If you work for a Detroit auto maker, Thomas Friedman thinks youâ€™re stupid.
The New York Times columnist and author of â€śThe World Is Flatâ€ť recently launched yet another diatribe against domestic auto makers and the Michigan delegation.
What are those dopes in Detroit up to this time? Why, theyâ€™re against raising corporate average fuel economy regulations, thatâ€™s what. And Lord knows, only stupid people would oppose that, Friedman argues.
Yet, anyone who has studied this issue seriously knows new CAFE mandates will not reduce oil consumption in this country by one drop.
Nor will they cut one gram of carbon dioxide. The historical sales data at WardsAuto.com proves it.
The total vehicle fleet in the U.S. now stands at 250 million cars and trucks. But WardsAuto.com shows itâ€™s growing at the rate of 6 million more cars and trucks a year!
Think about it. If we hold to that rate, 10 years from now, we will have 60 million more vehicles on the nationâ€™s roads. Thatâ€™s more than all the cars and trucks in Germany.
The sheer increase in vehicles easily swamps any potential reductions from tougher CAFE rules. In 10 years, weâ€™ll be using more oil and putting out more CO2 than ever before, I promise.
Now, you can argue the situation would be worse without CAFE standards, but please donâ€™t tell me it will reduce this countryâ€™s thirst for oil or its contribution to global warming. All CAFE does is kill us slower. It doesnâ€™t solve a thing.
If we truly want change, we have to address the kind of fuels we use.
Even so, Friedman believes the fools in Detroit canâ€™t figure out how to get to 35 mpg, (6.7 L /100 km) even though Europe already is there today. But heâ€™s also under the mistaken impression that Europe has a fuel-efficiency standard.
Thatâ€™s OK; a lot of people make that mistake. What they all overlook is that motor fuel in Europe is highly taxed and costs the equivalent of $7 per gallon.
With prices like that you donâ€™t need government rules to force auto makers to build more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. Customers already are highly motivated to buy them.
Friedman also overlooks the fact that Detroit-based auto makers sell vehicles in almost every market in the world. All the top officers at GM,and have extensive overseas experience and know how to compete in just about every country outside the U.S. Both GM and Ford are major players in Europe and are enjoying growing sales outside North America.
Does he think they suddenly become stupid when their business day turns to the American market? Or is it possible that other factors are in play?
All those other countries, by the way, treat their auto industries as precious economic assets. They work diligently to protect and nurture the assets, too. Hey, just like the Michigan delegation!
Iâ€™m optimistic, though, that Friedman ultimately will change his opinion on the American auto industry. After all, his editorial opinions change with whatever way the political winds are blowing.
Read his pieces from 2003 and 2004 when he was one of the loudest rah-rah cheerleaders for the war in Iraq. He sure doesnâ€™t write that way these days.
John McElroy is editorial director of Blue Sky Productions and producer of â€śAutoline Detroitâ€ť for WTVS-Channel 56, Detroit, and Speed Channel.