Better to control through blunt force than through individual receptiveness to economic pain, right?
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to look into what speed limit would provide optimum gasoline efficiency given current technology. He said he wants to know if the administration might support efforts in Congress to require a lower speed limit.
Will that be broken out by make and model? Will we next proceed to mandatory speed limits built into cars sold in America? Does it matter, as long as Congress gets to Do Something?
Warner asked the department to determine at what speeds vehicles would be most fuel efficient, how much fuel savings would be achieved, and whether it would be reasonable to assume there would be a reduction in prices at the pump if the speed limit were lowered.
Is it reasonable to assume that motorists will drive at or below those speed limits? Not to get too anarchist, but as a motorist, every successful, traffic-free experience I have on the highway involves a spontaneous order, with some optimal speed above the limit “magically” appearing to smooth the flow of traffic. If Congress imposes a national speed limit, we’ll have one of two realities. Motorists will ignore the speed limit, or states will allocate more police enforcement. What is the net effect of saving a few pennies on gas if we spend a few pennies to enforce that savings? And what of the extra court costs? Insurance premium spikes?
Or we could consider something else:
The [Department of Energy’s] Web site says that fuel efficiency decreases rapidly when traveling faster than 60 mph. Every additional 5 mph over that threshold is estimated to cost motorists “essentially an additional 30 cents per gallon in fuel costs,” Warner said in his letter, citing the DOE data.
Maybe we can assume that motorists are capable of deciding how willing they are to pay an additional 30 cents per gallon. And maybe the market is capable of slowing drivers down when the price of gas is “too high”. But why let the market work when Congress can interfere?