|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Easterbrook Gets Cars Wrong
Gregg Easterbrook's blog today looks at why your car should be less powerful. Easterbrook makes the valid point that car companies have been increasing horsepower as they increase power train efficiency, since there's been no federal requirement to increase fuel efficiency. Since fuel economy needs to increase, Easterbrook wants to regulate engine horsepower. Here's the money quote:
Ok, Gregg, I don't know if you've actually driven outside of the DC area. There are some nice rural areas nearby, kept that way by a Montgomery County government determined to make sure that locally grown corn continues to stand in the way of a better Potomac River crossing on US-15. Maybe they're hoping for an ethanol contract. Drive to them sometime. Because there's a whole country out there where people drive, where they are no traffic lights.
Out here in Colorado, for instance, we have these things called "mountains." Sometimes they have lots of snow on them, and we can't drive up them. But much of the year, we like driving from Denver to other parts of the state, or even the country, and to do that, we need to drive over these "mountains." They're steep. They're tall. And if you want to get to Grand Junction while it's still daylight, you want to traverse them in a V-6. Try to cross I-70 in a V-4, and you'll not only get out to see if you've stopped, you probably will have stopped.
Also, there are these large states out here called "Montana" and "Texas" and "Nevada." Parts of these states are stunningly beautiful. Other parts of these states are best seen from a) 30,000 ft., or b) at night at 90 MPH. If I need to cover 700 miles, that 20 MPH is the difference between arriving in time to get some sleep, or arriving in time to wake up. Believe it or not, this is actually an issue for thousands of people in business. It's also an issue for millions of people who take vacations.
As for the leadfoots you hope to regulate into sedation: forget it. I realize that many people who like government regulation have only a tenuous grasp on the fundamentals of human nature, but stay with me here. If you take a raging, over-caffeinated, maniac with a V-6 or an SUV, and take away pickup and acceleration from him, you're going to get a more enraged maniac, hell-bent on endangering more lives. I am a much calmer driver with my Contour V-6 than I ever was with my Escort V-4. This had nothing whatsoever to do with the car. It had everything to do with my deciding that I really couldn't go through all the cars in front of me. In any case, if you power down all the cars, the maniac will have his advantage right back.