Speed and Efficiency (OR Two Birds)

September 9, 2008

I’m late to the party, I know, but I wanted to add another perspective on the whole speed limit thing.

Dave’s Kansas argument is certainly compelling, but all it really means is that Ezra’s limit is too low. Of course, once we start talking about limits in the 90 to 100 mph range then we’re not really making much of a difference.

To me, though, we’re coming at this from the wrong direction. For decades, car manufacturers (particularly those in the US) have taken advantage of low mileage requirements to build bigger, faster cars. Along the way they encouraged an arms race of sorts where the only spec of value is horsepower, which is really about going fast.

If, by some miracle, we establish efficiency standards (or a carbon tax), creating an environment where more value rests in efficiency than top speed or rediculous acceleration, then we also create an environment where cars don’t go as fast. This isn’t to say, or course, that cars should no longer be fun to drive, or go the speeds necessary to pass that truck going downhill. Just that the focus needs to shift from speed to efficiency.

Some cars already represent this shift (the Prius or my beloved TDI), but even they don’t necessarily go far enough, and certainly aren’t common enough. And then, there are the American companies (in this case, Ford) that produce what would be one of the most efficient cars in the country, and choose not to sell it here. I can only imagine it’s because it might tarnish the image of “Ford Tough”.

Bottom line, it’s time to alter the qualities we value in cars, and we need our government to lead the way, since our “free market” companies refuse to actually make the changes the market is beginning to demand.

Circuitous (OR Through the back door?)

July 2, 2008

Matt discusses the merits of regulating horsepower in an effort to improve efficiency, which was presented by David Sandalow:

Regulation, he plausibly argues, could get us out of a horsepower arms race in a way that would have little negative impact on anyone’s life while allowing us to capture technological gains in engine efficiency in terms of reduced fuel consumption rather than in terms of faster cars that let you get to the traffic jam more quickly.

I appreciate the logic here…  and I must say my 90 horsepower car gets me around just fine, but if our objective is to improve efficiency and our tool is regulation, wouldn’t it just make more sense to regulate efficiency?