I lay awake at 3 a.m. worrying about the new CAFE standards. The environmentalist groups see fuel economy figures on hybrids like the Prius and say, “Well, that’s it, then. End of discussion. Everybody should drive these.”
Something they don’t take into account: loopholes are eternal. The law of unintended consequences will prevail. Remember that the original CAFE requirements that killed off large station wagons created the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Explorer and their host of imitators that performed the same functions as station wagons. (Light trucks enjoyed special exemptions from CAFE standards, thanks to the farm lobby.) People will figure out something. There already has been a minor trend among those who tow horse trailers to use medium-duty commercial trucks.
As for 35 mpg CAFE, I would love to see cars so efficient. I grew up hearing about Colin Chapman’s Lotus and “build in lightness.” On the other hand, I still see hybrids as a gimmick, a terribly complicated answer to a problem.
The administration’s social engineering won’t change how people behave. Large roomy vehicles will continue to be in demand, and towing campers and boats will continue as a necessary part of a vehicle’s performance envelope. Maybe someone will figure out how to make a carbon-fiber SUV that tows 8000 pounds but only weighs 1800 pounds and needs but a 1.4-liter turbo four to get down the road. If so, Obama and the eco-guys get lucky, because they have no idea what they’re doing.