Sunday, July 6, 2008

"Smart Bombs" Bombs.

Car Gary Crooks writes "Smart Bombs" for the Spokesman-Review. His Saturday 5 July 2008 column presented the S-R readership with a "Safety rationale tanks" concerning the gas guzzling SUV. For example: "Remember when people used safety to justify their sport utility vehicle purchases? A colleague does and he wonders what's become of that rationale. It's a fair point, considering the plunging sales of SUVs and the crummy trade-in prices they now fetch." Actually, it has been known since the time the SUV had debuted that they were subject to roll overs. They were never a "safe" rig to drive and the real reason for their purchase probably had nothing what so ever to do with the "safety" factor but the macho factor of buying the latest toy and intimidating the hell out of the subcompact owner. But if you were—or thought you were anyway—wealthy enough to afford one, then you also had to be wealthy enough to buy the gas for it too. And most people who bought one when gas prices were cheaper than they are today, aren't wealthy enough to put a third of their monthly income into one each time they go to the gas station. That being said, "macho" now has to give way to practical reality.

Continuing; "A non-starter. Don't feel bad about trading that guzzling SUV for a car; the safety advantages were always illusory. SUVs are subject to rollovers, which account for one-third of highway fatalities. Plus, their weight makes it more difficult to stop or avoid others." So why did the "Big 3" Automakers put such a rig in the hands of consumers to begin with? Given the track record of the SUV, even if I could afford one, I'd never own one. And what Crooks said here, being correct, would be rationale enough for most consumers to reject such a rig for something with far higher safety ratings. But you know people, machismo rules, before the wallet kicks in.

Then Crooks goes on the discuss a web site out to defend the SUV owners. But, the blog in question, as asserted by Crooks, shut down in December.

But, while Crooks did a pretty fine job of discussing the history of the SUV and why it will no longer be a vehicle of choice for the American consumer as gas prices continue to go up, up and away... This is where his column tanks, literally. CAFE is to Crooks a "tax" that gets passed on to consumers. I would have thought that CAFE was an attempt by Congress to regulate a mileage standard in vehicles owned and operated here in the U.S. of A. as to miles per hour before you had to fill up at the nearest Conoco. Indeed, CAFE was relaxed in the Reagan years and never fully re-instated as long as we weren't facing a crisis in the price of gas. Now we are facing an emergency situation in which Congress wishes to toughen CAFE to improve mileage all the time (Crooks) in cars built in the near future. And it would seem to me that if the Big 3 automakers wished to stay competitive with say the Japanese, they would be demanding CAFE as a benchmark for improving the cars that they would want the American consumer to buy and ultimately keep them in business. But as long as it can be revised as a "tax" that gets passed on to consumers, that plays into an anti-tax view by GOP stalwarts to ultimately defeat any attempt to move America past too high energy prices. Geeze, CAFE is an unwanted "tax" so get rid of it. Poor choice of words, Crooks. And it doesn't do what constitutes the innovation of the free market one damn bit of good.

Probably you can call cap and trade a "tax" to clean up the air we breath. I am sure that I don't mind such a tax being instituted if it will improve my chances of remaining somewhat in good health. And I am also certain that many other people would make the same argument. But, to the best of my understanding, cap and trade was never a "tax" to regulate the pollutants that industries put in the atmosphere, but it would certainly constitute a fine if they failed to comply. So, Crooks is against "taxing automakers" with a tougher CAFE standard who would just pass the cost of the "tax" onto the consumer. And instead, tax gasoline, and shoot the price of gas, I presume, even higher through the roof and put the automakers permanently out of business, along with gas station owners, as people opt for bikes and their own two feet. Make that price of gas prohibitively unaffordable and we don't need no car today.

So let us instead consider the concept of building the better mousetrap. The car that doesn't need oil and no hydrocarbons needed for taking you from point A to point Z. You don't need a gas station, but you may still need a repair shop to maintain the solar panels that power your rig, or replace the battery backup that runs your car on cloudy and rainy days. How about a cannister replacement every hundred miles on the car that runs on kitchen waste? In post oil America, there are plenty of ideas that keep Americans on the road and in the macho toys of their choice. Taxing gas doesn't serve to spur innovation. Recognizing that ultimately fossil fuels do have a shelf life, may get the innovators of the market place off their duffs and giving back to this nation its innovative edge in new technology. As the old axiom goes, necessity is the mother of all inventions.

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