This is what bad government regulation really looks like.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/02/an-inside-account-of-trumps-fuel-economy-debacle/606346/

This is a long and sober article but worth the effort to read. In a nutshell it covers the long and successful history of the regulation of tailpipe emissions and the efforts of the Trump administration to roll them back.

One of the major takeaways from the story is the importance of peer-reviewed, evidence-based work in setting policy. The scientific and economic studies done by Team Trump to justify the rollbacks are junk science and were known to be such two years ago. They are full of very dubious assumptions and horrendous mathematical errors. But still the rollbacks moved forward.

Too bad. For Trump. The political hacks put in charge of policy seem not to understand that changes in government regulations have to be justified objectively and the deeply flawed analyses they based these changes on makes it unlikely that the new tailpipe regulations will survive court challenges.

14 thoughts on “This is what bad government regulation really looks like.

  1. Good read; that’s what corruption looks like.

    It’s all about the money saved and therefor made by big business.

    “They” could give a rats ass about our children’s children’s children….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Clearly, Trump needs to cut the EPA some more, still too many Obama holdovers there.

    The basis of this is a feud between the EPA and the NHTSA. When the NHTSA was making the rules, they took safety and the marketplace into account. The EPA does not, it sees only CO2.

    The result were rules coming for 2025 that were totally unrealistic. You could make cars for city people to commute and shop, but they would be too small and light to be safe in the highways, especially the smaller, 2 lane country roads. Further, they would be inadequate for the needs of country folk.

    But the EPA doesn’t care about people in fly-over country.

    The result will not be what the EPA expects. CO2 will increase as people keep their older SUVs and trucks on the road as long as they can, as replacements under the EPA rule would be unnaffordable if you could get one at all.

    TO give an example. my son’s newer Chevy Suburban(which, as a scoutmaster, he needs) gets much better gas mileage than my 20 year old Jeep even though it is twice as big. I can’t afford to replace my Jeep(but since I only put about 5000 miles a year on it, using it only to go fishing or hunting, it doesn’t use much fuel)

    But there are millions of people in fly-over country doing the same thing, driving vehicles long past their replacement date because a new pickup costs $80,000

    Blindly meddling in the marketplace always has adverse unintended consequences.

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    1. “basis of this is a feud between the EPA and the NHTSA”

      Naw, it is a feud between THIS corrupt version of the EPA and science.

      Interesting attempt at a justifying analogy, but it falls apart on multiple levels. No one NEEDS a Suburban (apologies to your son) or an $80k pickup. And while big business would disagree, market place “meddling is sometimes needed for the common good.

      Using hyperbole to try to make a point indicates the weakness of the A position…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ahh, so now YOU are the arbiter of what my son and I need. You should get a job with the EPA.

        A Prius is not going to get the Scout Troop’s gear out into the field, not even with a trailer. Nor will it get my boat to Bobs to launch. It will not get a farmer’s fencing supplies out into his field or a plumber’s tools to his job.

        Real people live out in fly-over country and they, not you, determine what they need.

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        1. What you both need, no. What should be available for use, perhaps.

          Don’t obfuscate, the point was the “common good” and the need to make better decisions.

          I’d be better at the EPA in my sleep than the corrupt clowns leading it currently.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. What is needed and what is available are a distinction without a difference.

            My version of the ‘common good’ is a marketplace where I am free to choose, not have my choices dictated by bureaucrats whose lives are very different from mine.

            Like

          2. Actually, I would opine that it is a “distinction” that IS the difference.

            If the science is used to limit the manufacture of high-end polluting vehicles your choices would be more limited, but you would still have one.

            Don’t worry they’re not coming to confiscate your Jeep or sonny’s school bus…

            Liked by 2 people

  3. @Tabor

    I am going to pull one of your favorite tricks and ask . . . “You didn’t read the article, did you?”

    Because if you did, you sure missed several key points. For example, this statement . . .

    “When the NHTSA was making the rules, they took safety and the marketplace into account. ” shows you missed a very basic point described in some detail . . . The NHTSA has ALWAYS made the rules and still does. The defined role of the EPA is to do the measurements and the required science for good rule making.

    What is new now is that in their zeal to find a reason to roll back mileage standards, the Trump zealots concocted a laughably inaccurate model to “prove” benefits that are not there. So, sure the scientists and economists at EPA did indeed get into a dispute with the Trump hacks leading the NHTSA and for very good reasons nothing to do with their druthers except that they would druther base policy on good science.

    By the way, the mileage improvements you cite – SUV vs Jeep – are in significant part because of government action guiding the market.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The major takeaway for me is that regulatory bureaucracies are a poor venue for science. There is no shortage of peer review in the story The Atlantic tells. There is, however, a clear shortage of collegial culture, which is only to be expected in an environment where powerful economic interests are in play.

    The lesson we should learn is that science and regulatory authority should not be vested in the same organization.

    Like

    1. @Roberts

      “The lesson we should learn is that science and regulatory authority should not be vested in the same organization.”

      Maybe you did not read the story either. What you say we should learn is what has been the case for decades. The NHTSA writes the rules, EPA provides the science. That has been the arrangement for decades. The overall point of the article is that these two agencies HAVE acted collegially and effectively for decades. It is only with the arrival of Trump and his minions with their disdain for science that the collegiality has broken down.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. RE: “It is only with the arrival of Trump and his minions with their disdain for science that the collegiality has broken down.”

      I don’t see it that way. As reported in the story, turf wars between the two agencies became inevitable a long time ago: “So Congress split the difference. In 1975, it put NHTSA in charge of setting fuel-economy standards, but the EPA in charge of measuring them. From the very beginning, NHTSA needed the EPA’s data to do its job. It was the beginning of a corrosive rivalry between the two agencies.”

      Trump may have been the catalyst for the current battle, but mixing politics and science is the real error citizens should note.

      Like

      1. @Roberts

        Of course a rivalry could not develop if only one agency was involved. But the history, as reported in the story, was one of effective cooperation until Trump came along.

        With that said, I would be interested to know what you think you mean when you opine that mixing politics and science is an error? Are you saying that policy making does not need the input of science? Or, in this case that the EPA should have had both the science role and the regulatory role?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. RE: “I would be interested to know what you think you mean when you opine that mixing politics and science is an error?”

        Broadly speaking I have in mind the cautionary tale told in Atlas Shrugged, in which the State Science Institute became a corrupt tool of political power.

        RE: “Are you saying that policy making does not need the input of science? Or, in this case that the EPA should have had both the science role and the regulatory role?”

        Neither. I believe that good science is necessary for good policy making, but that a regulatory agency is more likely to conduct bad science than otherwise. The EPA should do one or the other, but not both. My preference would be to strip the EPA of its regulatory function and let the courts handle environmental disputes with access to better quality science.

        Like

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