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Fox & Friends and Stuart Varney Side With Big Auto Against Better MPG Regulations

Reported by Aunty Em - July 6, 2011 -

Recently the Obama administration floated the possibility of passing new mileage standards for car-makers. The proposed goal of 56 of miles per gallon for cars would be phased in over time, so that the eventual target is reached by 2025. On Fox and Friends The Three Stooges on the Curvy Couch (with Dana Perino playing the part of Gretchen Carlson) hosted Stuart Varney, and all seemed to think that this was all a stunt to get Obama re-elected and just more Big Government telling business what to do. Watch:

Video courtesy Media Matters

Over the chyron of “EFFICIENT” WAY TO CRIPPLE AUTOS? – OBAMA ADMIN BETS BIG ON HIGHER MPG CARS the interview ended thusly:

Perino: And the head of the [unidentified] association did say, “Look. We are for more efficiency. We’re working towards that through innovative ways, but this will hurt our ability to create jobs in America.”

Varney: Why do you have to have the government telling the car industry what to do? Why can’t you just have consumers buy what they want to buy—

Doocy: You mean the marketplace?

Varney: Ye—Why don’t we let consumers have free choice—

Perino: That’s crazy talk!

Varney: —as to what they want?

Doocy: [Chuckling in approval at Perino’s bon mot] Heh heh That’s crazy talk.

Varney: Why don’t we go bottom up as opposed to top down? Might work better.

Kilmeade: I drove a Volt, I told you, for a week. I drov—Very impressive, but I didn’t want to plug one more thing in at the end of the night. It was very strange. Just plugging in my car at the end of the night.

Answering Varney’s question of “Why do you have to have the government telling the car industry what to do?” is the book “Taken For A Ride; Detroit’s Big Three and the Politics of Pollution” by Jack Doyle. CAFE standards [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] is a very complex issue and it took Doyle 460 pages (not including the end notes, index, a list of automobile recalls, and a chronological timeline) to make the case that if it had been left to the industry, cars would still be polluting at the noxious levels from the ‘50s with very little improvement in MPG.

e-Notes gives the following summary of the book in its Study Guide:

Taken for a Ride: Detroit’s Big Three and the Politics of Pollution is an indictment of America’s auto manufacturers (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors). Jack Doyle, founder of the environmental research center Corporate Sources and previously affiliated with Friends of the Earth and the Environmental Policy Institute, attacks the auto manufacturers as would a prosecuting attorney, and he argues that the automobile industry is as vulnerable to legal action as the tobacco industry.

Doyle’s thesis is that since the 1950’s the “Big Three” have acted irresponsibly and sometimes illegally in opposing any and every attempt to limit air pollution and to increase gas mileage, from opposing the catalytic converter to impeding alternatives to the internal combustion engine. In so doing they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in misleading advertising, lobbying in Washington and elsewhere, money which would have been better spent on research and development.

A strong case is made for the necessity of government action in reining in air pollutants, confronting global warming, and other life-threatening possibilities. Doyle claims that the auto manufacturers would never have adopted any conservation measures if left to their own devices because Adam Smith’s invisible hand of competitive market forces does not truly exist in the auto industry. He finds few heroes among elected politicians—Edward Muskie is an exception—and even fewer in the top rank of automobile executives, although he has praise for those of Honda. Doyle argues that the recent proliferation of SUVs and pick-up trucks, all exempt from Environmental Protection Agency requirements, is typically irresponsible in the quest for corporate profits.

Filled with details, Taken for a Ride raises important, and troubling, issues. It is a one-sided account, but is there another side?

MonkeyWrench Books also reviews the book:

Taken for a Ride chronicles the decades-long lobbying, technological slight-of-hand, and outright deceptions used by the Big Three. They delayed meeting the public health goals established by the Clean Air Act, rolled back the fuel economy standards, and, now, lead the charge against the US ratification of the global warming treaty. Catalytic converters, alternative fuels, and emissions standards all came long after they could have. Detroit has so successfully delayed the implementation of the original goals of the 1970 Clean Air Act that GM boasted, "1993 was the first year we built a [car] to 1975 standards."

[...]

Taken for a Ride is an environmental, business, and legislative history of the sordid combination of delay and chicanery that keeps us dependent on foreign oil and gas and makes us vulnerable to political shifts in oil rich countries across the globe. If the air we breathe is not essential enough, then being over a political barrel ought to be.

What struck me in reading the book were several facts of which I had been unaware:

• The first auto show took place in New York City in 1900. Of the 300 cars on display, by 40 manufacturers, steam-powered and electric cars outsold internal combustion engines. However, the next year oil was discovered at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas. This led to cheaper gasoline and the era of steam and electric powered vehicles was pretty much over.

• Car manufacturers, along with tire companies, conspired to purchase transit companies in various cities. Then they converted electric streetcar, train and bus routes to gasoline-powered vehicles, ripping up tracks and overhead lines in the process. Years later, once it was realized how alternative forms of less-polluting transit could improve life for people, it was too late. The entire infrastructure had already been removed and the costs to rebuild it were just too prohibitive. [In a weird bit of synchronicity the PCC (Presidents' Conference Committee Cars) streetcars that my family rode in Detroit before that system was ripped out, were the very same “Red Rockets” I rode in Toronto many years later. Toronto not only purchased some of its fleet from Detroit, but continued to refurbish and run them for decades. Some of them were still riding the rails as late as last year. While Toronto still has many electric streetcar routes, most of the streetcars are no longer the beautiful and classic PCC cars.]

Toronto_Transit_Commission_PCC_4500_in_regular_operation.jpg

PCC streetcar riding the famed Harbourfront line in Toronto

• Because California emission and CAFE standards were always more stringent than elsewhere, car companies produced two cars of the same models: those that were ‘cleaner’ and met California law and ‘dirtier’ cars for the rest of the country.

• Because the life of an automobile is estimated to be almost 20 years (including resale after the original owner) any regulations passed today will not have an appreciable effect on pollution and MPG savings until those cars sold previously are off the road.

You’ll never hear Fox News make the case that the car companies have been screwing the public, polluting our air, and costing ‘Merkins millions of barrels of oil, not to mention the cost per gallon out of our pockets to pay for gasoline. Furthermore, you’ll certainly never hear mention of Doyle’s book at Fox, but the reason for that is quite simple: It was published by The Tides Center.

I highly recommend this book if this is a topic that interests you. Also recommended is “The Reckoning” by David Halberstam, a book I re-read periodically.