Pew, That Stinks

"Charitable" trusts tend to become leftist frauds.

Millions of commuters listening to morning talk shows on their way to work this week were regaled by an interesting radio ad.

It began with a brief summary of the harm done by the tremendous quantities of imported oil America consumes - "taking money from American drivers, and placing it into the hands of OPEC."

This presents a problem for our national security.

But, it continued, "Congress has the chance to change this."

Now, if anything should set off alarm bells, it's that statement.  Congress very frequently has the chance to chang things.  When was the last time, however, that Congress changed things for the better?  Not in most of our lifetimes, that's for sure.

But, the ad continued, right now, there's a bill before Congress to raise the CAFE - average fuel-efficiency standards for cars - to 35 mpg.  If every car reached that efficiency, we'd use so much less gas that we wouldn't need to import nearly as much, thus taking money away from "unstable and dangerous" places.  So call your Congressman now, and "ask whether they stand with OPEC - or with American drivers."

And at the end, we find out from whence this came: "Sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust."  Charities?  What's a so-called charity doing running political advocacy ads?  Aren't those specially regulated?

This is a prime example of soft money at work.  Since the ad does not mention any candidate, it's free and clear of the regulation.  Which is not a problem in principle, since we hold to the value of freedom of speech; but there's still the question of the health of democracy.  It's not just a charity, but a charitable trust.  In other words, the money came from someone who's dead.

The Pew Charitable Trusts were established by Joseph Pew, founder of what is now Sunoco, and his family, between 1948 and 1979.  So the last influence of a living donor was almost 30 years ago.

Do you think that this Trust is reflecting the wishes of Mr. Pew?  Well, considering that he was the founder of an oil company, and yet one of the Trust's main activities is promoting global warming awareness, it's safe to say that the answer is an emphatic NO.  The Trust doesn't answer to anybody anymore; it's simply a big pile of dough that's been co-opted by leftist activists.

Worse still, they don't even have to be right.  Their radio ad, at face value, would have you believe that increased CAFE standards would inevitably reduce our oil consumption and free us from captivity to the sheiks; and that the fact that those standards have not been raised since 1985 is a crime.

But let's take a quick look back at 1985, when last the standards were raised - with their full effect not to take place until 1989.  So, we'd expect to see the average gas mileage rising after 1989, as the standards took effect and worked their way into newer cars, while older gas-guzzlers were retired, right?

Wrong!  America's average gas mileage peaked in 1986, before the last CAFE increase even took effect, and has gone down from there.  So in other words, increasing the CAFE standards causes gas mileage to get worse, not better.  And if we consider total petroleum consumption (not just gas mileage), the picture is even worse: it's clear that raising CAFE standards has absolutely no ability to reduce the amount of oil we burn.

The only thing that accomplishes that is a recession, meaning nobody has any money to buy gas or stuff made out of plastic.  Is that what the Pew wants us to vote for?  Of course, they themselves have no fears for their job; their salary is paid out of the gazillions sitting in the trust, collecting interest through thick and thin.

The one thing increases in CAFE standards are known to cause, though, is traffic fatalities.  It's simple physics: the easiest way to make a car use less gas is to make it lighter, and lighter cars are more deadly.  If you get hit by a Mack truck, would you rather be in a Smart car?  Or a Suburban?

You're being asked to vote for something that will make pollution and our dependence on foreign oil worse, by a fund full of money given by a dead oil tycoon a third of a century ago (most likely spinning in his grave), by people who answer to nobody, and while being told it's for the exact opposite.

How's that for truth in advertising?  More to the point, where's McCain and Feingold when you need them?

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

In the fourth-to-last paragraph, you state: "increasing the CAFE standards causes gas mileage to get worse, not better."

This is a classic logical fallacy; just because two events are related in time does not mean there is a cause and effect relationship between the two. The peaking of the average gas mileage in 1986 is more likely related to the retirement of fuel-efficient compacts in the mid eighties combined with the increasing popularity of minivans and light trucks around the same time.

Having said that, I mostly agree with the idea that CAFE standards are pretty irrelevant to the amount of oil imports. There are too many other uses of petroleum to make the CAFE standards a big deal. I have a couple cars that get, for the kinds of vehicles they are, the best possible mileage simply because I'd like to minimize my fuel expense. God forbid we rely on the free market.

December 9, 2007 9:49 AM

In this case, I believe that there is a direct causal relationship between higher CAFE standards and more petroleum consumption.  CAFE standards killed off station wagons because, with their square backs and greater weight, there was no way to get them to meet CAFE standards.   I know a lot of people who liked and needed station wagons but, when they were no longer available, switched to minivans and / or SUVs which needed more gas than the station wagons had used.  Minivans and SUVs were regarded as trucks and were not subject to CAFE which is why the manufacturers were allowed to sell them.

My friends who switched did considerable kvetching about getting lower gas mileage than they had gotten before.  THEIR increased gas use was a direct result of CAFE killing off the cars they wanted.

I have a friend who has a 1992 station wagon which seats 7 people and gets 18 or 19 miles per gallon.  He also has a full-size van which seats 7 and gets maybe 13 miles per gallon, so I know that these differences in mileage are real.

CAFE clearly increases petroleum use and kills people because the cars are lighter, but that doesn't bother politicians who ride in full-size limos at our expense.

December 9, 2007 1:43 PM

You said "You're being asked to vote for something that will make....worse"  When is that *not* the case?  I am 63 years old, and in all those years on earth, I have only see the United States government get worse and worse and worse.

December 10, 2007 6:33 PM
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