Tired of the poor gas mileage on your current car? Boy, do I have good news for you! All new cars in 2016 will have much better gas mileage than they do now, as reported in the news today:

New cars and trucks will have to get 30 percent better mileage starting in 2016 under an Obama administration move to curb emissions tied to smog and global warming, sources said Monday.

President Barack Obama was expected to adopt the higher mileage standards on Tuesday, administration sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement.

The new requirement will mark the first time that limits on greenhouse gases will be linked to federal standards for cars and light trucks.

While the 30 percent increase would be an average for both cars and light trucks, the percentage increase in cars would be much greater, rising from the current 27.5 mpg standard to 42 mpg starting in 2016. The average for light trucks would rise from 24 mpg to 26.2 mpg.

If I were the CEO of an American car company, I would write the following letter to President Obama:

Dear Mr. President:

I read in the news today that your administration will mandate that all automobiles manufactured in 2016 meet the new standard of 42 mpg. I have enclosed both a yellow highlighter pen and a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution with this correspondence. Please have one of your people highlight the passage in Article II of the Constitution that grants the Executive Branch the authority to tell me how to run my business.

Unless you can identify the section of the Constitution that grants your administration the authority to mandate the gas mileage of the cars manufactured by my company, I must respectfully decline to comply with the administration’s mandate.


CEO, Hypothetical Motors

Go ahead and see if you can spot the part of Article II that grants the President the power to mandate the fuel efficiency of American cars. Go ahead. I’ll whistle the “Jeopardy” theme to myself while you go do that.




Back? So, did you spot it? Me neither. The closest thing I could find was this part of Section 3: “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” but this new standard is a mandate from the administration, not a law. Congress could pass a law requiring the higher gas mileage, but I would ask them the same question, pointing them to Article I which outlines the powers and responsibilities of the Legislature. The only section I can see that relates to the auto industry is the line of Article I, Section 8 which grants Congress the power “[to] regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

This is called the Commerce Clause, and it is the reason often cited by Congress as the basis of its supposed authority to regulate our lives. If you sell or buy something from another nation, state, or Indian tribe, then Congress has the authority to “regulate” that act of selling or buying. The Commerce Clause has been used as the rationale for Congressional meddling in our lives for many years. Wikipedia outlines some of the far-reaching nature of Congress’ view of the Commerce Clause this way:

The wide interpretation of the scope of the Commerce Clause continued following the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which aimed to prevent business from discriminating against black customers. In Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (1964), the Court ruled that Congress could regulate a business that served mostly interstate travelers; in Katzenbach v. McClung (1964) the Court ruled that the federal government could regulate Ollie’s Barbecue, which served mostly local clientele but sold food that had previously moved across state lines; and in Daniel v. Paul (1969), the Court ruled that the federal government could regulate a recreational facility because three out of the four items sold at its snack bar were purchased from outside the state.

Gonzales v. Raich takes the Commerce Clause one step further and says that Congress can ban marijuana even if individual states have allowed it. This ignores the fact that people growing medical marijuana for their own consumption are not engaged in interstate commerce, and since Congress has banned the interstate transportation and use of marijuana, local growing and consumption has zero impact on interstate commerce.

But government is all about power, and the people in government, whether elected or faceless bureaucrats, seem to have an insatiable desire for more power. They won’t state it so boldly; usually they clothe these naked power grabs in language people have a hard time opposing:  they talk of the common good, or the environment, or the children. They have to pass laws or mandate regulations on every aspect of our lives; otherwise, how could puny Joe Sixpack possibly take care of himself?

The auto industry is already struggling as it is, so how do you think these tighter standards will affect the price of new cars in 2016? If you said it will make them more expensive, go to the head of the class. But I detect a whiff of arrogance in this new mandate. It is almost as if a voice were coming from D.C. saying, “Gas mileage will be 42 mpg in 2016 because I say it will be. Next, I shall command the tides and cool the sun because I wish it to be so!” As if simple fiat had the power to make it happen.

But in any case, the government has upped its standards. Now up yours!