New Year's Wish List

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by Eric Peters: A
Two-Wheeled Hedge Against Inflation



2011 is only
hours away now. Maybe the New Year will bring some happy news for
motorists, like . . .

Lower gas

Unleaded regular
is creeping back up to $3 per gallon and in many areas of the country
is already higher than that. Given the flood of Fed funny money,
it’s likely to sail back to the $4 and more we were paying at the
peak of the last Petro Bubble, which preceded the collapse of the
economy in 2008. If prices go back up to $4 (or more) again, the
economy will be on its back — not just on its knees.
There’s no turning off the printing presses at this point but the
government could push gas prices back to $2 per gallon — possibly,
below the $2 threshold — by declaring a Motor Fuels Tax Holiday.
Each gallon of gas carries a 50–80-cent tax burden. Get rid of these
punitive and regressive taxes and the burden on American motorists
— on everyone, because fuel costs permeate the economy —
would go a long way toward counter-acting the venom of Bernanke’s
“qualitative easing.” But how will we fund roads and so on? By canceling
the Afghan Adventure and bringing “the troops” back home. The billions
saved could bring gas prices back to $1.50 or less per gallon. We
could probably have free gas. Which would beat the snot out
of “fightin’ fer freedom” (does anyone still buy that stuff?)
meatgrinder and money-sucker that is our “defense” industry.

More diesels

And fewer $40,000
hybrids that barely outdo the mileage of an ’80s-era Plymouth Champ.
Diesels, unlike hybrids, work — if “working” means they deliver
very high gas mileage without a very high price tag. Gas-electric
hybrids and electric cars are impressive as technology but crap
as consumer products — if the point of the exercise is to produce
economical transportation. If you have to pay $30,000 or
$40,000 (or even $25,000) to get 35 or 40 MPGs then MPGs don’t really
matter since whatever you “save” in fuel costs is negated by the
cost of the car itself. But diesel engines can deliver 60 MPG in
a subcompact car that costs less than $15,000. Just not here.
They have such cars in Europe. Santa needs to bring a few of them
to us. But first, he’ll need to put some coal in the stockings of
the government bureaucrats who have made the American car market
unfriendly for diesel vehicles by imposing one regulatory obstacle
and expense after the next. It’s not that diesels are “dirty” —
the Europeans are just as obsessed with saving the planet as we
are. It’s simply that our bureaucrats and politicians aren’t
as smart as those in Europe.

A revised
traffic code

It took less
than 20 years to realize that Prohibition was a mistake — and to
repeal the law. Most of us know that speed enforcement is bunk,
too — but it’s being enforced as aggressively as ever. Instead of
going after tailgaters, people who drive erratically — or too slowly,
creating massive traffic jams and road hazards — the fixation on
“speeding” shows no signs of ever being cured by a dose of reason.
Most highway speed limits are still below what they were in the
1960s — despite a half-century’s improvement in car design.
There are “radar traps” in almost every town and county in the land
— cynically set up to catch motorists who failed to drive at an
excruciatingly slow speed set deliberately low for precisely
that reason. If Santa had to live under such a regime, he’d never
get all his presents delivered in time — or he’d lose his license
after having received too many “points” for “speeding.”

An “off”
button for seat belt buzzers

Haven’t we
got enough stress in our lives already? Can’t we at least drive
our car down to the mailbox without being assaulted by an ear-splitting
“buckle-up” buzzer? Almost every new car comes with one and there’s
no button to turn it off. You can do it yourself by locating
the infernal machine, which is tucked up under the dash someplace
— and driving a screwdriver through its evil electronic heart. But
you shouldn’t have to do that. There’s no law (yet) that new cars
must be sold with seat belt buzzers that can’t be turned off. Most
of the car companies relented on Daytime Running Lamps and now provide
Off switches for those annoyances.

Please, Baby
New Year: How about a switch to shut down the seat belt harpie?

30, 2010

Eric Peters
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs
(2011). Visit his

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