The Multi-Dimensionality of ‘Efficiency’

by Don Boudreaux on September 7, 2010

in Energy, Hubris and humility, Reality Is Not Optional, Regulation, Seen and Unseen

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy explains that her agency is designing a new and improved fuel-economy label for (mandated) placement on all new cars sold in the U.S. (Letters, Sept. 7).

Taking Ms. McCarthy’s advice, I visited the EPA’s website and examined each of the proposed new labels.  I was disappointed to find that a vital piece of information related to fuel economy is missing from both labels – namely, the increased risk of traffic fatalities that result from higher fuel “economy.”  To raise fuel economy, automakers often reduce the weight of their cars, which typically means making cars’ bodies and structural supports out of lighter-weight, weaker metal.  So a car that is more “fuel efficient” will likely also be one that is less “health efficient.”

Because Ms. McCarthy is right that it is “imperative that consumers have more information,” I propose that the new label also explains the magnitude of the increased health risks suffered by automobile occupants as a consequence of government-mandated fuel-efficiency standards.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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