35 MPG, Chairman Dingell and Killing Industry

By August 24, 2007Energy, Global Warming

Two on-line columns of note, one from Eric Peters, an automotive columnist writing at the American Spectator. Peters notes the alternative strategies for the auto companies that grows out of the Senate energy bill and its magical 35-mpg CAFE standards — lower-weight, i.e., more expensive or less safe vehicles, or millions of cars that no one wants to buy. And for what?

The costs aren’t so negligible. The federal government concedes that the Senate’s (already-passed) version of the CAFE bill, which would impose an across-the-board 35 mpg standard on all new vehicles, costing the U.S. auto industry an additional $110 billion in research, manufacturing, production and related compliance costs — all in addition to the $1,500 per car in health care, pension, and other so-called “legacy” costs already crippling U.S. automakers.

But even more importantly in this debate, that $110 billion would take away from the $17 billion that the automakers are spending on R&D to develop new technologies that will actually solve these problems in the long run. This could be devastating to the millions of Americans employed by General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler whose jobs may evaporate in the wake of a government-imposed kneecapping of the already-reeling American automobile industry.

Peters has good things to say about H.R. 2927, the CAFE alternative bill, known as Hill-Terry after the names of its bipartisan sponsors.

The other entry is from Henry Payne, opinion cartoonist for the Detroit News, following up on an editorial board meeting with Rep. John Dingell (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Payne detects a sense of urgency from Dingell, who — Payne infers — wants to pass an energy bill now out of fear a Democratic president would sign an extreme, economy-killing anti-global-warming bill.

“It’s always been my goal to write a bill in the middle,” says the rep from Michigan’s 15th District, home of both Dearborn auto factories and green, university-town Ann Arbor. “If I’m going to write a fair bill, if I’m going to protect my industry, I’m going to need help from Republicans.”

Perhaps. But despite his disagreement with his own party, Dingell still believes global warming is a problem. The GOP does not. To that end, Dingell is proposing a 50-cent gas tax and a cap-and-trade system (rather than scapegoating autos with CAFE laws). I suspect Republicans would just as soon watch Democrats tear themselves apart over those poison pills.

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