Political Insight | Editorials from the Habledash Team

Environmental Radicals and Their Impact on the Automobile Industry

Earlier this week, National Review published a great article called "Our Cars' Weight Problem."  It was a disconcerting reminder of the role and impact that radical environmentalists have on the automotive industry and the cars we drive on a daily basis.  In the name of the environment, thanks to their fringe special interest groups, automakers have to comply with government CAFE standards or face costly fines.  Since the laws of physics can't be modified, achieving CAFE standards means cars that weigh less and are less safe.

Liberals hate the automobile - it gives the individual freedom, something they feel the government should control.  Adding to their disdain for cars is the impact they have on the environment - they're an even bigger enemy of the Left now.  This leads to unrealistic fuel economy mandates that can't be met because the technology doesn't exist.  Engines have been changed to include turbochargers instead of larger displacement; more gears have been added to transmissions to lower RPMs; vehicles use lightweight material and are more aerodynamic, but cars still have ways to go to meet CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards.

The problem with the goal is simple: We can get only so far on the mileage front without affecting safety. Allow me, as someone who has spent a lifetime in and around the automotive industry, to explain why.

To get to where the government wants us to be, we start by employing all the engine technology possible to extract every last mile per gallon. This means using direct-injection combustion, variable valve timing, and sophisticated air management that includes more turbo-charging, as well as fine-tuning the engines with the use of sophisticated sensors and algorithms. The industry has done all of that, and today’s engines are impressively efficient.

We next turn to transmissions. These can help save fuel by allowing the engine to run at lower revolutions per minute (rpm). Think of being able to shift gears on a bicycle as you go up or down hills. This helps you get more from each pedal stroke. It is the same for vehicles. Today’s vehicles have progressed far from the original two-gear automatic transmissions; some offer as many as eight gears that automatically maintain engine rpm within a certain range. This has all been done, and the miles per gallon have improved accordingly.

However, all these efforts are not nearly enough to achieve the mandated 52 miles per gallon. So what else can be done? It’s what I call Jenny Craig engineering: reduce car weights, and reduce them massively.

It is a simple matter of physics: It takes less energy to propel a lighter object at a particular speed than a heavier object. You may wonder why so many vehicles suddenly stopped carrying a real spare tire years ago, or why there is so much plastic in vehicles today. Wonder no more: It was for weight reduction.

This is not a new trend; weight-reduction efforts have been ongoing since Jimmy Carter was in office. And they are not aimed just at larger vehicles. The Toyota Prius is slated to shed 500 pounds.

Smaller cars are more dangerous.  Again, it's the laws of physics.  Liberals have never liked the automobile and the freedom they stand for.  But now their mandates are an issue of life and death.  Smaller, lighter cars are the only way to achieve CAFE mileage mandates - they are unsafe compared to other cars on the road and result in thousands of deaths every year.

And it's all in the name of the environment.

Chuck Justice is the editor-in-chief for Habledash.

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