If people wanted cars with great mileage, they’d be buying them

Is it just Murdoc, or is energy conservation one of the most liberal of all issues? (And by liberal, I mean that proponents campaign for other people to give up things for the supposed greater good, i.e. today’s practical definition of “liberal”, not the actual definition.)

Lunatics everywhere think that raising CAFE standards will somehow help gas prices or Global Warming or something. If almost everyone is so positive that higher gas mileage is a good thing, why isn’t almost everyone driving vehicles that get 35 MPG or more? There are a lot of them out there folks, and many of them aren’t too terribly expensive.

Jay Tea at Wizbang writes:

You want fantastic fuel economy? Get rid of the V-8 engine, drive a 6 or a 4 cylinder. Dump the front air bags, the side air bags, the crumple zones, the collapsing steering column, the reinforced body, the bumpers, the seat belts. Lose the leather seats, the air conditioning, the comfortable suspension, the CD player, the DVD player, navigation system, the extra lights. Downsize and lose the giant cargo area, the third row of seats, the roof rack.

Basically, Murdoc is saying that the problem isn’t car manufacturers (who have enough of their own problems these days, thankyouverymuch) but car buyers. It’s those damn people again.

If only we could get those lousy people, their stinking free will, and their freedom to choose their own vehicle out of the equation we could save the planet.

CAFE, of course, is essentially an attempt to circumvent the peoples’ freedom to choose. Not all the people, of course. Just those without the extra cash to circumvent the circumvention.

Instead of tinkering more with CAFE, why not repeal some of the tax breaks that buyers of many of the largest SUV-type vehicles get? Wouldn’t removing incentives to purchase lower-mileage vehicles be a saner approach than requiring manufacturers to comply with laws that will likely raise the prices on regular cars?

The higher gas prices again this summer seem to have done very little so far to alter US drivers’ habits. More fuel efficient vehicles will mean that higher prices will do even less to alter behavior. And healthy amounts of taxation on gas already mean that drivers pay the penalty for less efficient cars and trucks.

If people really wanted high mileage cars, they’d be buying them. If there was money to be made selling high mileage cars, car makers would be building them. High mileage cars are readily available. If they’re the answer, sales will take care of fleet averages.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo of Murdoc’s Dodge Grand Caravan after the deer strike a couple of weeks back:


Not drastic damage, to be sure, but enough to keep the van off the road for a week. On the trip, that van got just over 24 MPG. My wife and I could have taken my Chevy Cavalier (33 MPG) instead, and we would have saved ourselves about 80 or 90 dollars in gas. In fact, I asked about the possibility at one point, but we decided against it for a number of reasons, including the amount of stuff we could carry, the inconvenience of carrying two adult passengers in such a small car, and the greater level of comfort in the larger minivan.

I don’t know exactly what would have happened to my little Cavalier had we hit the deer with it instead of with the van, but I’m positive that I’m happy I spent an extra $90 on gas.


  1. I made the move from my old subaru to a 2007 toyota prius and havnt looked back. Im login the 52mpg average im getting

  2. kiwiruss: That’s great. High mileage cars make sense to me. If they make enough sense to enough people, they’ll sell like hotcakes. Right now, though, my personal situation means that my 35MPG Cavalier is just fine and my 20MPG minivan is right for the family. Sure, I wish the van got 40MPG instead, but not if it cost me an extra $6000 and took out half of the options. With $3 gas it would take me over two and a half years to break even on the $6000. And there’s no $6000 option for a 40MPG minivan that I know of.

  3. I think Dogbert perfectly sums up the liberal approach to conservation. I personally see conservation as a conservative, and a Christian issue (known in such circles as stewardship). Back during WW2, people gave up things for the war effort. They didn’t just put a magnet on their car. They gave up stuff like food, gas, tires, football (yeah, that one had to hurt). They had ‘Victory Gardens’. They did what they could for the war effort, because it was their war. It was not someone else’s war. It was not a Republican or Democrat war. It was not the Afrasican-American war. It was us against them, and we were more than up to kicking their ass. Today we buy precision munitions with our tax dollars, and fund OPEC and Hugo Chavez at the gas pump. This is what the victory garden of the war on terror should look like, but who freaking cares? It’s not my war. If your son dies in it, its probably because he wasn’t smart enough to get into law school, just like John Kerry said. Thankfully I’ve already seared my conscience when it comes to protecting the USA, or I’d feel really bad for screwing over my country on these weapons development corporate welfare programs I’ve been working on for the last quarter century. On the up side, I’ve got that hollow, bitter cynicisim that’s always there for me.

  4. …by liberal, I mean that proponents campaign for other people to give up things for the supposed greater good…’ You’ve certainly summed up liberalism!

  5. Amen to that. I personally am going nuts trying to figure out why Diesel’s arn’t sold more in the US. Everywhere but here, you can get a Diesel Toyota light truck, which will run for damn near ever, but they don’t sell them in the US, at least not since 82 or 83. Not only is it more fuel efficiant, but they are more sturdy, diesel is less volitile and doesn’t break down as fast as gasoline, you can run other fuels like Biodiesel, kerosine, or vegetable oil in them with almost NO modification (in fact the Diesel engine was originally DESIGNED to run on veggie oil), which means your fuel is a renewable resource, and they last longer (much more sturdy engine). But instead of being prevalent here, you have to either go with a few imports (more expensive), or big @$$ trucks (again, more expensive). Okay, so you have to change the filters a little more often, and there are a couple more of them…WHO THE FRACK CARES!!! Okay, sorry for the rant. Flame away, Diesel doesn’t burn easy and I am wearing my nomex.

  6. Personal diesel’s in the US suffer from at least 4 issues: 1) The chicken and the egg problem – gas stations that have diesel are comparatively rare because there are few personal diesel cars. 2) Diesel engines tend to be big, heavy, with a torque and a poor RPM curve. This means they are ideal for heavy machinery, and long haul trucks, but suck in fun to drive department. 3) EPA restrictions – Diesel’s are more efficient then gas engines, but a diesel’s emissions are a lot harsher on the environment. 4) If you live in cold parts of the country, waiting 5 minutes for your glow plugs to get happy is not fun. >>> Now for my personal soap box rant Ok you want to give incentives to people who us hybrids – fine – SO CA gives tax breaks and you get to use the car pool lanes (A HUGE perk) So me being a slave to commute hell view the extra 2500 hundred for a hybrid a worthy deal if I can use the car pool lane. (yes- its not logical, but if you cut 15-20 minutes off my commute I’ll sell you my kids for a buck…) So I buy one. Only to find out that bitter slugs, and liberals (insisting that I should ride the bus) wine to the politicians to get the hybrid out of the car pool lane… bitter bitter … The real point is, until the cost of gas rises to the point that it modifies people buying habits, high mileage cars are not going to be built. With me, the time cost of the commute is high enough that I modified my buying habits, while improved millage was a side benefit the advantage was insufficient to motivate my buying desire.

  7. my car is a 1.4 4 cylinders Citroen and i truly dont need more than that. And it also runs with ethanol.

  8. a) the world is getting warmer, and not in a nice caribbean kind of way.’ Are you sure, Ianiv? Where are you living that is getting uncomfortably hot? I’m in balmy Louisiana and have noticed no change. Have you heard of ocean levels rising? This is a scam on a global level. I’m all for lessening our energy usage, but not for the reason of ‘global warming’. It’s far beyond silly.

  9. VW diesels are pretty good. Their audi division even won the 24 hours of le mans in a diesel. I test drove the diesel jetta and was surprised at how quiet it was. I wanted the diesel passat but they did not offer a diesel in that model when I was purchasing a new car. My friend has a diesel vw and loves it. You don’t need spark plugs and it gets great mileage. I read almost half of all passenger cars in europe are now diesel. I think they are not selling here because states like CA put restrictions on them because of emissions. This is surprising to me because I would think Germany would be more ‘green’ than CA, given that the Greens actually make up a sizeable part of the government. So if the Germans allow them, why won’t CA? If I could get a diesel in the model I like, I would.

  10. I don’t know anything about global warming one way or another. The weather is not my thing, except as it affects my airplanes. What I know is the terrorists we are fighting are funded by oil and drugs. I don’t do drugs, but I do oil. I’d like to do less or none if possible because given the fact that I’m too old and decrepit to go over and kill those bastards with my own hands, it’s right after ‘building kick ass weapons’ in the list of things I can do to them. Are ya’ with me now?

  11. Ianiv – I was in Florida last week – it’s still there. I will believe in global warming when it’s gone. James – The EPA kills diesel cars. There are fun and effecient diesel. The torque of some of the high-end Audi desiels makes for shocking performance.

  12. Global warming is the issue the politicians argue to keep your eye off the fact that they are getting huge kick backs from the Saudis and other oil producing nations. Don’t fall for their bs. National security is the real issue, and the security of our nation dictates we should get off of oil. If we had any leaders who weren’t corrupt, they’d be moving on this issue already. Instead it is just like immigration. The politicians just mouth whatever the money people tell them to say.

  13. If we built numerous nuke plants to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, I would certainly consider at least one electric car. The electric would be used for daily commuting and the old gas-burner reserved for long trips. It will never happen. The oil and agro companies managed to distract moronic politicans with ethanol instead of real alternatives.

  14. You got that right, Bram. One day nuke plants are going to destroy the world, the next it’s carbon. If we’d stuck with the nuke plants and kept building them, we’d be much less dependant on oil now. I want to know why we couldn’t use this technology to power our cars while we’re driving them on the highway? If you had either a hybrid or an electric car it could be getting it’s power from the road itself. Not all roads would have these coils embedded in them, only high traffic streets, highways, and interstates. Seems to me if we were the least bit serious about winning the war on terror, we’d be building nuke plants and switching to electric or hybrid cars. Instead we put on the burden of the war on the backs of young kids who were patriotic enough to join the military. It doesn’t seem like we are fairly sharing the burden of this war.

  15. Quick retort to James before my comments: ‘In a typical diesel engine, the glow plugs are switched on for between 10 and 20 seconds prior to starting. Older, less efficient or worn engines may need as much as a minute (60 seconds) of pre-heating. Large diesel engines as used in heavy construction equipment, ships and locomotives do not need glow plugs. Their cylinders are large enough so that the air in the middle of the cylinder is not in contact with the cold walls of the cylinder, and retains enough heat to allow ignition. Modern automotive diesel engines with electronic injection systems use various methods of altering the timing and style of the injection process to ensure reliable cold-starting. Glow plugs are fitted, but are rarely used for more than a few seconds.’ – Wikipedia, ‘Glow Plugs’ I’d imagine that part of the reluctancy of automaker to sell Diesel models here in the US of A stems from the fact that new (>2004 MY) Diesel cars can’t be sold in California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York or Vermont, major areas for car sales. These are all ostensibly for emissions reasons and I must point out that Diesels have far better carbon emissions than gasoline engines, stemming, I believe, from the diesel being fundamentally thermodynamically more efficient (due to higher compression ratio) than gasoline engines. However, their sulfur emissions are much worse, especially in the US where we are just starting to get the ultra-low sulfur diesel that our European cousins have had for ages. Additionally, the American public generally associates big trucks and clouds of black smoke with diesels, which clearly is not always the case, if you look at a european city you’ll see BMW’s, Mercedes, Audis and others driving around, and you’d only know that they’re burning diesel from the TDI (or equivalent) badge. Regarding the ‘fun to drive’ aspect, Diesels can offer either much higher efficiency at the same performance level or much improved performance at the same fuel efficiency. Take as an example the last version of the TDI Golf sold in the US, vs my 2005 Toyota Corolla. I get ~30-40 mpg (largely due to heavy stop-and-go traffic combined with AC use) with the 4-cyl engine delivering ~130hp and ~100 ftlbs of torque. The Golf is rated for ~40mpg as well, with the 1.9L TDI engine delivering 115hp and 177 ftlbs of torque. And the peak torque and horsepower are at much lower RPM’s than the Corolla, giving it a lot more pep while accelerating. The 2007 Touareg has a V10 TDI option that gets 17/22 mpg while making double the torque of the gasoline engine and over 15% more HP to boot. In short, there’s really no good reason why we don’t have more diesel car’s in the US, other than out-of-date legislation and misplaced public concern. I’d personally love a diesel-electric hybrid pickup (multi kilowatt generator for powertools, anyone?) and a small diesel car (Rabbit, Focus etc) for commuting.

  16. I drove a 1980 diesel VW Rabbit for several years in the late 1980s. It seemed to perform more or less like an equivalent gas-powered car of that type would perform.

  17. There is a technical error in your statement, Alex. The Diesel cycle has a lower thermodynamic efficiency than the Otto cycle because it has a lower peak compression ratio. The peak cycle compression ratio is determined by the amount of pressure that can be put behind the fuel as it is fed into the cylinder. The higher that pressure is, the closer the peak pressure of the Diesel cycle can approximate that of an Otto cycle engine and the more thermodynamic efficiency it can produce.

  18. I recognize that nuke plants aren’t perfect, and that their electricity isn’t even as cheap as advertised if you factor in realistic maintenance and deactivation costs. ‘So what, though?’ is Murdoc’s question. Build nuke plants. Not five or ten. Fifty. At some point, petroleum is going to be saved for the military. I don’t mind seeing alternatives, even ethanol (though I’ll sure be happy when fiber/waste-based ethanol is available) and I’ve long been hopeful of oil shale/sands. Unless one of them (or maybe biodiesel…it’s so hard to know for sure) pans out, it’s nuke city and electric cars. Could be a lot worse. Still, it’s going to take financially-possible alternatively powered cars for most of us before things really get rolling.

  19. Honda is going to launch its 2008 Accord for the States this fall. According to the rumors I have heard it will be equipped with a 3.6 V6 Diesel engine that will comply with the toughest regulations there. I am not a Diesel fan, but I have to admit that these engines improved very much in the latest years. Yet, a Diesel car is very fuel efficient when you are driving it on the highway, not in the city. I am living in Europe, and I can tell you that a Diesel car with 140 hp (TDI brand) is as fuel efficient as my 114 hp gasoline Honda Civic, when driven in the city. In spite of that fact, the Diesel engines are so much used in Europe, and almost not at all in US, where they could deliver their potential. Still, I believe that the future belongs to hybrid (perhaps Diesel-electric), and fuel cell car. Regarding the ethanol, I think it is one of the dumbest ideas ever. But it could be only me…

  20. Ditto. Ethanol just doesn’t work right. Again, Diesel engines were originally designed to run on vegetable oil. How many gallons of veggie oil have to be disposed of a year by fast food deep friers that could be recycled into fuel…and much cheaper than trying to crack gasoline out of crude oil?

  21. We will never get off oil as long as our politicians are being bought and sold by terrorists. There are lots of technologies cheaper right now than Middle Eastern oil, but they lay undeveloped because of the lobby the terrorists have in Washington DC. We have the technology right now to crack cellulose into sugar and make alcohol, but no one is going to invest in it because it goes against two big lobbies, farming and oil. We’ve got to get our government back under our control first, then we can fix a lot of things, like immigration, energy, and defense.

  22. IMHO, the alternative energy and the technologies to produce this energy could have been available long time ago. These are clearly delayed by the big oil companies that are making their fortune from selling gasoline, not from selling hydrogen fuel. But I am still confident that we will find a new energy source (much cheaper, and less polluting) immediately when the reserves of petrol will be over. BTW, I am wondering: why are you complaining about the gasoline price? In my country, as well as in most countries from Europe, the price for both gasoline and Diesel is 5.5 $ per gallon. Isn’t nice?

  23. Who is complaining about the price? It’s crap like this that I’m complaining about: President Hugo Ch+