On the heels of every other company in America jumping on the “we lost all of our/your money, please save us” bandwagon, auto makers are asking for handouts to keep from going under. Republicans and Democrats seem to be taking notice. Most notably, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President-elect Barack Obama (in a White House visit with George W. Bush), among others, are proposing the use of $25 billion of the $750 bailout to keep US car makers GM, Ford, and Chrysler afloat.
Not to be insensitive to those who are employed by the auto industry or who have stock in it, I think this is a step backward. Why bolster companies who provide products that most consumers can’t afford and which lack the features that most consumers want?
Instead of subsidizing automakers, who are the lapdogs of the oil companies (which is best for the politicians who get paid by oil lobbyists), we could do what is best for the people (in the long-run), and let car companies fail unless they quit bragging about 30 MPG and convert us to plug-in hybrids with Flex-Fuel tanks, which would easily give us over 100 MPG average.
It’s shameful that car companies brag about 30 MPG on TV ads, and more shameful that most Americans fall for it. It’s comparable to if Apple and Microsoft were touting pen and paper as the latest technology. But what is most shameful of all is the way that the American government continues to legislate against improvements in fuel economy and implementations of alternative energy, falling back on tried and true excuses such as “doesn’t meet Department of Transportation standards”. Well, if other countries are using Toyota Priuses in electric only mode, for example, and even using cars with technologies based on air and water that get 100s of MPG of gas, and it’s working for them, perhaps the standards need to be reviewed and revised…
There is a lot of talk in the media, both on television and online, from major outlets and individuals, about electric power for cars, including both hybrid and plug-in technologies. While I definitely think that electric power for cars is an important move forward for affordability and ecology, I feel that while these technologies are being improved and gradually implemented, there is another, immediately available option which is not receiving adequate attention.
Car companies spend millions, if not billions of dollars annually on glitzy Hollywood ads full of dazzling computer generated imagery and celebrity voice-overs for their obsolete 30 MPG vehicles. If they would trim their bloated advertising budgets, they could spend about $100 per vehicle to put Flex Fuel tanks to use E-85 (15% gas, 85 % ethanol) NOW!
And instead of our government subsidizing the failing auto companies with billions of dollars to keep making 30 MPG guzzlers (which Republicans and Democrats both support), we could instead spend the money converting our nation’s gas stations to Flex-Fuel, for $20,000 – $60,000 per station, according to an article from Fareed Zakaria, published in Newsweek, entitled “Imagine: 500 MPG”.
Here is a quote from Zakaria’s article:
The current crop of hybrid cars get around 50 miles per gallon. Make it a plug-in and you can get 75 miles. Replace the conventional fuel tank with a flexible-fuel tank that can run on a combination of 15 percent petroleum and 85 percent ethanol or methanol, and you get between 400 and 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. [BLOGGER’S NOTE: by “400-500 MPG of gasoline”, he means ~100 MPG of E-85 mix]
While I don’t think GM deserves any praise for the Volt concept, especially after burying their electric car almost 20 years ago, probably due to pressure from oil companies, I must give them accolades for adopting Flex-Fuel on some of their vehicles. They are also trying to increase the number of Flex-Fuel filling stations, namely working with big retailers like Wal-Mart and Target to get pumps installed.
If we could get our government and American automakers to stop answering to oil companies, who want poor gas mileage and high gas prices to gouge us at the pump, and get them to start answering to us, the consumers, we could get the “big three” (GM, Ford, & Chrysler) to start making all their vehicle models plug-in hybrids with Flex-Fuel tanks.
Then we wouldn’t need to subsidize them to keep making cars no one is buying. Everyone would start buying their cars. And if the government is going to subsidize them to adopt these alternative technologies, they could subsidize them with conditions. For example, if GM, Ford, & Chrysler get X number of billion dollars of taxpayer funding to convert to plug-in hybrids with Flex-Fuel tanks, then they agree to also start putting up solar panels and wind turbines to create environmentally friendly electricity for vehicle fueling stations, thereby creating a self-reinforcing cycle of improvement for consumers’ finances and for the environment.
We could apply the same model to electric companies providing power to residences and businesses.
All it takes is enough pressure from the consumers (boycotts, bargain shopping, voting) to break the greedy cycle of the politicians, auto makers, and utility providers serving the oil companies and vice versa.
Another way we could reform the auto industry is to manufacture less cars, putting only a few examples of each vehicle at dealerships, and sell custom-designed made to order vehicles via the internet or computerized kiosks at dealerships, or with the assistance of a salesperson entering preferences and assisting with orders. After all, for most of the population, vehicles are too expensive to be considered impulse items; there is no need to every color and flavor readily in stock at the check-out counter.
And if this means that some assembly workers and sales people lose their jobs, the government could help to convert them over to builders, maintainers, and operators of new mass transit. Imagine if all of America was covered in high-speed, low-energy bullet trains and nice new buses…
TO READ MORE, FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW…
Plan Gives GM, Ford, Chrysler $25 Billion
Hybrid Car Blog – Prius VS Volt
California Cars Initiative – 100 MPG + Hybrids – Fareed Zakaria – Imagine
c|net – Hacking your Prius
c|net – Coming Soon – 100 MPG+
Hack Your Hybrid—Activate EV Stealth Mode, Get Rid of the BEEP, and More!
Coastal Tech – Electric Only Mode
GM CEO: U.S. needs 10 times more ethanol stations