The Trump administration is embracing a curious — and some would say dated — argument as it builds its case to weaken federal rules championed by California that require cars and SUVs to average 55 miles per gallon by 2025. It is warning that the fuel-efficiency targets, seen by most as key to meeting climate and air quality goals in California and nationwide, could actually end up killing people.
….The agency is preparing to make the case that tough fuel economy rules could effectively force automakers to sell smaller, lighter and thus less crash-worthy vehicles. That, in turn, would lead to more crash-related deaths. And it warns the rules could drive up the cost of cars to the point that consumers will put off buying new, safer models equipped with life-saving technology improvements.
This is only a “curious” argument if you don’t understand its audience. The aim here is not to build a case for the process of repealing the Obama fuel-economy rules. The aim is to appeal to Trump’s base, which has long held this theory to be gospel truth. When I’m on the road, I want a couple of tons of metal between me and the rest of the idiots.
The kernel of truth here is that all else being equal, if a big car smashes into a little car, the big car will take less damage. However, as long as cars are, on average, all getting bigger or smaller at the same time, there’s no change in overall safety.
But that doesn’t matter. The Trump base will slam down its beer and say it’s about time someone gets it. The usual suspects will write op-eds making the case that Trump’s EPA is right. John Lott will whip up a statistical study to prove that fuel economy kills. David Roberts will write 5,000 words at Vox explaining why Lott is wrong. And then the whole thing will be forgotten.