I appreciate comments like these that focus on the content of the post.
I agree that fuel economy standards would be incredibly unpopular if they led to vehicles that forced consumers to spend “30% [more] to get better mileage that will make the vehicle smaller, less safe, and 1/2 the horsepower.” However, there is no indication the standards will have such a dramatically negative impact, particularly with that horsepower number. The EPA/NHTSA final rulemaking concludes reports that vehicles should cost $1,870-$2,120 more in 2025 than those today with no change in performance (see the Fact Sheet). I suspect you are skeptical of that finding, so I can refer you to the most critical paper I’m familiar with, the Center for Automotive Research’s “The U.S. Automotive Market and Industry in 2025,” which is says that vehicles would be about 30% more expensive, as you believe, but without any change in horsepower. Finally, it seems really doubtful to me that 13 major automakers could have endorsed the standards if they were likely to lead to such dramatic changes in cost, size and performance as you suggest.
Predicting the impact on vehicles is central to your later comments on recessions and jobs. Depending on the assumptions about vehicles, there easily could be more jobs – if fuel savings outweigh the new cost of vehicles (EPA/NHTSA estimates this to be about $4,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle, at a 7% discount rate), that additional money can go elsewhere in the economy. The industry today is able to have excellent North American profits even though average fuel economy of new vehicles has been steadily increasing and sales are still depressed from their pre-recession levels of around 16 million/year.
The IBD editorial incorrectly states the standards are more aggressive than they actually are. For instance, it’s true that the vehicle window sticker for the smart car says 36 mpg. However, the mileage from the perspective of CAFE standards is significantly higher at around 49 mpg (see equation here). The standards in the 1970s, which were signed by Republican President Ford, not Carter, demanded much faster improvements of about 6.2%/year than those currently proposed, leading to significant vehicle and horsepower downsizing.
As for your point about those who need to tow equipment, vehicles with larger wheelbases are required to meet weaker standards, and the fuel economy increase for light trucks (2.5-2.7%/year initially) is less than it is for cars (3.8-3.9%/year), both of which should minimize the impact. Additionally, since it seems at the end that you just support more modest fuel economy standards, I want to make sure you are aware that there is a built-in “mid-term evaluation” after model year 2021 – in fact, the standards from 2022-2025 are not even legally binding at this point – which could limit or halt further increases if some of the devastating consequences you suggest actually pan out.