By on March 30, 2011

As I write this, President Obama and his top environmental and auto regulators are gathering for a speech on “American energy security” at Georgetown University. In this speech, the President is expected to make the case for ramped-up CAFE standards, EV subsidies and other transportation-related energy efficiency goals, and based on his politically pragmatic framing of the issue as being about “energy security” rather than environmental prerogatives, it seems that he’s serious about creating new policy rather than merely playing to his base. But, according to the Detroit News, the automakers are not going to take increased regulation sitting down, but appear to be gearing up for the first major legislative clash over automotive regulation since the green-tinged bailout. Automakers have begun to push back on both fuel economy and stalled safety legislation, explains Alliance of Automotive Manufacturer’s spokesperson Gloria Bergquist.

Automakers have always supported legislation and regulations that are driven by data and sound science, and there have been some examples where there was more wishful thinking and targets being selected that weren’t based on the data. So we have become more outspoken on the need for data to drive policy decisions.

Of course, automakers haven’t always supported regulation of their industry… but this is clearly a change in tone from the cowed industry that collapsed into the government’s arms just a few short years ago. A battle is brewing, so let’s look at some of the flashpoints in this forthcoming conflict.

On safety, the administration has already begun to to pick its battles. It allowed the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to die in last December’s lame duck session, and has made no new efforts to push it back towards the President’s signature. It has backed away from power window “auto-reverse” regulation, and postponed final rulemaking for its new back-up camera requirement. But automakers want even more time for the backup camera legislation to take effect, and they’re holding their ground on another recent NHTSA rule regulating “ejection mitigation.” According to the DetN

A new rule on “ejection mitigation” — keeping drivers and passengers from flying out of a vehicle in a crash — is among the safety proposals at which automakers are balking.

The alliance wants NHTSA to reconsider a final regulation it adopted in January, saying aspects of it are “inappropriate” — especially the phase-in period, which requires full compliance by 2017. The rule, to be phased in starting in 2013, will require automakers to keep unbelted adults from moving more than 4 inches past the side window opening in a crash. The government says it could save 373 lives annually and cost automakers $500 million annually.

“These timing changes impose unreasonable and impractical burdens on vehicle manufacturers and have not been justified by the agency,” the automakers said.

Porsche AG says it can’t comply without a “major vehicle redesign.” Absent a redesign, it said, production of some vehicles could be halted.

But energy efficiency rules, the highlight of Obama’s about-to-commence speech, is where the real battle lines seem to be being drawn. Compliance with the 34.1 MPG by 2016 CAFE standard is expected to cost the industry $51.5b, and the regulations for 2017 and beyond, which will be announced this September, are expected to ramp up efficiency requirements even more aggressively.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says the next round of new rules is “likely to be significantly more expensive” than the first, and warned that if consumers don’t buy new hybrids and electric vehicles, the auto industry will suffer.

“If consumers do not buy the vehicles that manufacturers are required to produce, sales will fall, production will slow and manufacturers will be forced to eliminate jobs,” it said.

NHTSA and EPA are considering annual increases in fuel efficiency ranging from 3-6 percent between 2017 and 2025, which equates to a fleetwide average of 47 and 62 mpg by the period’s end. The range of government-estimated costs per vehicle is $770 to $3,500, depending on the stringency of the emissions limits.

Automakers says those estimates are “unrealistic” and pointed to a Center for Automotive Research analysis that said hiking fuel efficiency to 60.1 mpg could boost vehicle prices by 22 percent, cut sales by 25 percent and trim up to 220,000 auto sector jobs.

But if President Obama keeps the discussion framed as one of “energy security,” he may well be able to build a bipartisan congressional coalition for further energy-efficiency legislation despite the industry’s protests. After all, the bad taste of the auto bailout lingers on the national palate, and the industry can only portray itself as a victim so many times. Besides, not everyone in the auto industry wants to join the fight against fuel economy regulation. Hyundai, for example, has realized that it can make hay with consumers by conspicuously pledging to “over-comply” with CAFE. Like most conflicts, the lines of battle won’t be clear until it’s actually joined. And as it plays out, TTAC will be watching.
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61 Comments on “Is A Battle Between Automakers And Washington Brewing?...”


  • avatar

    The president just started speaking… watch him live at C-Span.

  • avatar
    geeber

    I thought that we had just raised these standards recently? Sounds like overkill to me…or, perhaps, a case of setting lofty goals that must be met at a distant date, when those who advocated them in the first place are conveniently retired.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    They could meet those CAFE standards by making the full sized trucks smaller and with less useless horsepower.  You do not need a 400 horsepower 4,500 pound Dodge Ram with a 100 mph speed limiter.  You need torque. 400 horsepower is enough to push a Corvette to close to 200 mph. If you park a new Ford Ranger or Chevy Colorado besides a early 70s Ford F-100 or C-10 shortbed, they’re about the same size!  No one makes a small truck anymore like the 1st gen S-10 or the Datsun or Toyota pickups from the 80s anymore.  Don’t even get me started about the heavy CUV or SUVs that have A, B & C pillars so think it’s like riding in an armored truck.  No wonder they need backup cameras now.
    I wonder what kind of mileage a ’80 Malibu with a DOHC 24 valve V-6, seating for six and the current level of fuel injection tuning would record.  It’s be at least 30 mpg like the Mustang or Camaro, I’m sure.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Most trucks that Dodge sells don’t have 400 hp.  Most trucks that all auto manufactures sell don’t have 400 hp.  Eliminating the high HP trucks is more of a rounding error in the end as far as CAFE is concerned.
       
      Bringing small trucks will help, but not eliminate the problem unless all auto manufactures start making smaller trucks.  Not something that is going to be easy to agree upon.  Especially when many of the smaller trucks price tag isn’t that much less than the full size version.
       
      The CUV/SUV problems with thick pillars, well you can thank rollover and roof crush testing for that.  You are starting to see these same thicker pillars in cars too.  You have one side that wants more safety, which causes weight problems.  The other side wants fuel efficiency which suffers from excess weight.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The CUV/SUV problems with thick pillars, well you can thank rollover and roof crush testing for that

      Not entirely, no  Minivans and many other “style-free” vehicles have quite thin roof pillars and many weigh as some crossovers.  The reason you have thick pillars has as much to do with a designer’s whimsy and the buyers (of crossovers and sedan’s) love of the impression of tank-like security.

      Take, say, the Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu: same car, same regs, but the Malibu sports some massive pillars where the Fusion’s are more classically thin.  The difference is Bob Lutz’ predilection for certain design cues.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      @MarcKyle – I agree with your comments.
       
      Just one small niggle though. You say (paraphrase) “you don’t need 400 horse power, you need torque”. Well, the thing is, if you generate torque then you automatically generate horsepower as it is a function of torque multiplied by revs. Unless, of course, you seriously restrict the revs. Not sure that would be the way to go.
       
      So, more smaller, lighter but high revving engines are probably what to expect. Low torque at low RPM but good fuel economy (if driven well!), then rev the hell out of it when you need to hustle.
       
      Most cars in Europe been that way forever.
       

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The rule, to be phased in starting in 2013, will require automakers to keep unbelted adults from moving more than 4 inches past the side window opening in a crash.  – Wear your seat belt, Moron.  And not every crash is survivable.  The thing about life is, you see, that no one comes out the other end of it alive.

    Automakers says those estimates are “unrealistic” and pointed to a Center for Automotive Research analysis that said hiking fuel efficiency to 60.1 mpg could boost vehicle prices by 22 percent, cut sales by 25 percent and trim up to 220,000 auto sector jobs.
     
    As long as gas prices rise, greater fuel efficiency will take care of itself.  Market forces.  You ever hear of that?
     
    Sorry for my bitterness, I’m tired of people trying to save idiots from themselves.  Some people can’t be saved.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      $500 million in cost to save 373 lives is 1,340,482.57 per life saved. Something about diminishing returns comes to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeffer

      Any adult who doesn’t wear a seatbelt deserves a Darwin Award, not more coddling from the nanny state!

    • 0 avatar
      weatherman

      The problem is that “market forces” don’t really work very well in this kind of circumstance for a number of different reasons, the first being that there is a significant lag between purchasing a car and actually having to deal with the impact of higher gas prices. A person buying a car in 2007 might make a choice based on the gas price of around $2.00 per gallon, but would be utterly shocked when in just a couple of years it has gone to $4.00. But that person is likely still stuck with the same car or would have to sell it at a significant loss to purchase a newer car with better efficiency. Oil prices fluctuate significantly – actually, the better way of saying it would be that oil prices are designed to fluctuate significantly; remember, oil prices are still controlled by cartels who know how to design a system for their own gain. The second reason that “market forces” don’t work perfectly in this situation is that there are all sorts of externalities that are not accounted for in the price of gasoline, so a person isn’t really making a decision based on the true price of gas but on the artificially low price of gas as set (and controlled) by oil companies. Environmental costs, for instance, are not part of the equation, but they need to be. Finally, there are other reasons to discourage gas usage beyond just using a so-called free market model, such as macroeconomic and political considerations. Most people buying a car don’t consider issues such as trade-imbalance or dependance on foreign oil as part of their choice, but those things are very important on a societal level. If everyone is making a choice based only on short-term economic factors, everyone is going to be an idiot on some level. The goal is to create a system that accounts for these considerations.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      But you see, the people most affected by high fuel prices can’t exactly afford new cars, now can they?  And this new standard is going to take a decade before it benefits those in the used car market.  People need to use the brains they were given.  One of the reasons I’ve been researching new cars so heavily is because a.) I’ll be able to afford one when the time comes and b.) There are so many good new cars on the market that get close to 40mpg hwy and in the high 20s low 30s in the city.  And these cars are not penalty boxes like the econo cars of yore. (Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, ect…)

      That benefits me because I’m well off enough for it to benefit me.  Could I afford to put gas in a 2008 Town Car picked up for a price much less than a new car?  I sure could (right now) but I’m thinking ahead.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      If the concern is about the impact on the trade deficit of foreign oil, then either place a tariff on imported oil, encourage domestic drilling, or both. CAFE is not an effective way to address this. We’ve had CAFE since the mid-1970s, and vehicles today are much more fuel efficient than they were in the early 1970s (when full-size cars with the big V-8s regularly gulped a gallon of gas every 10 miles), but we import more oil than ever before.

      And the argument that we “ignoring the externalities” of oil use also ignores the benefits as well, which is why it tends to be worthless in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      CraigSu

      Jumping in just to agree with geeber.  If we could focus on exploiting our domestic resources (shallow and deepwater offshore, ANWR, and Bakken come to mind) we could cut our foreign oil dependence.  What are we doing instead?  Underwriting Brazil’s offshore oil exploration.  Oy.
       
      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203863204574346610120524166.html

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I agree, my friend. That’s why I haven’t commented. You’ve already said it.

      (EDIT) I guess everyone should order their Trabants now, for it will take at least ten years.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      If you bought a big car in 2007 on the assumption that gas would cost 2.00 and that assumption was wrong that doesn’t mean market forces are a failure and government needs to step in.  It means you drive it less or you trade it a loss.
       
      Yes that’s painful.

      But not as painful as being treated as a child not permitted to make such decisions for yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I agree, my friend. That’s why I haven’t commented. You’ve already said it.
       
      And because you bought an Impala with a 3400V6 instead of the 3800V6 you came out of it a little better when gas prices rose.  But that was your free market choice. And you may have purchased the smaller engine cause you were very price conscious, or very mpg conscious, or that was the color you wanted. Whichever way, your choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “And because you bought an Impala with a 3400V6 instead of the 3800V6 you came out of it a little better when gas prices rose.”

      E. Dan: I’ll repeat what I said the other day: If our paths ever cross, the beer is on me!

      EDIT: To your statement above – ALL of the above, believe it or not! The Imp sat there on the lot exactly as if I would have ordered it. Exactly!

    • 0 avatar
      weatherman

      @geeber: “CAFE is not an effective way to address this. We’ve had CAFE since the mid-1970s, and vehicles today are much more fuel efficient”

      Since the 1970’s, this country has increased in population by 50% and since the 1970’s the largest segment of the population has entered the workforce and maintained the highest standard of living in the history of the US, so of course the overall consumption has gone up. But the argument that CAFE standards are useless is not born out by the facts that you yourself admit; today’s cars are much more fuel efficient. I shudder to think where we’d be now if we hadn’t implemented some standards.
       
      Those who argue that there is such a thing as a free market are simply ignoring the fact that the market is controlled by someone, somewhere, at all times. There is no such thing as a free market, only an unregulated or unbalanced market. Those who would argue that there should be a complete freedom of choice in all things neglect to recognize that the right of free choice ends “at my nose” so to speak. We can’t have people doing whatever they want without regard to the danger it presents to other people (create a car powered by uranium, for instance) so all decide to create some rules that we all have to live by; our cars have to be safe, and our cars should try to be efficient, for instance. We have reached those decisions through representational government. It’s not socialism, as some have suggested, and it’s not a nanny state. It’s a group of 300 million people living together trying to figure out the best way to make all of us great individually and the country great as a whole. It’s democracy.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      weatherman: But the argument that CAFE standards are useless is not born out by the facts that you yourself admit; today’s cars are much more fuel efficient. I shudder to think where we’d be now if we hadn’t implemented some standards.

      You are talking about two different things.

      One is making cars more efficient.

      The second is reducing the amount of gasoline used in general, and the amount oil imported in particular.

      CAFE was originally enacted so that the first – more efficient vehicles – would make the second happen. I’ve read the notes on the Congressional debate when the law that became CAFE was up for a vote. CAFE wasn’t enacted just because everyone thought that more fuel-efficient vehicles would be a better idea. The goal was to reduce petroleum sue.

      Unfortunately, there is no proof that the first leads to the second. We’ve seen this already. This is where CAFE has failed, and will continue to fail.

      If anything, improving fuel efficiency, over the long run, made it cheaper to drive, especially as fuel prices fell. So, even as fuel efficiency improved, we ended up using more oil and importing a greater percentage of it. I can remember, in the 1970s, when a 10-mile commute to work was enough to make my father join a carpool. Today, people commute 50+ miles (one way) to go to work. Think that they would do that in a 10-mpg Chevrolet Caprice? 

      On the one hand, you can say that they can afford it, thanks to increased efficiency. The other side of the argument is that increased efficiency makes 100-mile round-trip commutes possible, which is not quite the intended result of CAFE.  

      Well, maybe not…here in Pennsylvania, gasoline usage has DECLINED since 2006. And without a change in CAFE. Why? Higher prices. CAFE had nothing to do with it. History has shown that the surest way to reduce usage – and, ironically enough – increase vehicular efficiency – is through price increases.
       
      weatherman: There is no such thing as a free market, only an unregulated or unbalanced market.

      What you are really saying is that you don’t like the outcome of that market. Hence, the need to call the outcome “unbalanced.” Just because the market doesn’t work in a way that you don’t necessarily like doesn’t mean it isn’t working.

      We’ve seen this with bailout supporters who claim that the free market failed, which is why we had to bail out GM and Chrysler. No, the free market worked. The companies producing subpar vehicles went bankrupt. The people who support the bailouts just didn’t like the result.

      weatherman: We can’t have people doing whatever they want without regard to the danger it presents to other people (create a car powered by uranium, for instance) so all decide to create some rules that we all have to live by; our cars have to be safe, and our cars should try to be efficient, for instance.

      Just because one regulation works doesn’t mean that all regulations work, or are equally good. I support underage drinking laws. I do not support Prohibition. Mandatory seatbelt laws are a good idea; the 55 mph speed limit is not.

      And what constitutes efficiency for you may not have the same meaning to someone else. They may have different criteria as to what constitutes “efficiency.” Doesn’t make their criteria better or worse.

  • avatar

    The battle here is not actually between the Administration and the Automakers.  The Automakers will certainly be a party to it, but they will not be the primary target.

    The real battle here is between executive and legislative branches.  Whatever is pitched by the President clearly won’t have the backing of a GOP controlled house.  The result is that it is going to be enacted via EPA Rule/Regulation rather than legislation.  In the end, the automakers will sue as to them, the fight is really about them, but the suit will really be over the power of executive branch and Federal Agencies to make rules without congressional approval.

    Though to us, the impact on automakers may be more interesting, the overall impact/implications of such a case are far more important.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      OT, but nice wheels, Bender.
       
      As for the CAFE song-and-dance: I, for one, look forward to bailing out US automakers, again, in another generation (edit: if not sooner.)

  • avatar
    nova73

    Another five year plan from Comrade Barry.  There are only two ways to control the amount of fuel we consume: 1) prices, as Educator Dan points out, or 2) massive coercion from the federal government.  Everything else is window dressing, albeit expensive window dressing.

  • avatar
    kincaid

    Having worked in the OEM auto industry all my life, I am doubtful that regulation will resolve this issue. If America is going to do what is good for America, then the public will have to once again be re-engaged after a couple decades of gluttonous, self indulgence at the expense of the country’s treasury and financial/military stability. I would offer the proposition that the most non -patriotic motorists are not the ones buying foreign branded cars and trucks, but rather the self centered, ego driven motorists that drive huge trucks with giant engines as normal everyday butt haulers. Take a look on the highway during commuting time at what people are driving and racking up miles on. We could cut our fuel consumption by 20 percent very quickly by just adopting fuel efficient transportation voluntarily. Americans need to wake up and realize that it is not sustainable to have the most consumptive society on earth with half of its oil needs from imports. The massive Pentagon budget is a monumental subsidy to everything that wastes the earths oil resources. If Americans would wake up and start to think about the damage being done to our society instead of themselves, we could avoid the pain of punishing commercial users who need and should have trucks for their business. Otherwise, it just continues the dialog on the constest of egos.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You make two very good points, here:

      * One, the market is not good at long-term planning and sustainability.  It is good at immediate, short-term supply and demand.  Not being able to think about the former is what threw two American carmakers into bankruptcy and saw a third mortgaged to it’s eyeballs. Personally, I’d rather not go through the economic shock of letting the market pop whenever it feels like it.

      * Two, the market is not effective at all when costs are heavily externalized.  A not-insignificant amount of tax (and debt) exists to support the defense budget which, in turn, exists in no small part secure (and thusly cost-control) energy.  Try, just try, to imagine was gas would cost if even half of the defense budget had to be made up for by federal fuel taxes.
       
      If you’re going to hold up the laissez-faire as the right way to do things when we talk about, eg, EVs or fuel economy regulations, fine, but stop spending tax dollars to secure energy resources and/or clean up environmental damage. You cannot have it both ways.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      A better exercise is to imagine how much our gas would cost if the other petroleum-using countries that benefit from secure oil supplies were forced to shoulder some of the cost of the U.S. defense budget. We could probably eliminate a large portion of the federal motor fuels tax.

      The fallacy is to assume that only the U.S. benefits from efforts to ensure a stable supply of petroleum. The entire world – in particular, Europe, Japan, Australia and India – benefits from U.S. military strength in this regard.

      As for environmental damage – we’ve cleaned up auto exhaust to the point where emissions from vehicles has declined dramatically, and will continue to decline. If vehicular pollution is a concern, instead of forcing companies to waste money meeting new regulations, it would make more sense to require them to give everyone who drives an old clunker a brand-new car. Well over half of all vehicular pollution comes from the 5-10 percent of the vehicles that could be classified as “clunkers.”

      And please note that petroleum causes less environmental havoc – both in the efforts to procure it, as well as it use – than other forms of energy (coal, wood). The exception is nuclear, but a fair number of “greens” don’t want to touch that one. Sorry, but wind and solar simply aren’t ready for prime time at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Kincaid, the last refuge of a scoundrel is insulting someone else’s patriotism. Just because someone doesn’t drive an appropriate vehicle to you doesn’t make them a traitor. Everything you say is just so much noise because of that one thing.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Actually, relative to GDP or about any other measure, the “massive Pentagon budget” is a shadow of its former self.
      Secondly, the whole of Western Europe and Japan has, since about 1950, existed under the US defense umbrella, which includes protecting those countries’ access to oil in the Middle East.
      Third, petroleum is a global market.  Our friends in Canada are “energy independent,” that is, they are net petroleum exporters.  Yet, they pay the same for their motor fuel as we do in the U.S., and that’s because both countries operate in a world market.  If the argument is that its bad for the US to send money overseas to buy petroleum, the answer is to stop encouraging the Brazilians to drill for oil off their coasts and let US companies drill for oil off the US coasts.
      Fourth, commercial users of petroleum are not “punished” by high oil prices.  Since prices affect them equally, they simply raise prices.  If there are competitive products or services which use less energy and are therefore not “punished,”  they will benefit, which is what’s supposed to happen.
      I will believe the President is serious about CAFE when the “light truck” loophole is closed and vehicles with a passenger capacity of more than 3 persons in one row of seating are classsified as “cars” and regulated as such.  There’s no reason my Honda Pilot should be subject to different regulatory standards than my Honda sedan.
      That said, the early 1980s, when total domestic petroleum consumption actually declined, shows that consumers respond to market forces (i.e. high prices) by using less, whether that’s driving less, having few cars per household or owning cars that use less fuel.
      And Washington ought to be honest about the fact that “passenger safety” regulations add to vehicle weight, which works against fuel economy.  Then people would consider whether the substantial extra cost (and weight) of keeping the 10% or so of unbelted passengers in the car in a wreck is worth the cost, in both fuel and purchase price.  Since every state now has seatbelt laws, wouldn’t it be cheaper to mandate that the roof of every passenger vehicle have a series of lights corresponding to the number of seats inside whereby the light is green if it’s occupied by a belted passenger, red if it’s occupied by an unbelted passenger and not illuminated at all of there’s no occupant?  Then the cops could stop anyone who was showing “red” lights.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      @ DC Bruce
       
      Gas prices in Canada are lot higher then in US due to taxation. Gas with ‘corn juice’ (aka regular) in Ontario averages $1.24 a liter. And premium gas costs 15¢ a liter more then regular. In Montreal and Vancouver BC it’s approaching $1.40 a liter.
       
      1US gallon ~ 3.78 liters.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    One tip for the “exploiting our domestic resources” crowd: CNG. The Feds have given us stoopid Ethanol subsidies, how come there isn’t a CNG transportation plan that goes beyond city vehicles and buses? Guess the american natural gas producers don’t have the dosh to buy off the right pols.
     

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      CNG and LPG have real problems with storage, transport and useful power.  Plus they have to get over the infrastructure hump.  Ethanol, for all it’s faults, has lower barriers to adoption.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      What about coal gasification?

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      Yea, Ethanol’s great if you don’t want to eat. The world has too many people to feed to be wasting farm land on growing fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Yea, Ethanol’s great if you don’t want to eat. The world has too many people to feed to be wasting farm land on growing fuel.”   And on housing developments.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      CNG has “problems with storage, transport” and has to “get over the infrastructure hump”?  Most cities in the U.S. have an existing natural gas distribution system in place, fed by a network of pipelines from producing gas fields.  Home refilling equipment already has been developed.
      Does a CNG-powered car have any more range issues than an EV?  And, if I’m not mistaken, its much easier and simpler to make a dual-fuel (CNG/diesel oil or CNG/gasoline) ICE than to make a Volt-style EV, with a backup, gas-fueled ICE.
      Fleet operators already have extensive experience operating CNG-powered vehicles, for both delivery and public transit.  The same can’t be said for EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      CNG makes heating homes much more expensive and it is hard to tax without also taxing home heating gas. There is also the issue that maybe NG produces don’t want to be in the market for car fuel.
       
      ps. The gas network is extensive but doesn’t come everywhere unlike electricity which is everywhere you can buy gasoline.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Government regulations are based on prejudices and discriminations. People you do not know believe they know more than you. So, they seek power within our society in order to force you to do what they want you to do. They base their prejudices and discriminations on what they consider to be highly intelligent and credentialled expert advice, but the root of the problem is the fact that they have absolutely no respect for you. These people think you are stupid.

    You hear it constantly and it has become a part of our national refrain. “The masses are too stupid to know what is good for them.” “People are choosing what they drive based on the wrong needs.” “People are becoming dumber.” “I hate to think what is going to happen to this country when this next generation takes over.” And so on. It is very important to recognize how stupid this kind of thinking is because over the past 235 years the US has proven that empowering everyone to do as they see fit, has generated the greatest society with the most amazing economic, technical, medical and societal breakthroughs in modern history.

    This year, we have more college educated people than ever before in history. We have access to more information free than ever before. So don’t tell me that your neighbors are too stupid to make decent decisions! Don’t fingerpoint at groups claiming that they suffer from mass stupidity. Don’t fingerpoint at young people or old people or strangers different from you in some way and claim you are somehow smarter than they. It is simply not true!

    A society that believes that strangers should be empowered by a government to make decisions for them will discover that they do not have a better life. They will not have a cleaner environment. They will not be able to eradicate poverty. They will not be able to find a cure for the common cold, let alone cancer. What they will find is that instead of having brilliant successes thriving next to brilliant failures, they will end up living in the perpetual gray of mediocrity. A society that shuns and fears chaos will end up eradicating miracles, breakthroughs and surprises.

    So whenever this president opens his mouth, expect to hear a line of bullcrap that some supposed experts with no life experiences in reality have decided upon themselves to take away your life choices. He means well, but he is pursuing a fantasy that cannot occur. No single group annointed by our society can know as much as your neighborhood with all it’s housewives, bums, alcoholics, children, hypocrites, losers and hard working parents. This is because knowledge is distributed to such an extent that no single person or group can know it all enough to make a decision effecting us all. This is just a fact.

    So, battling over government policies is not where the battle should be. The battle should be over why governments think they should be meddling here to begin with. They have bankrupted one of our largest national industries and the real world record shows that the good folks in Washington are the biggest bunch of idiots ever assembled and empowered. They always were idiots. They won’t get any smarter than you or me. They are not experts. They have no more access to experts than you or I, thanks to this Web. They won’t find enough money to fund their stupid ideas. They are money eaters, not money generators. They are not producers, they are consumers.

    Giving a national government power is our biggest problem today.

    The sooner we start stripping these sincere idiots the power we have given them and redistributing it among ourselves, the sooner we start rebuilding America and the American automobile industrial base. There are no challenges we cannot resolve when we are empowered to resolve them, not Washington.

    • 0 avatar
      CraigSu

      That was, IMO, very restrained versus what I might have said in your place.  I applaud you for that.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      +1 VanillaDude

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      I would only change one thing, he does not mean well at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      I was trying to think how I wanted to respond to this TTAC posting, I think you said everything for me.
       
      I agree completely.

    • 0 avatar
      Chiburb

      As if the government actually has power to strip away.

      The President, Congress, and Supreme Court all exist in their current forms to do the bidding of Big Business. What’s really being argued here is which businesses will benefit from proposed changes, not whether such changes are bad for business or the “market”. It was no different under Bush/Cheney either: Oil, Defense, and Banking got theirs and now it’ll be other industries that benefit.

      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • 0 avatar
      d996

      Vanilla Dude  Nice rant, almost got me to reply.

    • 0 avatar
      John Fritz

      Well said VanillaDude. Nothing I can add. Thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      caljn

      Mr. Vanilla Dude: not a shred of factual information, let alone coherence in that entire post.  Except maybe for the number of college graduates…which can be ascribed to an ever growing population.
      Gov’t regs based on discrimination? Huh?  We hear all the time people are stupid?
      A society believing strangers should be empowered by government will discover they don’t have a better life or some such?

      I would gather you don’t like government regulation..but this reads like college Politics 101 term paper pontification.

      I prefer regulation…to prevent banking and economic meltdowns or nuclear meltdowns or allowing me not to see the air here in Los Angeles, like we did in the ’70’s when on several days a year outside activity was discouraged.  How about the foam that would float on the Hudson river or the fire on the Cuyahoga.  The effectiveness of seatbelts are undisputable in the statistics.  I could go on and on and on and on, on how regulation has improved our lives.  
      Were you embarassed when you discovered during a recent tragedy that Chile treats it’s miners better than we do? 
      Yes, some regulation is superflous or ill advised.  This does not mean all regs should be discarded and future regs not debated. 

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Both sides resort to hyperbole and hysteria to prove their point. In a modern, industrial society there need to be regulations to protect air and water quality, and promote a basic level of product safety.

      But we’ve already enacted very stringent regulations covering air and water quality. Vehicle exhaust is heavily regulated, as are all aspects of vehicular design.

      New vehicles are remarkably safe – it takes a pretty horrific accident to kill people in a new vehicle (provided you are smart enough to wear your safety belt). But no amount of safety equpment will save you in a head-on collision with a tractor trailer, unless we start making Ford Focuses and Honda Civics the size and weight of Peterbilts.

      New vehicles are remarkably clean, too. We have more people driving more cars than ever before, yet air quality throughout the nation has been IMPROVING over the last 30 years. We worry about levels of air pollution that people in the 1940s wouldn’t even have noticed.

      Perhaps, instead of constantly proposing new regulations, we simply celebrate the success of what we have achieved? And accept that no amount of regulations will prevent EVERY death or negative side effect? Japan is a good example. The country has taken earthquake preparation very seriously. No one can accuse Japan of taking a laissez-faire approach to disaster preparedness. But the death toll from the recent earthquake and tsunami is still expected to hit five figures. There are times when no amount of preparedness can prevent a tragedy.

      And while some people do reflexively recoil at any proposed regulation or law, others engage in the equally reflexive response to support it, regardless of whether it is needed. Not all regulations are good or even effective. I hope that no one on this board is going to support Prohibition, the 55- and 65-mph national speed limit, the 80-mph speedometer rule, or the 1974 ignition interlock.

      I seriously doubt that these new CAFE regs will make much difference in the amount of fuel consumed over the long run. As I’ve said before, gasoline usage in Pennsylvania has already declined since 2006. Without any change in CAFE. Higher prices – the dreaded free market in action – have done the trick.

    • 0 avatar
      kincaid

      Nice job glossing over the massive improvements in air and water quality made possible by the evil federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act fixing the previous 100 years of environmental armageddon afforded by “free markets”. When I was a kid the entire Lake Erie was closed to swimming and the Rouge and Cuyahoga Rivers were on fire. Sure didn’t need any government intervention here.
      I don’t know why I even respond to something so clueless.

  • avatar
    Rick Korallus

    To help fund the transfer to CNG, shut down the useless department of energy.  The D.O.E was created on 8/4/77 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil.  The budget for this “necessary” department is $24.2 billion a year.  When started 33 years ago, the consumption of foreign oil was 30%, today 70% of our oil is foreign.  Locally sourced CNG will solve our foreign dependence and since it’s cleaner burning, better for the environment.  Kill two birds with one stone.  To say the infrastructure isn’t there is dubious at best.  What is the percentage of urban American households that already have an existing Natural Gas supply? CNG is not the  end all be all, but at least it will get us by until we figure out more advanced energy sources such as hydrogen.  Drill here drill now!

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      Seems like the 52% of American homes that heat with (have) natural gas would be a good start towards overcoming any infrastructure issues with CNG.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Mullholland is absolutely correct.  Honda already sells the Civic GX (google it).  I wonder if the GX is a more efficient vehicle than an electric car, where the electricity is recharged from natural gas power stations.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Have you opened the trunk of a CNG powered vehicle?  Have you tried to fill the tank of one?
       
      I have, and it’s not pretty.  On anything smaller than a Panther or pickup truck, you lose as much trunk space as you would a hybrid, if not more.  It’s certainly more of a danger, both in a collision and to fill, and filling, unless you have a commercial station, takes hours and requires an investment that makes EV charging pale in comparison.
       
      CNG has most of hydrogen’s problems, save one:at least you don’t need to spend more energy than it yields to “extract it”, and it doesn’t leak through it’s container.  But it’s still impractical as an automotive fuel outside of specialized fleet deployments.  That it’s not carbon-neutral doesn’t help it’s case.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Rick:
      DOE pays the nuclear bomb bills which alone is $10 billion and which some would say is necessary. I also wonder who is paying the ethanol and hybrid bills or the cost of the nation oil reserves and how does the Tennessee Valley Authority work? DOE budget is $27 billion a year. sounds a lot but that is less than $100 per American and that includes the cost of the Bomb.
       
      Mullholland:
       
      Gas is probably the cheapest and with the exception of electricity the easiest form of heating so why is it only 52% and not 80%(guestimate of the sunshine states who don’t need heating). My guess is that its infrastructure doesn’t come everywhere. Can you refuel in North Dakota or need you be pulled by an electric vehicle?

  • avatar
    jimble

    More efficient cars would be great, but transportation only accounts for 28% of our energy use. There are better ways to conserve energy, like better insulation and industrial waste energy recovery, but I guess it’s easier to score political points by targeting cars. If we really want to use less energy on transportation we’ll find ways to drive less, like promoting telework, making it easier for people who must travel to work to live closer to their jobs, and providing more useful public transit options. I can already hear the objections — the socialists are trying to force people to live in cities full of communist-style apartment blocks and ride overcrowded buses to work. Because you know a 50-mile single-occupancy-vehicle commute is an absolutely ideal lifestyle choice that the government should continue to promote by subsidizing mortgages and highway construction. No sense rehashing those arguments again, right?

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Relaxing the “zoning” laws that force housing to be located away from work areas might be a good start.
       
      I’m not in any way wishing for the 55 MPH speed limit, but I wonder if it were brought back and strictly enforced it would conserve fuel more by reducing the tolerance of long commutes than by improving the efficiency of the vehicles?

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      But transportation uses almost all the oil and oil is the problem.

  • avatar
    william442

    In the 50s, you could not go down the dragstrip without a seatbelt.

    • 0 avatar
      John Fritz

      In the mid ’70’s when my friends and I were all driving 442’s, Road Runners, GTO’s etc, every single one of us wore the lap belts that came in those cars. We all saw what happened first hand when a car got wrapped around a telephone pole.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    “I am grateful … I made it clear … I said he needed to step down … I ordered … At my direction, America led an effort … I refused to let that happen … I authorized … And tonight I can report … I said … I am fully confident … I want to be clear … I refused to wait … I will never minimize … I am convinced … I, along with many other world leaders … I assigned our forces … I will never hesitate … As I have said before … etc.”  

    More of the relentless use of the vertical pronoun, as Obama plotted the demise of Ed Whitacre, former Government Motors chief…

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    For starters, I don’t think the automakers have shifted at all when it comes to support for regulation.  They have merely changed their rhetoric to appear less strident.  It’s pretty standard practice for any industry to wrap its opposition to a regulatory proposal by arguing that it doesn’t reflect “sound science” (re: “My numbers are better than your numbers!”).
     
    The most astute comment made here was that the administration has no meaningful hope of passing new legislation.  Not only will House Republicans quickly kill any Democratic proposals, but they could also try to unplug existing regulations by attempting to gut the appropriate budgets.  They have already been working that angle on global warming.
     
    The dialogue on this thread is rather depressing . . . and another indication that the blogosphere needs a site that deals in a meaningful way with the role of the automobile in society.  Bromides about the magic of the marketplace will get you only so far.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      The dialogue on this thread is rather depressing . . . and another indication that the blogosphere needs a site that deals in a meaningful way with the role of the automobile in society.

      “Excuse me, sir! You wouldn’t happen to have any Grey Poupon would you? The blogosphere at this site is indicating that my dialogue is not being addressed in a meaningful way, and my ego needs some of that delicious imported mustard to cover up the pointless bromides I am tasting here, sir! It is appalling what this country is turning into, some kind of mob-rabble driven anarchistic unenlightened poppycock that pays no heed to my astute advice as certified by Dr. Honoria Farnsworth-Packer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at my Alma Mater, you know – FU!”

      “I say Good Day to you sir! Good Day!”

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