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EPA Fuel Efficiency Standards: Goals Are Not Policies – OpEd

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The EPA issued new rules requiring the average fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. President Obama said, “These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” The new standard is a goal, not a policy. The announcement of this goal does not specify how it will be accomplished, and does not explain how the Obama administration can hope to enforce it. If the president is re-elected in November, this goal applies nine years after his second term will have ended.

EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C
EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C

I commented on this specific announcement because it came out today, but my complaint is a general one. Too often, politicians announce goals as if they are policies, but goals without policies to accomplish them are nothing more than wishful thinking.

President Obama said the new standards are “the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” How does announcing that we hope our vehicles have better gas mileage by 2025 do anything to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? If the president seriously believes that announcing a goal he hopes we’ll meet in 13 years is the single most important step we’ve taken, that is a damning indictment of everything we’ve done in the past.

For statements about what politicians hope to accomplish to be credible, they have to explain what specific policies they will enact to accomplish those goals. Without specific policies behind them, I’ll say again, goals like this are nothing more than wishful thinking.

Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, past President of the Public Choice Society, and past President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and has taught at Texas A&M University and Auburn University. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute and was a member of the Florida Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

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