John Stossel
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President Obama has declared that auto companies' fleets must average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, almost double the current 27.5. Standing at his side when he made the announcement were executives from the Big Three automakers.

The New York Times reported: "It is an extraordinary shift in the relationship between the companies and Washington. But a lot has happened in the last four years, notably the $80 billion federal bailout of General Motors, Chrysler and scores of their suppliers, which removed any itch for a politically charged battle from the carmakers."

Right. They're happy to agree to stupid rules, since they are now dependent on government favors.

Obama said that under his new rule, "everyone wins. Consumers pay less for fuel, the economy as a whole runs more efficiently."

Sounds impressive, but he didn't mention the costs. The Center for Automotive Research says the new standard will raise the price of cars by about $7,000. You'd need to save a lot on fuel to break even.

But that's not the worst of it. The new rules will kill people.

Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explained this to me. The MPG standard "has been killing people for the last 30 years," Kazman said.

How can that be?

"It forces cars to be ... made smaller and lighter. ... They are simply worse in just about every type of auto collision."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration actually backs Kazman up. It estimates that smaller cars are responsible for an additional 2,000 deaths each year.

Imagine that -- a government safety agency promotes a rule that kills people.

"Think about the minute risks that agencies like Environmental Protection Agency go into a tizzy about. ... If any private product had a death toll one fraction of what the miles-per-gallon rules cost, that product would have been yanked off the market years ago."

Do we at least end up using less gasoline and saving money?

No, given the increased upfront cost of the car. "It is not clear that it saves people money," Kazman said. "If these technologies in fact save people money, you don't need a government law to force them down people's throats."

Right. We're not stupid.

Bob Deans of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of America's biggest environmental groups, said that Kazman and I are wrong.

"Cars like the Chevy Cruise -- 42 miles per gallon -- get top marks on safety. The Ford Focus, more than 40 miles per gallon -- top marks in safety. We're getting safer cars, and they're not coming at the expense of fuel efficiency."

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John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate