Efficiency demands could backfire

President Obama’s desire to have the auto industry drive the country toward energy independence is a worthy enough goal.

The president wants autos to burn less gasoline. He’d like the existing automobile-based transportation system to simply be replaced by vehicles that carry more people and that run off an entirely different kind of fuel, preferably a fuel that is produced entirely within the United States and which would have no deleterious environmental effects.

Of course, we’d all like that.

And we’d all like vegetables that tasted like angel-food cake, too.

The facts are, however, that the country’s fleet of vehicles is almost exclusively petroleum based and more than likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

The chances that the auto industry can be displaced as easily as was the buggy-whip industry by the nascent car business at the turn of the last century are somewhere between slim and none.

It’s a good idea to look to other ways of propelling vehicles and reasonable to encourage automakers to produce vehicles that burn less gasoline.

But to put today’s car buyers at the mercy of the environmental lobby and the California legislature’s stringent, to say nothing of expensive, emissions standards, is to encourage drivers to hold off big-ticket purchases such as new cars and opt instead to keep their gas-guzzlers on the road.

That’s exactly the opposite of what the president seems to want.


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