Obama et al argue that there are too many workers and too many related manufacturing industries tied to the (short-sighted, pig-headed, greed-driven) American auto industry to let it go down. It is a compelling argument. But to let American automakers off the hook entirely, swooping in and sparing them the just deserts of three decades of steadfast refusal to make better, more efficient automobiles, is just wrong. As Morford writes, “Hell, even most Republicans agree on this: You don’t bail out lousy, overweight companies who’ve been dumping bad ideas on us since the Carter administration. Let the free market pull the trigger, and move on.” Actions have consequences. Ford and GM decided that short-term profits were more important than a long-term business model that would help to reduce dependence on foreign oil and protect the environment. They had many chances to do the right thing, and they killed them all. And now they’ll get a government bail-out? Here’s a wild idea: Make the bail-out contingent on meeting higher CAFE standards!
Now, about that documentary, “Oil on Ice.” Try to find it. I picked up a DVD copy at Long’s Drugs – of all places – earlier this year for around $5.99. I finally watched it last night, and it’s TERRIFIC. This thing needs to get airtime everytime the “open ANWR” crowd starts howling. And here’s what it has to do with my auto-rant. In the documentary, Amory Lovins – of the Rocky Mountain Institute – cites some coffee-spitting statistics about the progress the US was making toward fuel efficiency and energy independence in the Carter years. I was going to transcribe that section of the DVD, but I found this summary in an article by Robert Kennedy, Jr., instead:
According to a recent report by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, if the United States had continued to conserve oil at the rate it did in the period from 1976 to 1985, it would no longer have needed Persian Gulf oil after 1985. Had we continued this wise course, we might not have had to fight the Persian Gulf war, and we would have insulated ourselves from price shocks in the international oil market. Fuel efficiency is a sound national energy policy, economic policy and foreign policy all wrapped into one. Every increase of one mile per gallon in auto fuel efficiency yields more oil than is in two Arctic National Wildlife Refuges. An improvement right now of 2.7 miles per gallon would eliminate our need for all Persian Gulf oil!
Yet the Republican Congress in 1995 made it illegal for the Environmental Protection Agency even to study higher CAFE standards. The result is that America now has the worst energy efficiency in 20 years.
Let me repeat that: “Every increase of one mile per gallon in auto fuel efficiency yields more oil than is in two Arctic National Wildlife Refuges. An improvement right now of 2.7 miles per gallon would eliminate our need for all Persian Gulf oil!” We were already there in 1985. But congress after congress caved to Big Oil money. The EPA can’t even study higher standards?! I have to hand it to them… that is Evil Genius on the part of the Grand Oil Party.
(Update: OK, Neil Young beat me to the “wild idea” re: the Ford/GM bail-out.)