficiency--a curious twist on the "blood for oil" slogan. It has been estimated that several thousand motor-vehicle fatalities occur each year as a result of driving CAFE-downsized cars. And the technological improvements (such as fuel injection and overdrive transmissions) that the automakers have developed to increase the efficiency of their cars and trucks have simply encouraged people to drive more. The fact is, Americans drive more today than ever--and use more gas, too. U.S. dependence on foreign oil is at an all-time high. CAFE has had the opposite effect to that intended by those who conceived it. By every measure, federal fuel-economy requirements have been a massive policy failure, yet the government, tub-thumping politicos, and certain special-interest groups claiming to represent "the public" continue to insist upon raising CAFE requirements to as high as 40 mpg for passenger cars, and to perhaps 30 mpg for "light trucks," SUVs, and minivans. But if 20-plus years of CAFE edicts have done nothing to decrease U.S. fuel consumption, what basis is there for believing that even higher CAFE requirements will do anything but continue to distort the new-car marketplace, decrease safety, increase costs, and limit consumer choice? Even more to the point: Why should a relative handful of people, ensconced in government and Washington's special-interests community, be empowered to force their values down the throats of everyone else? Subcompacts that get 40 mpg may indeed be great for singles and commuters, but families may need either a larger car or an SUV. Why should they be denied the right to choose the type of vehicle that meets their needs? And what gives the government and the special interests that sing the praises of "fuel economy uber alles" the moral right to put people at greater risk of injury or death in downsized cars and trucks? The government doesn't tell people where to live, or what kinds of homes they ought to live in. People choose what's right and best for them. That's how it ought to be with cars, too.