Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hypocrite Series: Obama on Fuel Efficiency

In this article, Obama writes:

Fuel Economy Standards: Despite tremendous technological innovation in the auto industry, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars have been held hostage to ideological battles in Washington for 20 years. Barack Obama introduced a bold new plan, bringing together long-time opponents to gradually increase fuel economy standards while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers. Obama’s plan would establish a target of four percent increase each year - unless the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proves the increase is technologically unachievable, hurts safety, or is not cost-effective. If the target is met for ten years, Obama’s plan will save 1.3 million barrels of oil per day and 20 billion gallons of gasoline per year.

Why do we continue to legislate situations that capitalism is designed to correct on its own? As I drove by the corner gas station today, I noticed prices hopped up to $3.00/gallon. Because I drive a 12 year old Dodge Truck, that means my gas bill is huge running around $60 for approximately 250 miles of driving. That's about 12 miles/gallon or maybe more informatively expressed as $240/month.

What if I could get 50 miles/gallon with a Honda Civic? If my math is right (and it rarely is), I would reduce my monthly gas bill by $180. So is $180/month enough to pay for a Civic? Depending on how you do it, yes it is.

This has been my line of thinking since a few months prior to Hurricane Katrina. So far, the potential savings have not been enough to offset my need for a truck or the upfront cost of buying a new car, but eventually that will change. My truck will likely be parked unless needed with me driving a more fuel efficient car for routine daily activities.

Do I think Obama's proposal is bad? Not really, but I think there are better ways to use our time if a problem will solve itself.

My larger object to Obama's proposals for fuel efficiency is here:

Help for Manufacturers: U.S. automakers are facing retiree health costs that add $1,500 to the cost of every GM car. They are struggling to afford investments in hybrid technology. Obama would encourage automakers to make fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles by helping the companies shoulder the health care costs of their retirees. Domestic automakers will get health care assistance in exchange for investing 50 percent of the savings into technology to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. In addition, Obama would provide automakers with generous tax incentives for retooling assembly plants.

When millions of us can't even get health insurance, Obama is going to pay health costs for people who already have some of the best? Aside from that, how can you make the leap of logic that retiree health care costs are what prevent U.S. automakers from investing in fuel-efficient technology? Isn't that a textbook example of a non-sequitur? Using the same logic, couldn't I come to the conclusion that inflated salaries negotiated by labor unions prevent investment in new technology? Shouldn't we deal with health care costs themselves as opposed to playing games that make me want to check Obama's campaign contributions for links back to GM?

Let's let capitalism work both in fuel efficiency standards and health care. Undermining capitalism simply brings us to situations like health care where, quite honestly, I'd almost rather it be fully socialized than sit in this half-assed quagmire it's in now.

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