The New Hotness: Fuel Economy Kills

Take that, you gas-sipping Japanese tin can.

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From the LA Times this morning:

The Trump administration is embracing a curious — and some would say dated — argument as it builds its case to weaken federal rules championed by California that require cars and SUVs to average 55 miles per gallon by 2025. It is warning that the fuel-efficiency targets, seen by most as key to meeting climate and air quality goals in California and nationwide, could actually end up killing people.

….The agency is preparing to make the case that tough fuel economy rules could effectively force automakers to sell smaller, lighter and thus less crash-worthy vehicles. That, in turn, would lead to more crash-related deaths. And it warns the rules could drive up the cost of cars to the point that consumers will put off buying new, safer models equipped with life-saving technology improvements.

This is only a “curious” argument if you don’t understand its audience. The aim here is not to build a case for the process of repealing the Obama fuel-economy rules. The aim is to appeal to Trump’s base, which has long held this theory to be gospel truth. When I’m on the road, I want a couple of tons of metal between me and the rest of the idiots.

The kernel of truth here is that all else being equal, if a big car smashes into a little car, the big car will take less damage. However, as long as cars are, on average, all getting bigger or smaller at the same time, there’s no change in overall safety.

But that doesn’t matter. The Trump base will slam down its beer and say it’s about time someone gets it. The usual suspects will write op-eds making the case that Trump’s EPA is right. John Lott will whip up a statistical study to prove that fuel economy kills. David Roberts will write 5,000 words at Vox explaining why Lott is wrong. And then the whole thing will be forgotten.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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