Thursday, December 20, 2007

An Energy Bill that Could Cost Lives

I usually make it a point not to let politics become personal, but with regard to the energy legislation just passed by Congress and agreed to by the President, I have recent relevant experience.

Among other things, the legislation requires new cars to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

Don't get me wrong: fuel conservation is an important value that I have personally emphasized for a long time. While many people have been buying SUV's over the last 10 years, I have been driving sub-compacts. However, conservation is not the only value, and perhaps it is not even the ultimate one.

The best way to improve fuel efficiency is to make cars smaller and lighter. Smaller and lighter cars are also less safe.

After driving Nissan Sentra's for 10 years, in November I purchased a Jaguar X-type. Though still a relatively small car, it weighed more than a thousand pounds more than the Sentra. Obviously, my fuel efficiency was cut by a third.

Two weeks after purchasing the car I rolled over in it and was life flighted to the hospital. There, they stitched me up and sent me home a couple of days later. A month later, except for some stiffness in a shoulder I am fully recovered.

If I had been in the Sentra, it is almost certain I would have died. Without my prompting, numerous people, including some who saw the damage to my car from the wreck, have said to me that the car I was driving may have saved my life.

Again, this is not to say that fuel efficiency is not an important goal -- for both environmental and national security reasons. However, it is not the penultimate consideration.

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