Click on the graphic at left. When you do, you’ll see one of the car capitalists’ dirty little open secrets: If and when they do finally start to sell more fuel efficient cars, the rate of death on US highways is going to rise beyond its present clip of 40,000+ annual snuff-outs.
That’s because, as the figure shows, the car-makers have been using the increasing efficiency of modern engines to make heavier cars that get about the same MPG as prior generations of lighter cars. So, there has already been some decent progress in making more fuel-efficient gas engines. But the increase has gone almost entirely into making heavier, safer cars, rather than lighter, better-MPG, but substantially deadlier cars. Vehicle mass, you see, is one of the main factors in the survivability of the frequent high-force collisions that inhere in autos-über alles transportation.
In the abstract, of course, some of the heightened danger that would come from making cars lighter and more MPG-efficient could be reduced by having everybody change to smaller, lighter cars all at once. But that isn’t going to happen, because, since it would undoubtedly require strong governmental rules and actions, it would do the one thing the car capitalists fear the most: legitimize autos-über alles as a central topic of popular democratic politics. And, if that ever happens, people might start to ask what alternatives exist. For the overlords of big business, that’s the slipperiest of slopes. Hence, it’s verboten — a topic no responsible, serious “leader” can raise.
What we’re pretty clearly going to get instead is a “bailout” that compels whatever car corporations remain to start using engine efficiency gains for higher MPG results. That will mean a swath of much smaller, lighter vehicles will be on the road, running alongside all the SUVs and heavier current vehicles.
Here’s my prediction: When that change comes online, in the next 5 years or so, the annual death toll on US roads will eclipse 1979’s record of 51,103 killed.
[And note the similarity there in the background circumstances: The worst years on record were the oil crisis years of the late 1970s and early 1980s…]
Change you can die for!
* The American Physical Society’s new energy-efficiency report is well worth studying.