Well, ladies and gentlemen, it has officially emerged that Volkswagen has been lying to the general public like one of those guys who approaches you at a gas station and says his car has broken down and he just needs three more dollars for a bus fare.
This is surprising. Anyone who ever owned a Volkswagen knew that they were a bit sleazy, in the sense that they told you they offered “solid German engineering” when what they really offered was a bunch of untested parts farmed out to the lowest bidder. But we never really expected them to be overtly lying about stuff. Especially stuff as important as emissions results.
Or at least, I say “important,” but then I stop and think about it for a second, and I wonder: How important really are emissions numbers?
When government, media and industry agree that a trend exists, it’s generally taken as fait accompli. After all, these three institutions wield immense cultural power, and together they are more than capable of making any prophecy self-fulfilling. But there’s always a stumbling block: acceptance by the everyday folk who actually make up our society. And when a trend is taken for granted, the ensuing rush to be seen as being in touch with said trend often generates more heat than light. Such is the case with the trend towards “green cars.” Few would deny that they are “the future,” but at the same time, there’s been precious little examination of how this future is to be realized. And when such examination does take place, it tends to raise more questions than it answers. (Read More…)
With Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) already taking the White House and Treasury to task for possibly helping GM avoid paying the “TARP Tax,” Republican representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) are attacking the auto bailout from another angle, writing a letter to nine automaker CEOs requesting clarification of the negotiating process that led to recently-passed final rules on a ramp-up of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards. In their press release on the issue, Issa and Smith note:
It is unclear whether the Administration used leverage created by the possibility of a taxpayer bailout of GM and Chrysler to secure their cooperation and support for new fuel economy standards. Moreover, there is reason to believe Administration officials used inappropriate tactics to ensure broad based support across the industry. Given the clear conflict-of-interest issues at play, which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and impact the future viability of private entities, it was imperative that the Administration act with the utmost transparency. Instead, the White House imposed an unprecedented level of secrecy.
Are Issa and Smith on to something, or is this simply a partisan dogpile on an unpopular policy? Hey, this is politics… does it even matter?
The Detroit Free Press reports that a recent filing by the California Air Resources Board [Full filing in PDF format here] threatens that a rapid ramp-up to the proposed 35.5 mpg 2016 standard and a reduction in zero-emission vehicle credits are necessary “to ensure California’s continued support.” CARB spokesman Stanley Young explains that “what we wanted to do is convey the level of importance for these two issues,” and that it’s “too early” to say whether California will withdraw from its compromise with the Obama administration. Still, the threat of a California withdrawal should be enough to get some attention in Washington, as Obama adviser David Axelrod has called the emissions compromise one of the administration’s top accomplishments of 2009.