The political silly season continued to get sillier Monday as the Democratic candidates each tried to one-up their already unrealistic Congressional allies with higher fuel mileage mandates to combat global warming, etc.
The current Senate proposal is for a 40 percent increase to 35 mpg by 2020.
Hillary Clinton opened the bidding with a 60 percent increase to 40 mpg – including billions of dollars in tax money to fund battery research ($2 billion), electric car purchases (feds should buy 100,000 electrics by 2015), and factory retooling ($20 billion). Hey, it’s not her money!
John Edwards wants 40 mpg by 2016, while Barack Obama wants the same figure, only earlier (by 2017). Sen. Chris Dodd is the high bidder with a decree of 50 mpg by 2017 (why stop there, senator? Why not 75? Why not 100?).
U.S. fuel economy laws, of course, have been a colossal failure. Despite a federal mandate doubling fuel economy (to 27.5 mpg) since 1974, U.S. oil consumption has increased by 20 percent. Onerous gas taxes would be more effective, but pols prefer backdoor mandates lest the public get a whiff of what they are up to.
Hidden as these mandates are, however, they will ultimately be felt by U.S. consumers.
I am reminded of the 1995 National Energy Act mandate for the 1.6 gallon toilet. The toilets are a notorious frustration for American consumers, often requiring two or three more flushes to get the job done – even as domestic water consumption actually increased in the five years after the mandate (by 7.7 percent) faster than the five years previous (by 4.4 percent from 1990-1995).
Why? Because homes got bigger and America continued its urbanization. I wouldn’t say this too loud, however – or next we’ll be getting the Democrats weighing in on square-footage mandates for homes by 2020.