GM Powertrain Guy Dances Around Taxpayer Subsidies for Hydrogen

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
gm powertrain guy dances around taxpayer subsidies for hydrogen

Credit where credit's due: the executive director of GM Powertrain's fuel cell activities realizes that this may not be the best time to clamor for a suck on the taxpayers' collective tit. As Automotive News [AN, sub] reports, J. Byron McCormick was careful to cloak his call for federal funding in vague and patriotic terms. "Without more investment, there is a real threat that alternative vehicle technologies and development of the hydrogen automobile will leave the United States… Other countries are investing heavily in this sector and could surpass the United States." Oh no! A hydrogen gap! Let's throw some tax money at it, 'cause if we don't "There is a real chance that [a hydrogen gap] could happen. If that happens, what happens to the jobs, to the learning and the skills that go with it?" Oh, hang on. "But for now, McCormick said the United States has technology momentum in the field. 'We have a wonderful opportunity to put the United States in a leadership position,' he added." Still, "There are a number of regions getting their act together. I would hate as a U.S. citizen and taxpayer to have the United States become complacent." And I would hate as a U.S. citizen and taxpayer to have to pay for any more of GM's R&D bill.

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  • BuckD BuckD on Jan 25, 2008

    It goes without saying that the signal to noise ratio in our media environment heavily tilts to noise. That said, I make an attempt, as you do, to discern the facts from the imperfect and biased information I receive. Complex systems are hard to get one's mind around to begin with, but when you have people within the system deliberately trying to spin and obfuscate its workings, it gets close to impossible to get all the facts. But we keep trying. Let's take Enron for example. Obviously it's easy to hide nefarious deeds inside a complex system like that. They were able to get away with what they did for so long because the principles were masters of spin and no one really understood what the hell they were doing. That's what can and does happen in any organization, be it government or corporations. So why shouldn't people be distrustful of oil companies? They've provided plenty of reason to be so. They have enormous resources that they use to push their agenda through lobbying, PR, and party "donations", as well as back-channel connections and god knows what other legal, semi-legal, and illegal means. It's just simple common sense that one should be wary of organizations with so much power and influence, just as one should be wary of the power and influence of government. The difference is, I have a say in government, and government is, at least in theory, there for the benefit of its citizens. I have virtually no say in what Shell, Exxon, BP, etc. do. On the other hand, they have, AS CORPORATIONS, an order of magnitude more influence than I do as an individual citizen over my government. And BTW, "hate" is too strong a word, but I'm not a fan of Rockefeller, who at the moment is attempting, along with Harry Reid, to get immunity for telecoms who broke the law and illegally wiretapped Americans at the behest of the Bush administration. I wonder who Rockefeller's major contributors are? Wouldn't be major players in the telecom industry, would they? Tell me again, why should I trust corporations more than government?

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Jan 25, 2008

    Personally, if I don't like a company, I try to do little or zero business with them. That satisfies my need to hate them. Government forces their way into my life, so they are different. They even back up everything they do with guns. I guess I just know enough about oil to know that it is nowhere near a monopoly. If you think oil companies make obscene profits, you are able to buy the stock, or even drill for oil yourself. When you have met people who did drill their own oilwell, you kinda get over the whole exxon runs the world fear. So while the leaders at big oil companies do have a lot of power, you can influence them by buying the stock and going to the shareholders meetings. Unlike government, you will get the same value per share as anyone else (I on the other hand get no stimulus tax rebate, thanks ya'll). Government lords over the oil companies every day. Also, you get to vote for best refiner everytime you fill up your tank. Our government is now elected by a majority of people who are net receivers rather than net contributors to the treasury. Ain't that dandy. Let's just agree to disagree at this point. We have taken this way off topic. Talk to you on another thread.

  • Big6ft6 Big6ft6 on Feb 01, 2008

    This is an interesting thread. I tend to be a fiscal concervative and a fan of free markets as long as market failures are regulated against (monopolies etc). But what I don't understand is how big oil companies are posting record profits right now?

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Feb 01, 2008

    There are three types of oil companies. 1. Exploration companies, also called independents and upstream producers. These companies have no refining capabilities. They are of course showing record profits due to the high price of oil. 2. Refiners, or downstream companies which have little or no oil production of their own. These companies are not doing so well because presently the refining margins are not high in the US. 3. Integrated oil companies (Exxon, Conoco, Shell, etc.) have both upstream and downstream operations. They are not all doing that well. Exxon is doing really well because they are so incredibly huge and keep growing. Also, the refining margins in Europe are much higher right now, so they will show a high dollar profit BECAUSE the dollar is weak, rather than in spite of it. Marathon is an integrated company that did quite poorly because they have little or no upstream operations overseas. Hope that helps. The other thing to keep in mind is that Exxon's billions represent a 10% profit. If you walked into a bank with a business plan that predicted 10% profit, you would likely not get a loan. Venture Capitalists would also likely not show much interest. Anybody making a big deal about Exxon's profits is either ignorant, or just being stupid. At any rate, their stock is for sale so for anyone who thinks they make too much money, buy the stock.