Sunday, July 6, 2008

America Over the Barrel: AGAIN

An article in today's Times about our current dependency on oil and whether or not it could have been prevented has me so angry I just want to go down to D.C. and personally punch every member of Congress in the face! A few highlights:

"Perhaps, but on Capitol Hill, members of both parties now say they are furious with Detroit for fighting so hard, and for so long, against higher fuel-efficiency standards." Right... "We're shocked, SHOCKED, to find that there is gambling going on here!"

"Indeed, low-priced gasoline has long been part of the American social contract, according to Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican leader." Newt Gingrich?! NEWT GINGRICH? After Bill Clinton, is there any politician in the United States today with less credibility than Newt Gingrich?

"Representative John D. Dingell, the powerful Democrat from Detroit who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, argues — as he did more than a decade ago — that tightening CAFE [corporate average fuel economy] standards unfairly penalizes domestic automakers while rewarding foreign rivals who make more small cars." Right... "My real constituents, the ones who give me loads of money for my re-election campaigns, can't get obscenely wealthy making fuel-efficient cars. Damn those damned, clever little foreigners and their damned, clever little business models!"

"In [CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Oil] Mr. [Jeroen] van der Veer’s native Holland, for example, gasoline sells for more than $10 a gallon, with $5.57 of that going to taxes." As it should be! On the few visits I've made to Europe, the one thing that's most obvious is that they don't drive gas guzzling SUVs and they don't drive any more than they have to. But, of course, their cities are designed so that people can walk, ride bikes or take public transportation more easily: because they don't have Detroit dictating public policy. I can't imagine that any other country in the world spends as much (if they spend any at all) on superhighways within the city limits than the U.S.

"Since the 1980s, fuel efficiency has flatlined at 24 m.p.g., while vehicle weight has jumped more than 25 percent and horsepower has nearly doubled. In Europe, on the other hand, fuel efficiency currently stands at 44 m.p.g. and is slated to hit 48 m.p.g. by 2012. 'It’s a shame we’re doing this now instead of 10 or 20 years ago,' says [Representative Mike Castle, a Delaware Republican], who supported the legislation last year." The implication here is that the European automakers are now smarter than the American automakers because they have been mandated to make cars more efficient. Since U.S companies weren't required to do it, they don't know how to now and so they're at least 10-20 years behind their continental counterparts. This is the only reasonable answer, otherwise, why wouldn't they make more fuel efficient cars now? It can only be because the ranks of all the domestic automakers are filled with incapable, incompetent, unimaginative, greedy, blind morons (offense intended).

And finally, this from the beginning of the article: “We can see how you can get to $100,” [David J. O’Reilly, CEO of Chevron] says. “At $140, I just don’t know how to explain it. We’re surprised.” I'm of two minds here. There's a part of me that thinks he may be sincerely amazed. That's not to say that he's not thrilled by it, but I can actually believe that he didn't see this coming. But what does it say about the leaders of this industry?

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