BBC: Tough love for US car industry?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to look into allowing California to increase fuel efficiency standards for cars.

Is this request part of a patchwork of measures that will create a cleaner environment and green jobs?

Or - as its critics contend - will it help to create a patchwork of fuel standards that will end up costing even more jobs in America's struggling car industry?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyEnergy, Natural ResourcesPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

14 Comments
Posted January 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Jeffersonian wrote:

This must be some of that new thinking in Washington, where we lay seige to abortion by slathering it in tax dollars and revive the auto industry by heaping regulations on it and atomizing its market.

And work shall make you free.

January 26, 8:51 pm | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

Why don’t they just nationalize it and put it under Congressional control.  I would love to see a car designed by a Democratic controlled Congress.  Maybe something that everyone has to buy, costs a fortune, spins its wheels and goes no place.

January 26, 8:59 pm | [comment link]
3. Timothy wrote:

Allowing California to implement its own very stringent standards could result in no cars being sold in California. US automakers might not survive to make CA cars. Japan and Korea might decide to serve the rest of the US market and ignore CA. I can see Californians having to buy cars out of state and then
“importing” them.

January 27, 1:09 am | [comment link]
4. Tired of Hypocrisy wrote:

Exactly, Mr. Jeff and Br. M. I’m afraid this is an unfunded mandate for the auto industry. There aren’t enough Americans who want to pay for the technology that provides better fuel mileage. The top two selling vehicles in America last year? Ford F150 and Chevy Silverado. Number 9 was the Dodge Ram. All three with combined fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon or below. This, in spite of the huge spike in gas prices. Do people want better fuel economy? Sure, but they aren’t willing to pay for it. There are dozens of 2009 pickups to choose from, but only about 10 have a combined fuel mileage over 20 mpg, and none of those will rank in the top 10 or even top 50 models in sales.

January 27, 1:48 am | [comment link]
5. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

How many cars has the EPA ever produced?

How is it that they have the expertise to dictate how manufacturers make the vehicles more “green”?  Are they offering the technology to do so?  Are they offering their research on how to implement the improvements?

It is one thing to complain, but it is quite another to actually offer a workable solution.

January 27, 9:49 am | [comment link]
6. LeightonC wrote:

Anyone remember when Congress, in their infinite wisdom and hubris, levied hefty taxes on the yachting industry to “punish” the wealthy.  The net result was thousands being laid off, mostly blue collar workers in that industry.  The tax did not last long.  If I were an auto exec, I would cease marketing vehicles in that state and move to a more industry-friendly environment.  I wonder what would happen.

January 27, 10:55 am | [comment link]
7. Billy wrote:

Unfortunately, this bill isn’t just about CA.  This bill would allow any state to set up its own environmental standards, which is why the Bush Administration always required the Federal standards to take priority over any state’s.  Now if the auto industry wants to sell vehicles in the US, it will most like have to adopt the most rigourous standard of any state (OR, WA, CA), so that it can meet the standards of all states.  Otherwise, the auto industry’s manufacturing plants would all be different and it would be way too expensive to retool them all into different standards.  In other words, the Obama bill (executive order, whatever) that allows states to set their own standards for auto emissions means most likely that CA will set the standard for the entire country.  Absurd that the Obama Administration can’t see what this will do to the auto industry and to the American consumers - but this is what happens when one votes for ideologues to set policy.

January 27, 5:05 pm | [comment link]
8. mark_08 wrote:

Reading the above comments, not a single positive thing to say about this development. It’s as if we all are only economic agents—that life is somehow all about getting the most money (making sure shareholders in the car companies are doing as well as possible) while spending the least possible (keeping away regulations that might increase the cost of consumer transactions).  I have a hard time squaring this reductionist view with Christian teaching.
I see a lot of name calling (“ideologues,” “hubris,” and so on), and guilt by association (if they got abortion wrong, they’ve got this wrong).
I know the auto industry is in trouble, and I know they’re against this. But neither their current trouble nor their complaining necessarily proves that these regulations are unworkable.  I wouldn’t be so naively trusting of corporate PR.
Maybe if all you know about the environment comes from blogs the new regulations sound kooky. But assuming you breathe, this should be good for you, no matter what state you live in.

January 27, 5:51 pm | [comment link]
9. Billy wrote:

#8, “this should be good for you ... ” or not!  What if the auto industry in the US is shut down because of unrealistic expectations that come from IDEALOGUES (I stand by that term)?  And now we have autos coming from all over the world that may or may not abide by the regs our idealogues set forth - sort of like China’s food and products may not have lived up to the standards of the FDA this past few years.  What if all this enthusiasm for wind power destroys the landscape of so much of the Great Plains and parts of the West that it is no longer inhabitable ... putting up all those windmills all over the place is much better than taking 2 square miles of the Artic tundra, where no one ever goes, tapping a great resource of oil, and shipping it to where it can be used - is that right?  Setting up all these autos with batteries, before we know what we are going to do with those batteries, once they are no longer useful, may not be such a good idea.  Lots of money into solar energy, which provides little energy in return for the money - good investment?  Putting a choke hold on our auto industry, while Russia and China continue to pour more pollution into their air than we can imagine, doesn’t seem to be a good investment at present.  Moderate, uniform, progressive regulation by the Federal governmnent for the country as a whole, as in the past - ok.  West Coast extremist regulation for the rest of the country - no thank you.  This is not a time for idealogue experimentation.  (Plus, you have bought into the environmental dogma, that now most scientists are saying is just not true.  A dynamic planet goes through many changes, regardless of what man does - remember first it was “global warming.”  When that obviously was untrue, then it became “climate change.”  Well, guess what, throughout the history of this dynamic planet there has been climate change - Greenland wasn’t called that in the 1300s because it was covered with ice.)

January 27, 6:14 pm | [comment link]
10. mark_08 wrote:

@9: well, at least I know where you stand. Of course, I didn’t say anything about most of what you are writing about.

I’ll leave a few points:
1. Believe what you want about climate change, for the moment. That wasn’t my point. The environment ≠ climate change alone. When I think about cars meeting higher standards, I think about future asthma rates finally settling down—hence my statement about breathing.
2. I don’t think we can assume that big car companies will thrive simply if we let them do what they want. (For one, they’re not thriving now.) Innovation doesn’t come from complacency and bad management.
3. It is a fact that petroleum provides fantastically concentrated energy. Anyone complaining and anyone proposing solutions has to grapple with this fact, as with the others—that it poses great health risks all along its journey, and that it is a finite resource.
4. As this is a Christian blog, I think it’s worth considering the value of lives other than our own, and the value of creation. I don’t find any scriptural warrant for writing off creation because “ideologues”  are involved with it.

January 27, 9:29 pm | [comment link]
11. Billy wrote:

#10, I know you didn’t comment on much of the environmental factors I mentioned.  But this comment from your #8 shows the framework from which you are viewing the world:  “It’s as if we all are only economic agents—that life is somehow all about getting the most money (making sure shareholders in the car companies are doing as well as possible) while spending the least possible (keeping away regulations that might increase the cost of consumer transactions).  I have a hard time squaring this reductionist view with Christian teaching.”  You are assuming that my comments were only from an economic “reductionist” (to use your word) point of view.  In fact, my comments are anything but that.  There are real live people who work in the industries connected to petroleum - and there are many beyond the auto industry.  There are real live people whose livelihood depends on the combustion engine.  Yes, petroleum may be a finite resource, but we are a long way from even knowing how finite it is, because our Congress has allowed little exploration in 30 years, due to the pressure of “environmentalists.”  Petroleum can be burned cleanly (and is) while other forms of clean safe efficient energy are developed - over time - without destroying those industries connected to petroleum.  And we can become self-sufficient if our government will simply allow us to explore and use the petroleum that we have.  What will happen if you put these overwhelming standards on auto industry is that no one will be able to afford the “electric” or hybrid cars and they’ll keep their older cars longer and pollute more.  Government getting too involved in the economy or too involved in social engineering always produces unintended consequences that are seldom good and often worse than the alleged “problem” government was trying to solve in the first place ... example 1:  subprime loans started because of government’s insistence that everyone should own a home, even those who could not meet the traditional normal credit standards required.  Now look at the unintended consequences we are in.  I understand your issue of “cleaner air” and help for asthma suffers.  There are other, better, more efficient ways than regulating a huge industry out of existence and putting millions of people out of work.

January 28, 11:20 am | [comment link]
12. libraryjim wrote:

pssst, Billy, please hit the enter key once every few sentences. I have trouble reading your long posts the way you send them out.

That said, Congress said that the big three auto companies need to make autos that the people want to buy.  The problem with that statement is that they ARE building autos that the people want to buy, but that these are not the autos Congress wants people to want to buy.

The US is different than Europe, where you can almost walk from one country to another, where manufacturing is not done in tonnage, etc.  Here, the next nearest city from Tallahassee is Panama City, 100 miles away, or Jacksonville, at almost 200.  Atlanta? 300.  when I worked for a winter in Wyoming, I was in a very small town. The nearest grocery store was 20 miles away, the nearest Wal-Mart 40.

When I had a job, I traveled 35 miles one way to get to work. My car (mini-van) gets 23 mpg highway, about the same as many hybrids—plus I can load it up with camping gear for my son’s Boy Scout Camping Trips, sometimes as far as 200 miles away. Hard to do that in a Prius.  It is estimated that you have to own a Prius for 3 1/2 years before you break even on cost vs gas savings.

No, the Congressional clamp-down on the Big Three IS unfair to them.  I would like to see better gas mileage on existing models of car, as well as lower emissions.  And if we lived in an ideal world, we could, however we have to deal with reality and the current limitations of technology. Alternative fuels are 20 to 30 years away from being realized, let alone affordable and readily available.

January 28, 6:52 pm | [comment link]
13. Billy wrote:

L-Jim, #12, you make my point in a personal way so well.  Thanks.

Sorry about the long paragraphs.  I’ll try to make more shorter ones.

January 28, 6:59 pm | [comment link]
14. LeightonC wrote:

While I have no facts to back this up, but the perception I have is that most of the environmentalists are from large metro areas where there are alternatives to using the auto.  I have a growing suspicion that Obama secretly wants the auto industry to fail - this follows his statement some time ago where he wants to shut down the coal industry.

January 29, 12:01 pm | [comment link]
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