Stupidest Sentence of the Day

Posted by: David Kiley on March 30, 2006

….comes from The Wall Street Journal story about the new fuel economy regulation for sport utility vehicles

Quote:
But the rules prompted environmentalists to question President Bush’s commitment to reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. “Gas prices went up, we had two hurricanes and the president admitted we were addicted to oil, and yet we couldn’t get anything more out of them?” said David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “To me, it defies logic.” Others question the program’s effectiveness, saying that when vehicles become more fuel-efficient, people simply drive more.

The boldface sentence above is not attributed to David Friedman, a smart guy. It’s unattributed. I only included Friedman’s comments for context. But it is nonsense to assert that people will drive more than they otherwise would when they have a more fuel efficient vehicle. Who is the person that says…Gee, I think I’ll drive to the 7-11 again now because I have a hybrid. I don’t need anything, but hey, I have a more fuel efficient vehicle, so let the good times roll.

Nonsense.

Reader Comments

Roland

March 30, 2006 9:01 PM

I first saw the smart in St. Martin about 4 or 5 years ago and grinned from ear to ear wishing I could buy one in the states. I just returned from the Azores and saw not only more Smart cars but a whole host of small vehicles made by various european mfgs. We truly have our head in the sand.

Rob

April 1, 2006 10:54 PM

Once again, you failed to do your homework. There are many economic surveys that indicate that people are more likely to "joyride" if their vehicle is more fuel effecient. They tend to gravitate to a condition of budget equilibrium (i.e., spending $175 per month for gas, regardless of the vehicle's efficiency). A large vehicle causes them to restrict driving to bare necessity, while the more efficient vehicle can make them less careful in their habits. After your latest statement, the one you highlighted now falls to Second Stupidest Statement

Frank Waligora

April 2, 2006 4:30 PM

You missed the point. Its not that people will make an extra trips for no reason, but rather that they will make the trips (to anywhere) in their personal cars as opposed to taking public transportation, car pooling, or some other means or getting there.

Face it, if one needs to travel less than 200 or 300 miles, there is no faster way to travel than a car. When gas prices are through the roof, maybe I'll try something else, but when prices are reasonable, you bet I'll be in my car.

Gary Coleman

April 2, 2006 9:17 PM

And if you get whallopped by a Tahoe while driving a SmartCar, it can double as your coffin. Think of the money you'll save!

Nathan

April 4, 2006 2:47 PM

David,

Stick to car talk and stay away from economics, because I would be one of those people, who agrees that when you lower the cost of something, people consume more of it, given all other things being equal.

F Waligora

April 6, 2006 7:36 AM

You missed the point of the comment made in the WSJ article. People will indeed drive more; not extra trips to 7-11, but rather driving personal vehicles vs. taking public transportation, car pooling, or any other means of transportation. Why would people want to sit on a crappy city bus w/ a group of strangers, or carpool all over town before getting to their destination, when they could hop in their own car, leave on their own schedule, and get there a ton faster? Now, where are my car keys? I need to go...

Chris

April 10, 2006 11:07 AM

Dave,

Since CAFE was enacted in the mid 1970s, miles driven has in fact doubled (fuel economy improved, too, as you can imagine). The question is not whether its true, but whether increased efficiency caused an increase in miles driven. Correlation doesn't equal causation. But it stands to reason that of course people will drive more if it costs them less. This is precisely what happened over the last 25 years. If people were paying five dollars a gallon (or still driving horrifically inefficient vehicles from the 1970s), do you really think people would be willing to live 60 miles from work in some instances without mass transit?

kiley

April 18, 2006 1:08 PM

yes i do

kiley

April 18, 2006 1:11 PM

I dispute your assertion. People do not drive less because of the cost of gasoline. People who live in the NYC area take the bus and train instead of driving becaise of the cost of parking and the time it takes to snake through a few tunnels and bridges.
In Washington DC, the same thing. Buses that get to use the bus lanes get to DC faster from Loudon County, Va. It isn't the cost of gas.

kiley

April 18, 2006 1:18 PM

My comment was related to this....if someone owns a Suburban, and gas goes to $4.00 and stay there, I don't believe that the person will drive less. What might very well happen is that person, when his lease is up or he or she has had enough, will trade that Suburban (assuming it was a vanity purchase and not a vehicle to two horse trailers or a boat) and will buy a more fuel efficient vehicle.

But I stand by my assertion that when gas prices go up, a guy who is hell-bent on driving a Yukon or Excursion, or even someone already driving a fuel efficient car, is not going to drive less.

kiley

April 18, 2006 1:21 PM

Great. So, since all these people have been buying Tahoes, Yukons, Suburbans, Hummers, Excursions who don't need them, but bought them for vanity, we all need to buy them in case we get hit by one?

I can't sign up for that.

kiley

April 18, 2006 1:27 PM

Look sparky. There are lies. Damned lies. And there are statistics.

My comment was about human behavior. Sustained high gas prices may make someone eventually trade their guzzler SUV for a car or crossover, but in the short term, very very very few people actually curb their driving when gas goes from $2.00 to $2.75. They go where they have to go or need to go.

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