The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 25, 2014

Regulations help guide market forces

Four decades ago America and world economies shook from OPEC oil embargoes. What lessons did we learn?

Our government stepped in and instituted regulations to mandate fuel economy for our domestic fleet of cars, regulating fuel economy for the first time. Very modest fuel standards at first that gradually increasing over time.

The right reacted in a predictable way. Naysayers with tales of gloom and doom.

The auto industry was also facing tougher emission controls at the same time.

What is the reality? In 1970 we had cars that spewed pollution that was clogging our cities. They were made of thick heavy steel. Gas hogs that were fast and powerful. The new regulations seemed to doom America’s love of fast and powerful cars.

That love killed far too many people every year. The average car only lasted at best 100,000 miles. If the engine still ran the body had rusted away. Today 44 years later, the cars are lighter, they last at least double the miles and years. Many have gas mileage that is three, four or five times better than what they were in 1970. Today’s muscle cars are faster then the fastest motorcycles of that time. At the same time the carnage on our roads has been dropping every year.

I look at these facts and see that regulation of the auto industry was a very good thing. Regulated market forces worked. America focused those markets to react to our county’s self interest.

Today, California faces pollution problems not from inside but from China’s unregulated pollution. The world used an oil boycott in reverse to get Iran to comply to world opinion and curtail its nuclear enrichment. America is nearing energy independence. Both by conservation and production.

Our short term sacrifices have paid off. Regulations worked. Market forces do work, regulations helped guide them in positive directions.

Rob A. Swart


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