The auto industry is at it again — wailing about how higher fuel economy standards are going to cause massive layoffs. The federal government thought it had met industry objections a few months ago when it agreed to lower its mandate for the year 2025 from 54.5 mpg to 50-52 mpg. But the car companies are not happy. This week, they sent their minions to Capitol Hill to plead with Congress to do something! This would be the same Congress that has failed to do anything at all for the past 7.5 years. Good luck with that, lads.
Mitch Bainwol, head of the industry trade group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is scheduled to deliver written testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday that asks, “How will automakers meet the aggressive standards currently in place, by when and at what cost to consumers, industry and the economy as a whole?”
Conveniently, the Center for Automotive Research, a non-partisan, independent, non-aligned, and totally neutral non-profit headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan released a study it says proves that higher fuel economy standards will throw a million or more right thinking, hard working Americans out on the streets. Why? Because, says CAR, low gas prices mean that the savings promised by higher mileage cars will be illusory. Well gee, guys. What is it we should do? Pretend that climate change is not an issue? Go back to making V-8 powered behemoths like the road locomotives that ruled the road in the 60’s? Just keep on selling diesels? What? Tell us. Inquiring minds want to know.
By the way, you can see just how non-aligned and independent CAR is by taking a gander at the page on their website that details who their affiliates are. Affiliates, in case you didn’t know, are the companies who pony up the money to fund all that independent, non-partisan research. They include such disinterested parties as Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.
To hear the industry tell it, lower emission mean higher sticker prices. Simple as that. The apologists for the industry like to make it seem that every price increase is directly tied to fuel economy tweaks. Never, ever does anyone suggest that the price of cars is going up because people today refruse to buy a car without an automatic transmission, power everything, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, 22″wheels, killer sound systems, touch screens larger than the first televisions, 4G internet, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless recharging for digital devices, leather interior, and 14 cup holders. People can’t even open and close their own doors, sliders, and lift gates anymore. They require machines to do the job for them.
Also noticeably absent from any discussion about the rising price of automobiles is any discussion of what the autonomous driving systems of the future will cost, yet every manufacturer on the face of the earth is falling all over themselves to hurry self driving cars to market. But the extra money those cars will cost is all the fault of fuel economy regulations. C’mon, guys. Really? My granddaughter in the third grade knows that argument is bogus. The car makers are taking a page from the Donald Trump playbook. If your argument makes no sense, use fear to get what you want.
What is missing from this discussion is any mention of why gas prices are so low and whether the fossil fuel industry should continue to benefit handsomely from direct and indirect government subsidies. No mention is ever made of the health care costs of polluted air, land, and water. No one ever questions the millions of lost hours manufacturers experience every year due to the poor health of its workers. Not a word is spoken about what will happen to all those lovely customers when New York and Florida are under water. No discussion takes place about the environmental damage caused by extracting and transporting fossil fuels. Not one person ever stands up and suggests that fossil fuels should be subject to market corrections that force them to bear the full burden of the costs they put on the shoulders of the citizenry.
In other words, the automotive industry is unable to look beyond the end of next week or past the next quarterly earning statement. It is perfectly content to keep rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as the world economy sinks –figuratively and literally — beneath the waves. Congress, of course, will wring its hands and make dire pronouncements, before moving on to the next Benghazi investigation or attack on the Clean Power Plan. When The Donald sits in the White House, everyone will be able to relax and take a deep breath. But for how long?