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Here’s How They Screw You Over At The Gas Pump

Here’s How They Screw You Over At The Gas Pump thumbnail
So much would be possible if it weren’t for the government.

Government, remember, is not composed of experts in much of anything – except control and manipulation. Politicians and bureaucrats are not people who do things.

They force others to do things.

In the car world, you have the ridiculous spectacle of non-engineer mechanical imbeciles dictating functional parameters of engine design to people who actually do know how a four-stroke engine works, the meaning of stoichiometry; who understand that there is an inherent conflict between fuel economy and “safety.” That the more a car is designed to meet the first objective, the less it will meet the second.

And the reverse.


The engineers are told to deliver both in equal measure – and we end up with cars that are heavy and thirsty.

It’s a tragedy – a comic one, when you put it in context.

Here we are – almost 2016 – and the typical new car is about as economical to drive as the typical car of 1985. This is hard to believe, but you should believe it because it’s true. The typical car of the early-mid-1980s was averaging mid-high 20s – just like today. There were numerous models available that approached or even exceeded 40 MPG on the highway. A few (like the diesel-powered VW Rabbit) got into the 50s.

They did this without direct-injection or even port fuel-injection. Many still had carburetors. Eight and nine-speed transmissions (with the top three gears being overdrives) were unheard of. Most automatics of this era had four speeds. Some still had just three.

But the one thing the cars of that era did have was less weight – about 500-800 pounds less of it, on average, than comparable cars have today. And the sole and only reason for all this additional weight is the increased demand for “safety” eructing from the solons in Washington. Well, so we must presume. Because the people who actually buy the cars were never offered the free choice. It would be interesting to find out what they’d choose if they did have that choice.

We can make some rough calculations.

Let’s start with a pretty fuel-efficient (but ridiculously heavy) car like the current/2015 Honda Civic sedan. This compact (by current standards) weighs in at 2,811 pounds. A 1985 Civic sedan (see here) weighed 1,962 pounds – 849 pounds less than the current model.

It is not surprising that – notwithstanding a direct-injected engine with variable valve timing and an ultra-efficient continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission – the ’15 Civic sedan only averages 33 MPG – vs. 27 MPG for its ancestor from 30 years ago.

A six MPG overall improvement.


But absolutely understandable, given the almost 900 pounds additional metal the ’15 is carrying around. And it is carrying it in order to pass muster with Uncle’s “safety” mandates – which include a mandate that a car’s roof must be able to bear the entire weight of the car in the event the car rolls on its back. Of course, most cars live their entire lives – from dealer’s showroom to crusher, many years hence – without ever rolling on their back. Probably there are many people out there who would prefer to have been carting around 900 pounds less metal all those years – saving thousands of very real dollars in fuel costs rather than having to pay for some bureaucrat’s idea of what might be helpful if the car ever did roll on its back.

And it is thousands of dollars we’re talking about. If the ’15 Civic – with all its technological advantages – weighed what the ’85 Civic weighed, it is certain the car would be averaging 40-45 MPG. It would, after all be 30 percent lighter. And a 10 MPG or so uptick is probably a very conservative estimate.

Over a typical vehicle of life of 15 years or so, the savings would be no small change. Figure one less fill-up per month for the typical driver and assume a fill-up equals about 13 gallons at today’s $2.25 or so per gallon. That’s about $30 a month saved – or $360 a year in your pocket instead of ExxonMobil’s. Over fifteen years, the savings amounts to $5,400 – and that’s assuming the cost of gas stays the same.

Which, probably, it won’t. It’s likely to go up.

But even if it doesn’t, that’s still five grand you didn’t have to spend on gas.

Well, wouldn’t have to spend on gas – were it not for the fact that you’re denied this option. A bureaucrat in Washington (well, ok, several of them) have decided your “safety” – as defined by them – is more important than your right (past tense) to drive an economical car. The cost-benefit calculation has been taken out of your hands, as if you were still an eight-year-old and needed momma to make sure you don’t chew on lead paint chips.

Here, by the way, is a real-world example of the kind of car we could have – and which the Mexicans do have. It’s the Chevy Matiz – and it costs less than $7,000 U.S. and gets 45-50 MPG… . But it’s not “safe” – so you’re not allowed to buy it.

It’s even worse when it comes to diesels.

The federal flapdoodle imposed on them has made them barely more economical to operate than many of today’s gas engines – and a lot more expensive to buy, feed and maintain. Diesels used to simple and cheap. Now they are complicated and pricey – and their small advantage at the pump is very questionable, economically-speaking, vs. what you have to pay for them up front.

Again, Uncle.

With all the technology on tap, modern diesels would be able to deliver 60-plus MPG on average, in a car that weighed less than 2,000 pounds like our ’85 Civic example. You’d think – if your thoughts were logical – that government bureaucrats would be “all over” that. They are, after all, here to help… .

Except they’re not.

Consciously or not, the desideratum of politicians and bureaucrats is control and direction. If this were not true, then force would not be necessary. They’d rely on reason and persuasion. Surely that would be sufficient. If the object of the exercise weren’t control and direction.

But of course, it is.

And that, friends, is why we have “high tech” cars that get maybe 6 MPG better than their ancestors did 30 years ago.

27 Comments on "Here’s How They Screw You Over At The Gas Pump"

  1. Tom on Thu, 20th Aug 2015 5:14 pm 

    And they made them install shatterproof glass, seat belts and air bags to keep you from dying or becoming a vegetable, or a burden on the taxpayers. Damn those worthless bureaucrats for looking after our safety.

    And they developed onerous design standards for highways that also helped to keep down the death and injury rate. Those blood suckers just don’t have the decency to get out of the way and let the free market work.

  2. Makati1 on Thu, 20th Aug 2015 8:27 pm 

    Interesting… I wonder what the comparison is between the number of car accident fatalities in say, the 60s, vs today per number of vehicles on the road? I bet they are not much different, and maybe today is worse. Many roads in the 60s were 55 MPH max, and most were even lower.

    Even my 75 Chevy Impala would get 20 MPG on the interstate with 200,000+ miles on the engine. I bought it used at 100,000 miles for $250 and put another 150,000 on it before it became unreliable. Today that will not even buy a carburetor. I’m glad I no longer need a car. I spend less than $100 per year on taxis and bus trips. Real freedom!

    My 1975 Chevy Impala ~4,200 lb.
    Equal 2015 Chevy Impala ~4,000 lb.

    I wonder how much is the result of insurance companies buying congress?

  3. Poordogabone on Thu, 20th Aug 2015 8:28 pm 

    Just an idea, make cars lighter (trading fuel efficiency for safety) but make driving test much more rigorous and impose heavier penalties on reckless drivers. Right now half if not more of drivers in the US should not be behind the wheel. Driving should be a privilege not a right. Of course the car industry would never let that happen. Another instance of capitalism not serving the people right.

  4. Beery on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 3:04 am 

    The real problem is road speed limits, which are too high, which means you need heavier cars for survivability. Government did impose the survivability requirement – yeah, stupid bureaucrats (rolleyes), as Tom points out. But the dangerous speed limits? That’s the free market at work. Yeah, the free market wants to kill motorists, which is why I (like Makati) don’t drive a car.

    Poordogabone also makes a good point: most motorists are incompetent scofflaws. They don’t want to learn how to drive safely and they don’t want to obey laws that are imposed to keep road users safe, which would be fine if everyone using the road were on foot, but it gets homicidal when you throw 2-ton cars capable of driving at 70mph+ into the mix.

    All of this will be solved when oil becomes too expensive to use. I might not see that day, but my daughter most likely will. It might not be a rosy future, but at least it will prevent people driving like idiots.

  5. aidan harrison on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 3:31 am 

    As a European my first observation is that Americans have a major fear of being in small cars and feel that being in a large car/truck somehow makes them safer. Maybe a continuation of that logic is why pedestrians and cyclists feel even less safe?

    My second observation is the incredible shortage of roundabouts in the US, so everything is controlled by traffic lights which endlessly bring traffic to a halt at every intersection/junction. If you had more roundabouts and lighter cars which were kept moving by those roundabouts, you would save all the fuel needed to get all of your heavy vehicles moving again after all those unnecessary stops.

    Maybe that is why there is an American obsession with vehicle acceleration from one stop-light to the next, while European car-makers are less interested in acceleration than in coping with curves? Just a few thoughts.

  6. Makati1 on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 8:44 am 

    The American auto centered lifestyle was designed for maximum profit for the elite. The average American is not supposed to actually save and prepare for the future. More so today than ever.

  7. Hello on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 10:46 am 

    Mak’s “The American auto centered lifestyle was designed for maximum profit for the elite”

    Thank you for the laughs.

    And thank you for moving away from the US. You certainly lifted the nation’s IQ in doing so.

  8. Outcast_Searcher on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 10:49 am 

    Makati1 said:

    “I wonder what the comparison is between the number of car accident fatalities in say, the 60s, vs today per number of vehicles on the road? I bet they are not much different, and maybe today is worse. Many roads in the 60s were 55 MPH max, and most were even lower.”

    Well, you’re wrong. It’s well known that the long term trend since the late 60’s is down. Of course, you could easily look it up on this thing called “the internet”. In fact, the fatalities are down by about 60% from the late 60’s to recently.

  9. Outcast_Searcher on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 11:16 am 

    The author ignores simple facts and doesn’t bother to make apples to apples comparisons.

    Engines have gotten better and capable of delivering much more power. Drivers want that power.

    Drivers also want more comfort and far more features. The complexity and features of modern cars make them far better than similar models a few decades ago. This also adds weight, as, for example, engines get heavier while they deliver far more power.

    The author makes many citation free claims. Like claiming that drivers would prefer lighter lower featured more efficient cars. If this were true it would be reflected in the marketplace. Instead, the exact opposite is true. Dealers can hardly get rid of the very cheap low featured “teaser” models. OTOH, full featured large pickup trucks and SUV’s are wildly popular and produce almost all the profits for Ford and GM.

    The fatality rate is FAR lower than it used to be, as I pointed out in my post above. Some of this is from government regulation. Some of this is from competition (look at how aggressively the crash safety ratings are advertised by the manufacturers). Imagine the public reaction to a car with TERRIBLE safety statistics for modern cars in its class. Should we really believe that a somewhat higher MPG rating would make up for that? If so, hybrids would be selling at a rate of many multiples of their tiny incursion, as buyers complain about long and uncertain payback periods.

    I’m a libertarian and generally am against big government, especially for the SAKE of big government. However, fact free screeds like this which offer unsubstantiated opinions and directly contradict basic obvious trends from the market place for the sake of complaining about government are almost useless.

  10. Mike989 on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 4:01 pm 

    Another dumbass blames the “government”.
    Blaming the government is a clear indication of a bad education.

    Cost/Benefit Analysis. The Government Does That, this Dumbass didn’t.

    Secondly, you can get a hybrid or now an EV if you want fantastic gas mileage.
    Thirdly, those hybrids give you Excellent City Mileage, and there’s no other way to get excellent city mileage with out a Battery to store brake energy and use it to accelerate.

    Forth, the government has nothing to do with the dumb choices Americans make in the market. Subaru offered a Sleek Euro-looking Sexy Outback, 2005-2006, and they Didn’t Sell. Look at the Bloated Butt Ugly Subaru’s they’re selling now.

    Fat Overweight Americans Love Obese Looking Cars.

  11. HARM on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 4:52 pm 

    As many have already pointed out, the entire premise reflects the author’s political bias (libertarian) much more than any truth.

    Does anyone really believe that the people running multinational corporations or banks have the people’s best interests at heart? That they would not cut corners and take risks with other people’s lives in order to make bigger profits? That they are immune from greed, selfishness and short-sightedness?

    Americans are afraid of small, lightweight and fuel efficient transport mainly b/c we seem to be obsessed with size. Americans tend to prefer large massive SUVs and trucks vs. the small fuel efficient cars that Europeans and South Americans prefer. As a result of so many gas-guzzling behemoths on the road –plus the general a$$holishness of the drivers behind the wheel– people in small cars do not feel “safe”.

  12. Makati1 on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 9:27 pm 

    Mike, brainwashing DOES have to do with the government and business in the US. If you think you really have a free choice, think again. They decide what they want to sell you long before you decide to buy. Then you are constantly bombarded with advertising (brainwashing) until you make that choice to buy what they want to sell. Or to NOT buy what they don’t want you to buy. Same for your choice of politicians, your support of their plundering wars, etc.

    Free choice is almost nonexistent in America. You need to buy _______ (Corvette, swimming pool, 48″ TV w/ surround sound, condo at the shore, etc.) if you want to be ________ (desirable, slim, sexy, appear wealthy, “keep up with the Jones'”, appear intelligent, etc.). You don’t even realize that they are doing it. It starts at birth and continues until death in everything you do. News, magazines, movies, TV, internet, billboards, clothing with logos, etc.

    You don’t think small, slim guys buy big pickups because they have a lot of big stuff to haul, do you? LOL

  13. Bloomer on Fri, 21st Aug 2015 10:34 pm 

    The Petro companies will charge whatever they can get for a gallon/liter of gas. That is free market capitalism. We have the freedom to drive a fuel efficient car, carpool and drive less. There is also public transportation. Myself, I like to walk or cycle when I can. If we all consumed less fuel, we would be pumping less carbon in the atmosphere and not be putting our hard earned cash in the pockets of greedy gasoline peddlers.

  14. Realist on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 2:23 am 

    As long as some Americans have this obsession with driving SUV’s of mammoth proportions, people will not feel safe in what the marketing gurus call “compact” cars.

    It is that simple.

  15. Davy on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 6:28 am 

    Folks here is the Makster Hypocrisy. Mak said a few comments before this one in regards to his 2 room in Makati “Forty square meters, modern facilities, kitchen with induction stove, A/C, tiled floors, three elevators, deck clerk 24/7/365, security guards, fire suppression system, two modern, clean, gyms on the commons level with three pools….on and on.” Then here is Mak describing how Americans live “Free choice is almost nonexistent in America. You need to buy _______ (Corvette, swimming pool, 48″ TV w/ surround sound, condo at the shore, etc.) if you want to be ________ (desirable, slim, sexy, appear wealthy, “keep up with the Jones’”, appear intelligent, etc.). Notice the similarities folks? Yes. Pretty much modern the world over in these days because of globalism.

    Mak, you crow to us how you are living but it is no different than Miami. BTW what a shit-hole sounds like a nursing home but you are at nursing home age. I guess that is where you belong. You are a friggin slut Mak. It is your type that disgust me. You must get your righteousness from years of being a Morman priestess because all I hear is a religious righteousness of how bad America and Americans are and how wonderful Asia and Asians are. It stinks of agenda daily here because of you forgetting to wipe your ass for a mouth. I just hope you get to the farm and get busy so you are not on the board all the time polluting our discussions with a foul smelling agenda.

  16. Dubya on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 8:50 am 

    “So much would be possible if it weren’t for the government.”

    Private, for profit enterprise has been proven to work for Heath care, national defense, policing, prisons, education, transportation (highways & airports); seatbelts, worker safety.

    I long for a return to the days of child labour, leaded paint & gasoline, asbestos, private toll roads, highwaymen, poorhouses & the freedom to smoke while driving a car with no seatbelt.

  17. Dredd on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 5:40 pm 

    They start screwing us, religiously, way before the gas pump by about a hundred years (The Universal Smedley – 2).

  18. Makati1 on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 8:38 pm 

    Dubya, unfortunately, the US went from one extreme to the other. Now there are too many laws for our own good. Several hundred thousand of them. We all break several every day and don’t even realize it. For instance:
    1. child labor has become a nation of coddled adults who never grow up.
    2. leaded paint and gasoline have become Monsanto, GMO food, Agent Orange (2-4D) etc.
    3. Asbestos has traded with nuclear waste and petrochemicals.
    4. private toll roads, well, they are coming back with a vengeance.
    5 highwaymen have evolved into the state and local police confiscating anything they want when they stop you.
    6. poorhouses have become welfare, food stamps, section 8 housing and food lines at churches.
    7. smoking while driving has evolved into texting while driving, which is worse.
    8. seat belts have just taken away another freedom we enjoyed and does not prevent deaths. We still have about 100 per day on US highways.

    I got your sarcasm, but had to set the record straight. Sorry.

  19. Outcast_Searcher on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 9:40 pm 

    Makati1 says seat belts don’t prevent deaths.

    Yet, over 300,000 lives saved in the US since 1975 says seatbelts most certainly do prevent deaths.

    Why do you just make stuff up? If you’re going to make a random statement, why not back it up with a credible citation?

    Look, I HATE some of the nonsense that occurs like your point 5 and how the police can legally confiscate cash if they just say they suspect drug use (asset forfeiture laws) — and there doesn’t even have to be a trial. It’s outrageous.

    However, when you make silly completely incorrect statements about other things which are easily fact check, you greatly detract from your credibility.

  20. Davy on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 10:01 pm 

    Mak, did you read that? I am not the only one that thinks you need to wipe you butt for a mouth or better yet put a diaper on.

  21. Makati1 on Sat, 22nd Aug 2015 11:43 pm 

    Davy, I don’t read your garbage anymore. I read this last one by mistake. I don’t give a damn what you think. Missouri is in the middle of the terrorist organization called the USofA and is fast bringing that terrorism home to the 48. The sooner it falls, the better for the rest of the world. Another 1,000+ down on the DOW next week? Crash!!

  22. Kenz300 on Sun, 23rd Aug 2015 3:55 am 

    It is time to end the oil monopoly on transportation fuels…………. bring on the competition.

    We need more options like electric, flex-fuel, hybrid, biodiesel, CNG, LNG and hydrogen fueled vehicles.

    The more competition the better…….

  23. Davy on Sun, 23rd Aug 2015 6:42 am 

    Good, Mak, you would be ill if you did read me daily. It goes to show you are a pussy and you have blinders on. You refuse to debate your fabrications. This won’t end Mak until you end the agenda of distortions. You are a bigot and I have a mission to muddy your message.

  24. Boat on Sun, 23rd Aug 2015 9:08 am 

    This site is good for amusement and getting insight from twisted minds If you expect credibility instead of spin you will be disappointed. The Main Stream Media gets a lot of blame for spin but it has nothing compared to the spin masters here. LOL The Mak and Davy show should go mainstream.

  25. Davy on Sun, 23rd Aug 2015 10:00 am 

    Sound wisdom from the King of spin. Thanks for the compliment Boat. I am sure Mak, thanks you too but he is sleeping now.

  26. Makati1 on Sun, 23rd Aug 2015 9:57 pm 

    Actually, I am NOT in bed at 10AM Missouri time. It is only 11PM here and I am reading at that time of day, not usually online. Midnight is lights out. 8AM is breakfast. When we hit the farm it will be lights out around 8-9 PM and up with the dawn, when it is cooler. This is a tropical climate. Work and play is done in the early AM and late PM, not in the afternoon. That is siesta time. ^_^

  27. Kenz300 on Mon, 24th Aug 2015 9:56 am 

    Walk, use mass transit or better yet buy a bicycle……. these are healthy ways to get from place to place.

    Bike to work day should be everyday….. employers need to provide places to park and lock bicycles and encourage employees to ride a bicycle to work.

    Every school should encourage children to walk to school or ride a bicycle by providing safe places to lock and store bicycles and by supporting safe walking and biking paths that connect schools, homes and businesses. Kids would be healthier and get more exercise if parents stop driving them to school and bought them a bicycle.

    Getting more people to embrace using a bicycle for transportation would save money on transportation costs, reduce pollution levels caused by automobiles and reduce the global obesity epidemic by providing healthy exercise.

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