Planet Gore

Don’t Drink the CAFE

How convenient for newsmen to be protected by the First Amendment from government intrusion. Unlike, say, the auto industry.

Wall Street Journal lefty auto critic Dan Neil last weekend waxed eloquent about the Buick Regal’s new, CAFE-induced, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger — what GM dubs its Ecotec II engine (ugh). To green Neil, it’s the garage equivalent of broccoli and its time the industry started eating more of it. It’s good for them.

“Building these small-displacement, high-pressure turbo engines is tricky. Why not stick a bigger V6 in these cars and be done with it? In one, much-disdained acronym: CAFE,” writes Neil before launching into a full-throated defense of putting a bureaucrat under the hood.

“This is the sort of thing that makes me lonely at car-guy parties: I’m a huge proponent of CAFE. You may say it would be best to let fuel costs and consumer choice drive vehicle efficiency; the problem is that the market is reactive, and engineering of fuel efficiency is a capital-intensive, time-consuming process. CAFE has put more fuel-efficient technologies in the market in time to meet rising fuel prices, not several years behind the curve. “

Easy for him to say. But would Neil be so cavalier if the government was in his grille every day?

How about if the feds imposed a Corporate Average Newsprint Economy (CANE) standard? What if the feds limited the loquacious Journal auto critic to 600 words instead of 1,100? In the name of ink conservation?

Or forced him to “alternative media” to meet the CANE standard? To save forests, how about limiting the WSJ to two sections — with Neil’s “Gears and Gadgets” page available only online? How about forcing the whole paper online to save millions of gallons of delivery-truck fuel?

Would the Journal’s finest be “a huge proponent of” CANE? Perhaps not.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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