QOTD: Stick or Carrot?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Yesterday we covered the proposed EPA rules and regs from the Biden administration.

Those who pay attention to such things might notice that the proposed rules are pretty aggressive. Certainly, that's what the automotive-industry lobbyist said. And Matt argued in his piece that the government shouldn't be forcing EV adoption down our throats -- and the approach might even fail to do what it's intended to do.

I think I'm less sensitive than most to rules/mandates that are meant to benefit society -- a lot of people don't like to be told what to do even if it's good for them/good for us all (see: Covid mask/vaccine mandates). We react that way out of stubbornness, or resistance to change, or perhaps a belief that we're adults and we don't need to be bossed around because we'll do it ourselves.

But even I raised an eyebrow -- and I don't totally disagree with Matt. If the new rules are forcing people to buy EVs yet EVs (and new cars, in general, are too pricey) and/or charging isn't sufficient to support a transition to EVs, well, that's an obvious problem.

Matt is also correct when it comes to the fact that EVs have their own climate concerns.

On the other hand, automakers ofttimes need a nudge to do what's best for the climate and society as a whole. So do most businesses/industries. Because sometimes their interest in making money isn't aligned with making expensive long-term changes for the sake of the climate and the good of society -- even if it can be argued that making said changes would actually be good for the business (not to mention that industry execs are part of society. They don't live a vacuum).

It makes logical sense -- if automakers could simply pump out gas guzzlers and make more money in the short term, why wouldn't they? Who needs to worry about tomorrow?

Yes, that's a vast oversimplification for the sake of brevity. Anyway, yesterday's news has me coming back to a topic we've covered before -- when it comes to environmental regulations, especially those that might speed the transition to EVs, should the government be using more of a carrot-or-stick approach?

In other words, are strict rules that force change better? Some would say yes, especially in this case -- we'll cut carbon emissions more quickly, and it's possible that stricter rules will spur innovation. Others would say no. They'd argue that for the reasons Matt outlined yesterday, we're not ready to transition to EVs that quickly, and it would be bad for the industry. Others are philosophically opposed to too much government intervention in private enterprise. Some will argue that regulations lead to unintended consequences. Others would argue that if the government and automakers work together, that's preferable to the adversarial relationship that could develop between companies and the government as automakers push back against oppressive regs.

Whew. That's a lot -- and I even cut down some of my thoughts. But it's a complicated issue, both philosophically and in practical terms. Personally, I think there needs to be a mix of carrot and stick -- neither approach works on its own. But that's just me.

In terms of these rules -- my initial reaction is they are well-intended but maybe too aggressive, and the concerns about EV affordability and charging infrastructure are real obstacles to progress that must be accounted for and not just excuses made by a recalcitrant industry.

I also wonder if the government took the "ask for a lot and then back down and compromise" approach to negotiations.

Again, that's my take. What say you?

Sound off below.

[Image: Max Lirnyk/Shutterstock.com]

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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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3 of 106 comments
  • Bob65688581 Bob65688581 on Apr 15, 2023

    Art Vandelay,

    I don't understand your question.

    • Slavuta Slavuta on Apr 15, 2023

      This guy is off the rails. Must be PTSD. Hard to understand.

  • Bob65688581 Bob65688581 on Apr 16, 2023


    I'm not sure what percentage of our taxes go to defending Big Oil. Some part, certainly.

    • EBFlex EBFlex on Apr 17, 2023

      I’d like to see numbers and budgets but, as usual, Luke has no basis for his information

  • ToolGuy Torque to Pork Ratio™ (torquelages/curb weight) ain't looking amazing.
  • FreedMike I had no idea the 500X was even being sold here anymore.
  • FreedMike The company logo needs to be bigger on the tailgate - it can't be deciphered easily from Pluto.
  • ToolGuy On a not-long drive last night to the next county over, my spouse grilled me about Rivian and Rivian products. So congratulations, Rivian, you are officially on the Non-Enthusiast Radar.
  • Cprescott My 2016 Hyundai that I bought in January 2019 cost $13k and takes less than 10 minutes to fuel and gets over 500 miles to a tank - lifetime average MPG of 45. Golf carts make no sense at all.