|Thanks Dave for your impassioned plea. As a community, we do need to be more involved in the fuel economy issue. And I agree that our Congressional delegation have gotten away with being overly protective of our home industry, much to their own detriment. I do want to take issue with Friedman's oversimplification of the competing legislative proposals, however. While the bill supported by most of the MI delegation, the auto companies and the UAW is certainly the weaker of the two proposals, it is wrong to simply dismiss it as "loophole ridden." It just doesn't go far enough, and is at least 10 years too late. But the Senate bill isn't perfect either. As I pointed out in an Op Ed back in July, the Senate's 35 mpg bill is a good start, but could go further in providing job protections for U.S. autoworkers and offering financial support to help the industry retool their factories to produce new fuel efficient vehicles and technologies. http://www.autonewsservice.org/072007/pp_dn_071207_cafebill.htm |
What is important for Michigan environmentalists to recognize is that there are good reasons for our leaders to try reducing the possible negative economic impacts from new fuel economy legislation, especially during the trying times that our industry is currently experiencing. As the NYT's pointed out in its own editorial last week, Detroit at the Brink, not all the problems the industry faces are of their own doing, for example our health care policies that advantage foreign automakers that don't carry huge financial burdens for retired workers.
It is possible to promote both strong fuel economy and support for the industry to make the transition. But if we really want to solve this problem and earn our Congressional leaders' support, we need to move away from the simplistic position that there is only one side in this debate.
Columnist Tom Friedman in today's NYT asks why Michigan's congressional delegation is helping Detroit lose the competitive auto race with Japan (and soon China), a battle against improved fuel economy standards that Toyota is now happy to assist. My observation as a former congressional staffer from Michigan is that while there are more complex reasons, the politics of Michigan's congressional opposition to improved fuel standards are fairly simple: fear. Republicans fear the MMA. Democrats fear the MMA and the UAW. Both fear voter backlash should they support stronger fuel standards after years of full-throated pandering to the public that stoked the CAFE debate in Michigan. None of this is new or surprising and few could have predicted just how devastating the politics of CAFE would become to Michigan.