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Jul 31, 2017
Presented by
Lauren Fix

There is a war against cars in America. Regulators want Americans out of cars and onto trains, buses, and bicycles. Why? Because of what cars represent -- freedom. Automotive expert Lauren Fix ("The Car Coach") explains.

Since the ‘70s, government and environmentalists have made common cause against America’s car culture. The result: higher and higher prices.

  • In response to the Arab Oil embargo in the early 1970s, Congress passed national fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks. These standards, known as CAFE standards, short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, required automakers to increase fuel efficiency, which drove up the cost of vehicles.View Source
  • Despite the savings in fueling costs, these regulations have ended up costing American consumers more money. In fact, just the new regulations imposed in the Obama-era drove car cost up by an average of $4,000 per new vehicle.View Source
  • WATCH: Lauren Fix on the Cost of New Fuel Economy StandardsView Source

New CAFE standards push automakers to produce more electric cars, a lose for both automakers and consumers.

  • According to a study from the consulting firm Arthur D. Little, electric vehicles cost significantly more to operate over their lifetime than comparable gasoline-powered cars -- around $20,000 more.View Source
  • The Nissan Leaf, the top selling electric vehicle currently on the market, has a range of 80 miles, making long trips impossible. At $29,000 and $5,000 more for a 107 mile battery pack, the car is far more expensive than similarly sized and outfitted gas models.View Source
  • Over twenty years, electric vehicles cost on average 44% more for compact and 60% more for mid-size.View Source

Over-regulation of cars punishes American consumers. A new car is about $4,000 more than it needs to be because of Obama-era regulations.

  • Obama’s new regulations were estimated to cost automakers $8.5 billion.View Source
  • In 2009, the Obama administration sought to dramatically increase CAFE requirements. These Obama-era standards make cars more expensive—around $4,000 per new vehicle. This prices millions of middle-class families out of the new car market.View Source
  • WATCH: Lauren Fix on the Cost of New Fuel Economy StandardsView Source

Electric cars end up costing consumers more, not less, over the life of the vehicle. One study found they cost 44-60% more over 20 years.

  • Electric cars are not only more expensive at the dealership. Over twenty years, electric vehicles cost on average 44% more for compact and 60% more for mid-size.View Source
  • According to a study from the consulting firm Arthur D. Little, electric vehicles cost significantly more to operate over their lifetime than comparable gasoline-powered cars -- around $20,000 more.View Source
  • A report by Edmunds concluded that ending subsidies on electric cars would likely kill the electric vehicle market.View Source

Ironically, new “environment-friendly” CAFE standards for vehicles likely hurt the environment more than they help. 

  • New CAFE standards hurt the environment because they encourage automakers to produce more electric vehicles, which produce three times as much toxic pollution as gas powered vehicles when you factor in the mining of rare earth minerals that electric car batteries require.View Source
  • The cost of producing an electric car is 30,000 pounds of carbon emissions into the environment. This is the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel. Gas-powered cars cost 14,000 pounds of carbon to build.View Source
  • According to the EPA, the impacts of current lithium ion batteries include “resource depletion, global warming, ecological toxicity, and human health impacts.”View Source

Are electric cars better for the environment? One study found their environmental impacts are “indistinguishable” from diesel vehicles’. 

  • A 2012 study in the Journal of Industrial Ecology found that the environmental impacts of an electric vehicle were “indistinguishable from those of a diesel vehicle.”View Source
  • WATCH: Lauren Fix on the Cost of New Fuel Economy StandardsView Source

If consumers want electric cars so much, why does the market depend so much on government subsidies?

  • As of 2017, electric cars make up only 0.2 percent of all the light passenger vehicles in the world.View Source
  • Consumer demand for electric vehicles is low, but Democrat run cities have attempted show demand for electric vehicles by ordering 10 billion dollars-worth with taxpayer money.View Source
  • The federal government has tried to increase demand for electric vehicles by offering up to $7,500 in tax credits.View Source
  • Georgia offered its residents a $5,000 tax credit for electric vehicles in addition to the $7,500 federal credit. When the subsidy went away, Georgia went from 17% of all US sales to 2%.View Source
  • California, which accounted for more than half of the US’s electric car sales in 2016, requires that automaker's sell a certain percentage of Zero Emission Vehicles.View Source
  • China is considering the same approach nationwide, requiring that 8% of automakers’ sales be electric vehicles.View Source
  • As a penalty for an emissions cheating scandal, Volkswagen was forced to “invest” 2 billion dollars into electric vehicle technology.View Source

Tesla is an example of a successful electric car company, right? Actually, it’s only doing well because it’s heavily subsidized.  

  • Tesla is heavily subsidized by environmental credits and tax credits for drivers.View Source
  • A report by Edmunds concluded that ending subsidies on electric cars would likely kill the electric vehicle market.View Source
  • WATCH: Lauren Fix on the Cost of New Fuel Economy StandardsView Source

The U.S. has a far lower selection of cars than it could have. The reason: overly stringent government regulation.   

  • The U.S. has a low selection of cars compared to the rest of the world. The culprit: regulation. Cars must pass extensive crash test and emission standards in the US, even if they are considered safe by much of the world.View Source
  • Why are so many modern cars designed similarly? Because of pedestrian protection regulations.View Source
  • Trying to import cars, even low-volume collector cars, from other countries is difficult and is subject to arbitrary laws, such as a 25-year age minimum.View Source

Why are new cars so overpriced? Because of over-regulation. The new regulations imposed under Obama cost automakers $8.5 billion.

  • Obama’s new regulations are estimated to have cost automakers $8.5 billion.View Source
  • In 2009, the Obama administration sought to dramatically increase CAFE requirements. These Obama-era standards make cars more expensive—around $4,000 per new vehicle. This prices millions of middle-class families out of the new car market.View Source
  • WATCH: Lauren Fix on the Cost of New Fuel Economy StandardsView Source

Despite government efforts, Americans are driving cars—especially SUVs and trucks—more than ever. 

  • Americans drove more than ever in 2016.View Source
  • Americans bought more than 10 million trucks and SUVs in 2016.View Source
  • Although the government continues to invest heavily in public transport, Americans would rather drive. The amount of trips taken on public transport from 1980 to 2012 fell about 20% while driving increased the same amount.View Source
  • This increase in driving comes despite government efforts to discourage the use of cars. For example, in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of DC, encourages people to adopt a “car-free diet” and live in one of the county’s “urban villages.”View Source
  • Seattle plans to “aggressively” discourage driving by limiting parking spots, even though cars are “an unavoidable part of work and life for most people,” according to the Seattle Times.View Source
  • A 2017 bill before the city council in DC would force employers to pay workers who didn’t take cars to work.View Source
  • Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino once declared, “the car is no longer king” before banning all cars in a popular downtown shopping district.View Source

We may be witnessing the death of America’s car culture.

And it’s not dying of old age.

People are still buying lots of cars. But there’s been a concerted push by government bureaucrats and environmentalists to transform car ownership from a source of pride to a source of guilt.

Ever since Henry Ford built the Model T, cars have been central to the American experience. That’s because cars are more than just another way to get from point A to point B.

They allow us to go wherever we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want. Think about it: with trains, planes, and buses, the routes are planned and the schedule is timed. Only cars allow you to be spontaneous. When you get behind the wheel, you are in control. You are free.

The very reason people love cars – personal freedom -- is also why regulators can't stand them. Government – at all levels – craves control. And when it comes to your car, they want you off the road. So do the environmentalists with whom they have made common cause.

This antagonism toward America’s car culture can be traced back to the 1970s. In response to the Arab Oil Embargo in the early part of that decade, Congress passed national fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks. These standards, known as CAFE (short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy), forced automakers to increase fuel efficiency.

Rather than let the free market decide what kind of cars customers wanted to buy, the government decided to do the dictating. Their regulations have cost car companies and consumers many billions of dollars. But in the last decade or so, the government’s heavy hand has come down harder than ever.

Beginning in 2009, the Obama administration sought to dramatically increase CAFE requirements. These Obama-era standards make cars more expensive—around $4,000 per new vehicle, according to economists Salim Furth and David Kreutzer. This prices millions of middle-class families out of the new car market.

The regulations also encourage the production of smaller, lighter cars, that are generally less safe than larger, heavier ones. The laws of physics are tough to argue with!

To make matters worse, the new CAFE standards push automakers to produce more electric cars, a lose-lose for consumers and, ironically, the environment as well.

Consumers lose because, according to a study from the consulting firm Arthur D. Little, electric vehicles cost significantly more to operate over their lifetime than comparable gasoline-powered cars -- around $20,000 more. And the environment loses because electric vehicles produce three times as much toxic pollution as gas powered ones when you factor in the mining of rare earth minerals that electric car batteries require. And this doesn’t include the environmental consequences involved in ultimately disposing of these batteries.

Adding insult to injury, a typical electric car gets fewer than 100 miles per charge and can take 4 to 8 hours to fully charge the battery. So much for the freedom of the open road. Maybe that explains why consumers have shown scant interest in these cars, despite hefty government subsidies and privileges.

Still the regulators, bureaucrats and environmentalists persist. 

Urban planners are adding bike lanes, reducing parking spots, and pouring billions into more public transportation— all to get people out of their cars. 

Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino once declared, “The car is no longer king” before banning all cars in a popular downtown shopping district. Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of DC, actually encourages people to adopt a “car-free diet” and live in one of the county’s “urban villages.” Seattle, meanwhile, plans to “aggressively” discourage driving by limiting parking spots, even though cars are “an unavoidable part of work and life for most people,” according to the Seattle Times.

Time will tell if these regulations and strategies will work. Americans are explorers. We value our independence, and we’ve never been good at staying put, or being told where to go and at what time.

Maybe that’s why, despite the government’s best laid plans, sales of trucks and SUVs are breaking records as low gasoline prices inspire people to drive more and buy bigger vehicles.

Why shouldn’t they?

Personal car ownership is part of America’s fabric. It brings people together, and makes this big country of ours seem a little smaller… and more free.

America’s car culture isn’t dead…yet. So long as Americans still want to live in the Land of the Free, America’s car culture will never die.

I’m Lauren Fix for Prager University.

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