The EPA’s Scarlet Letter

by Henry Payne

The EPA reaches back to puritanical New England with its latest mpg letter-grading system — hoping to shame the buyers of SUVs with a scarlet letter “C” or worse. If Hester Pryne drove an SUV today she would bear her mark — not on her breast — but on her windshield. (Sample EPA grade here.)

Obama-approved electric vehicles – such as Nissan’s Leaf — would get an A+. Most SUVs — currently among the hottest-selling cars in America with gas prices at $2.55 — would get a C+ or lower, reports the Detroit News. No auto gets a failing grade (this is a government grading system, after all) but gas-guzzling super-cars like the Ferrari 612 get a D.

The EPA’s embrace of the Left’s environmental catechism on moral motoring is Washington’s latest attempt to dictate to Americans what products they buy. The EPA new windshield grades come in the wake of mandates that vehicles average 35 mpg by 2015 and that incandescent light bulbs be banned by 2012. The EPA standards echo those in Europe, where the UK has adopted the letter grades (an ironic twist on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story, as Hester Pryne escaped to Europe from Puritan Massachusetts). But unlike England, where $7-a-gallon gas gives drivers an economic incentive to meet Green Church goals, the EPA standards are pure sermon.  

The reaction of Americans to this latest moral judgment from their government will likely be harsh. Like the 1970s’ artificially low 55-mph speed limit, the EPA’s letter-grading system will become a symbol of the nanny state and will be scoffed at by soccer moms who don’t need politicians’ blessing on their choice of transportation.

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