Doomsayers, CAFE & Junk Science

by Ed Newman
Marketing & Advertising Manager, AMSOIL INC.

Pick up a newspaper and somewhere somehow in some way someone is ringing an alarm about some threat to our mortal existence and to life as we know it. Whether it's global warming or America's propensity for big cars, we have much to be distressed about, and we'd better take action or we're doomed. So they say.

This doomsaying is nothing new. In 1972 the Club of Rome, an international think tank with good PR connections, expressed alarm over our accelerating industrialization, rapid population growth, widespread malnutrition, depletion of nonrenewable resources, and our deteriorating environment. Thi litany of concerns became a mantra for well meaning enthusiasts of the global cause.

Yet thirty years later, what do we find? We have not run out of natural resources, as predicted. Industrialization has not destroyed the world. Nor are we staggering under the burden of catastrophic over-population. In fact, a recent study issued by the United Nations Population Division has now declared that the world is not going to suffer from ever-growing over-population. Population growth rates are stabilizing and, in many countries, actually declining.

How about the dreaded oil shortages we heard so much about? Newspapers and radio talk show hosts still bring it up now and then as if this, too, were an inevitability. Though not widely known about, research is now showing that oil does not come from decayed vegetation and dinosaurs but from the core of the earth itself. (Review the work of Dr. Thomas Gold.) Strangely enough, we remain dependent on foreign oil because the same doomsayers who tell us we're going to run out are pushing legislation that won't allow us to take from the earth what is right there beneath our feet.

And finally, we come to that big bugaboo, Global Warming. Scientific fact or junk science fiction? Are we experiencing a period of global warming or not? Arguments can be cited for both positions. The true believers have already concluded that we are not only experiencing this peril to our existence, they know the causes of it and we must act now. Although a
convincing case has not been made, the doomsayers act as if we don't act immediately we are forever lost.

The problem isn't that we should not be concerned. But let's make decisions based on facts. Plenty of harm has already been done by arbitrary legislation and premature urgency.

CAFE requirements were originally a reaction to the 1973 Arab oil embargo, which caused long lines at the pumps, skyrocketing fuel prices and shootings at gas stations. The thinking on the part of government was that if we used
less gas we'd be less vulnerable should there be another OPEC squeeze. A secondary goal was to help lower gasoline prices by reducing demand.

According to Joseph Bast, President of The Heartland Institute, higher CAFE standards do not result in less fuel consumption. People who get more miles per gallon end up driving more miles. So the benefit, it seems, is a wash.

Some people believe that CAFÉ also has something to do with helping reduce greenhouse gases that purportedly contribute to global warming. Bast points out that higher CAFE standards won't lead to cleaner air and will have a negligible effect on global greenhouse gas emissions, at a cost 50 times greater than the least expensive alternative.

Here's something to consider. According to the Environmental Protection Agency all U.S. cars and light trucks subject to CAFE standards make up only 1.5 percent of all global man-made greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, even if our cars and trucks created zero emissions, the total impact on global greenhouse gases would be negligible. Once again, how serious is the problem? Scientists are not in agreement at all, yet SUV drivers are supposed to hang their heads in shame for their callousness regarding environmental safety.

Contrary to popular belief, fuel economy is not a clean air issue anyway. Better fuel economy for the U.S. fleet of cars and light trucks will not bring promised improvements in air quality, because there is little if any correlation between vehicle fuel economy and harmful tailpipe emissions.

A National Academy of Sciences report states: "Fuel economy improvements will not directly affect vehicle emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and NOx because emissions standards (in grams per mile) are identical for every passenger car or light truck, as appropriate, regardless of fuel economy."

In short, whether you have high mileage or low mileage cars and light trucks the same emissions issues apply for all. Requiring that motorists switch to smaller, higher-mpg vehicles, will not reduce auto emissions. It only results in more motorists being killed. This is well documented, though seldom talked about. CAFE has resulted in thousands of additional highway deaths per year because lighter cars and trucks are less safe (all things considered) than heavier ones.

My question is this: Why the urgency? Thirty years ago these same people made dire predictions about the end of the world, and those predictions did not happen. Why should we give up our common sense and kowtow to their urgent commotions yet again? We have time to think these things through.

The auto industry has already made much progress. Vehicle emissions have been reduced by 90% in recent years and the smokestack scenes of 1905 Pittsburgh are gone forever. Yet, going forward, we can't rest on what's been achieved. Here are a few things we in the quick lube industry can do.

1. Be proactive and support good legislation. Whether through AOCA lobbying efforts or individual research and letter writing, our voice needs to be heard, both in Washington and amongst our local legislators who do not often hear our side of the story.

2. Be environmentally conscientious. Make sure our industry doesn't look like it doesn't care. Be an example in your community.

3. Understand the environmental benefits of synthetic motor oils, including better fuel economy and extended drain intervals.

4. Promote other ways we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil besides excessive legislation. Teach customers the importance of maintaining proper tire pressure, paying attention to how they drive, minimizing use of air conditioning when able, removing excessive weight from the trunk, and minimizing idling.

The Chicken Littles of the world have it wrong. The biggest threat to our future is not pollution. It's unfettered government intervention. If we each do our part, legislators might be persuaded to turn their attention to more urgent concerns.

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1. Research and Commentary on CAFÉ Standards, Joseph Bast
2. Coalition for Vehicle Choice, "CAFE and Environment: False Promises,"
Issue Brief
3. Time to Fight the CAFÉ Leviathan, James Taylor

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