Monday, June 18, 2007

The American auto industry

Here's a sad sight to behold: union workers fighting environmentalists about fuel efficiency standards. It always saddens me when two groups that could be allies in a broader progressive movement fight each other.

I must say I side with the environmentalists on this one. The cars produced by American auto companies are very fuel inefficient, if those graphs in An Inconvenient Truth are accurate. American auto companies have fought increased fuel efficiency standards tooth and nail. Meanwhile, Toyota, maker of the Prius among other things, has displaced GM as the world's largest auto company. I don't suppose it's occurred to the big three (I guess that term doesn't really apply any more) automakers that if they'd accepted higher fuel efficiency standards back in the 1980's, maybe Japanese automakers wouldn't be eating their lunch right now. And just wait until China starts making cars.

I don't see why the auto industry is whining so much: if Congress doesn't force them to be fuel efficient now, the marketplace will later. Getting a few senators to do your bidding is easy. Toyota, the global oil market, and the world automobile consumer are much harder to control. And I'm convinced that within several years, pressure to do something about carbon emissions and global climate change will only increase. Even if in the United States corporate and union interests keep environmental laws at bay, the rest of the world will move forward.

What I like about the post I linked to above is it describes an alternative model in the steel industry. Stricter environmental regulation let to increased efficiency, which later turned into a strategic advantage. I would love to see the American auto industry take a similar course. But every time I read about their lobbying efforts, it always seems they just want to pollute as much as they want.


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