TCS Daily

Empty Rhetoric

By Josh Hendrickson - June 16, 2006 12:00 AM

Recently, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has been firing all barrels at General Motors. In a June 14 column, Friedman explained his position against GM:

On May 31 I wrote a column accusing General Motors of acting irresponsibly by offering unlimited gasoline at $1.99 a gallon for one year to anyone who buys certain of its midsize sedans, big S.U.V.'s or gas-guzzling Hummers in California or Florida. At a time when we are at war in the Middle East, with an enemy who is indirectly financed by our energy purchases, it seems to me that every American, and every American company, has an obligation to reduce oil consumption. No one should be making a huge gas-guzzling Hummer, and no one should be driving one, and no one -- certainly not G.M. -- should be subsidizing people to drive them.

The columnist might have a point if the firm he excoriates weren't developing alternative vehicle propulsion technologies. Here are some things he didn't tell readers.

The auto manufacturer has long pursued a hydrogen-powered car. In fact, since 1996 General Motors has spent over $1 billion to develop a hydrogen-powered vehicle that can compete with standard automobiles on cost. The company hopes to achieve this goal by 2010.

Hydrogen is not GM's only pursuit. At the recently concluded Michelin Challenge in Paris, GM produced several top performers; the vehicles that competed in the Challenge ran on a variety of different fuels including natural gas, bioethanol, and hydrogen fuel cell technology. One vehicle presented at the Challenge was the new Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid and it received a top rating. This new hybrid SUV features a less complex and lower-cost system than is currently used by other manufacturers.

General Motors produces cars, trucks, and SUVs that can run on ethanol (E85) or gasoline. These new Flex Fuel engines also feature Active Fuel Management technology, which allow the engines to run on eight cylinders when power is needed and four cylinders when it is not.

The columnist focuses on the fact that GM manufactures the Hummer. The fact that the Hummer is still in production, however, demonstrates that there is customer demand for such a vehicle.

Most importantly, the transition to alternative fuel systems will not be instantaneous. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with a company that supplies something its customers desire. Thomas Friedman would do well to limit the empty rhetoric and do some actual digging on the technologies that are being developed by GM and other manufacturers. That legwork is not hard to do; after all, the world is flat these days.

Josh Hendrickson blogs at the Everyday Economist.



Extension of Oil Econ 101
The GM gas plan is just an extension of Kling's Oil Econ 101. In that piece, he notes that it doesn't matter whether we depend on foreign oil or domestic oil, the international oil market is mostly like a big lake, and wherever we pull the oil out sinks the lake the same amount.

Bear with me now... If gas stays at $3.30/gallon for a year, and a consumer fills up with 20 gallons a week, we're talking about a subsidy of less than $1500. If gas jumps to $4.50 (unlikely), it's $3000. Now, let's say that instead, they did a factory rebate of $1500 or $3000. Isn't that the same thing? The only difference is perhaps cash flow as the $1.99 gas comes out of monthly expenses, whereas a $1500 rebate would be taken off the amount financed by the car buyer.

Friedman is really just railing againsts SUVs and Hummers. Who cares? People who go on and on about that stuff are just whiney, jealous fools. He knows he looks like a dork in his Civic. Maybe if it had a spoiler on it, he'd feel good about it.

Market Demand does not mean good
There is a strong demand of coke, and Ice does that mean we should supply it?

It's sounds like the author would happly sell arms two both sides of a war.

Why shouldn't we fill the demand for big cars?

The Simple Solution
“There is a strong demand of coke, and Ice does that mean we should supply it?”

Hummers (especially the H3) would get 100+ mpg if they were powered by a plug-in-hybrid engine. The problem is not the Hummer, but the inefficient engine. GM has had over 30 years to develop improved power train technologies. While they have made some progress, it is clear the GM management has historically viewed today’s energy environment as an unlikely scenario. GM’s fleet average (same vehicles with different power trains) could be 100 mpg today…IF they had made different strategic decisions.

Coke is dangerous substance…it is addictive and can induce cardiac arrest. But what if Coke could be made as safe as say…coffee…then why not release it to the open market. The problem with Coke is it side effects, just as the problem with the Hummer is its inefficient engine.

The solution is not to abolish Hummers and Coke. The solution is to fix the problems…100 mpg Hummers and non-addictive, non-toxic Coke. Simple.

The NYT's dishonesty
GM wrote a 500 word response to Freidman's hit piece. The Times refused to run it, because it was too long. Despite the fact that they had already run two, 500 word responses agreeing with Friedman.

When GM cut down their letter to meet the Times arbitrary standard, the editorialists cut out a section where GM mentions building and selling high mileage cars, and it removed a part where GM called Friedman's arguments "rubbish". According to the NYT, words like "rubbish" do not fit in with the tone the NYT wants on it's editorial pages.

Odd, equating a company with terroritsts is ok. Refering to such claims as rubbish is not.

GM's Problem
Is not its technology. It is executing that technology cost effectively with quality and consistency.
Of course, it does not help when they aborgate their leadership role to unions.

100mpg engines
You find it surprising that GM is unwilling to spend money on products that the public is not willing to buy?

Why is that?

here I tend to disagree Mark
The auto makers push gas guzzlers because they are big profit items, not because it is what the consumer wants. Knocking $5,000 off the price of a Hummer still gives GM twice the profit they make off a Grand Am and three times what they make off their little ecno-boxes.

Check the stats - GM, Ford and Chrysler (as well as Toyota and Nissan) spent two to five times (depending ont he company) the money on advertising their big ticket trucks and SUVs (as compared to everything else they offer).

I'm not saying this is an inappropriate business tactic, just saying you are wrong to think the vast majority want, or even own, these gas guzzlers. People own these vehicles for the following three reasons (in order of numbers owned) 1. 'cause they are cool and a status symbol, 2. Safety concerns (perceived and real), 3. Because they need it. (A 4WD full-sized Hummer is a real plus if you live in a cabin near Glacier Park. There is no reason to own one if you live in L.A.)

GM could go a long way toward making owning a hybrid or efficent vehicle cool through their advertising campaign; but the lost mega-millions in profits would hurt the company. Does that make sense? No! Thus, GM pushes high profit, low-milage vehicles because it makes economic sense, not because it is what people want or need.

What GM should do is tack a few cool extras, and a thousand or two onto the price, of their economy and mid-sized fleet and push the hell out of them. They could keep their profit margins solid and make people want what they really need. A win-win.

GM (and every other major manufacturer) isn't greedy or evil, just a bit lazy and stuck in a rut that has worked well for more than 20 years.

good marketing, poor choices
The GM gas plan is just a new marketing ploy to get people to buy their big vehicles, of which they make more money on the sales of. Nothing new. Except it is particularly despicable if you care about America and our subjugation to other countries because of our demand for oil. And the fact we're at war, aren't we? I'll give GM credit, its good marketing, it won't cost them any more money and it probably will reel in some ignorants to buy an SUV when they otherwise wouldn't because of gas prices.

I think Friedman is correct. He's not just railing on GM, he is also railing on people who drive SUVs and Hummers. Those people should be criticized. They put their own selfish interests ahead of society and national defense. At a time when pump prices are finally starting to force us to consider and demand more efficient vehicles, does GM kick up promotion of its more efficient vehicles? No, it offers a kickback so you can still buy its most fuel inefficient vehicles and not worry about rising gas prices for a year. Isn't it interesting that the author tells us about all these things GM is doing in alternative fuel technology, which is good, but meaningless until it hits the marketplace. So are these good things hitting the marketplace? No, instead GM is promoting its most wasteful and polluting vehicles. Kudos to Friedman.
(Ok, hybrid technology is hitting the marketplace, but GM is nowhere near the lead on it)

Give me a break BoscoH.
"Friedman is really just railing againsts SUVs and Hummers. Who cares? People who go on and on about that stuff are just whiney, jealous fools."

Way to show your ignorance with such a statement. Why do you have a problem with people criticizing other people for driving SUVs and Hummers?
I so wish I was rich. I would buy a Hummer and I would drive it EVERYWHERE. Even 6 blocks to the store. And I would do it to make my contribution to the destruction of our society and the dirtiness of our air. Isn't that sad? I actually entertain the idea of destroying our society to prove idiots who don't assign a moral judgement to a poor vehicle choice wrong. And you're worse than that Bosco, you apparently don't think SUVs are a poor choice, and you take it another step by criticizing people who properly do. SUVs are the biggest reason for skyrocketing American demand for oil.

Car companies make big profits on big cars, not necesarily on gas guzzlers. I admit that there is a big overlap in the two categories though.
taBonfils made the claim that you could take a hummer, and put an engine in it that got 100mpg. (Ridiculous, but I decided to take that as my starting point.)
taBonfils made the claim that GM could sell hummers that got 100mpg, if only they were willing to spend the money developing better engines.

I think that it is quite clear, that as long as they don't have to sacrifice size or power, consumers have been quite willing to pay a little more for economy.

The claim that I was refuting was that auto companies aren't willing to spend the money to create more efficient engines.

BTW, the reason why GM makes so much money on big cars is not because they are big, but because they are in demand.
If small cars started being in big demand, GM would end up making more money on them as well.

My problem
"Way to show your ignorance with such a statement. Why do you have a problem with people criticizing other people for driving SUVs and Hummers?"

(1) I drive a mid-size SUV and a fairly high performance sports car. I drive them for the comfort and enjoyment they provide when I drive, and because when the sports car comes out, it turns a few heads and congregates in parking lots with its brethren.

(2) Preachy people annoy the hell out of me. Opinionated people are great, but once you get to the point of making public moral judgements about those who don't see things your way, you've might as well wear a T-shirt that says, "kick me, i'm an insufferable ass". Look, I am already going to Hell if there is one anyway, so it's no skin off my back to be a little immoral and live better for it. I don't know if it's a coincidence, but your anti-SUV moral play is the same tune as people who have told me if I don't accept their God, I'm going to Hell.

(3) You guys are particularly bad at economics. You're also particularly bad at understanding why people who choose SUVs do so. To then invoke the word "selfish" in demonizing those whose decisions you are mentally incapable of understanding is childish, in a bad way.

Bob, I challenge you to go hang out in the Home Depot parking lot this weekend and criticize people who make choices you disagree with. I bet you're too much of a coward to stand up for what you believe in any place less anonymous than a web forum. Prove me wrong, I'd enjoy reading about it in the newspaper!!

I'll go along with that
Except this - BTW, the reason why GM makes so much money on big cars is not because they are big, but because they are in demand.
If small cars started being in big demand, GM would end up making more money on them as well."

Not even close to the truth. If Small cars started being 100% of all auto demand (admittedly impossible, people have other needs than basic transportation) the auto makers would get hung if they tried to double or double plus the price on these cars. They would have to do that to make up the cash flow difference. The profit margin on the big SUVs is in the area of 100% (IE, a $45,000 Escalade only costs GM about $18,000 to produce, they charge the dealer something over $35,000 and the dealer makes the rest.) The profit margin on a Loaded Grand Am is less than 40%, (costs GM about $10,000, they charge the dealer around $14,000 on a car that sells for $18,000) The percentage difference is big, but the cash flow difference is huge ($17,000 vs $4,000).

The only way GM would quit pushing SUVs is if no one would ever buy one. Again, that is just good business sense.

anyone's problem begins with him/herself
Good discourse BoscoH. I like when people challenge me, thats how a good discussion develops.

The reasons you gave for having your SUV and sports car are selfish reasons. "The comfort and enjoyment they provide" when you drive. Its an ego trip to have a sports car, it turns heads and causes people to congregate. An SUV is usually an ego thing also. I'm just pointing out the obvious. Actually, I commend you for being honest.

Its important to differentiate some too. A mid-size SUV is not as bad as a Hummer or Suburban, etc. It all depends on the gas mileage you get.
And sports cars are different too. My panties don't get in as much of a bunch, because sports cars are a niche thing. You don't normally drive it to work everyday. Its a special treat to get out on nice days and have some fun driving around. Sports cars aren't causing our demand for oil to skyrocket. Its people who drive a Suburban everyday on a 30 minute commute to work, all by themselves, that are hurting our country the most.

I don't doubt for a second that an SUV is more comfortable and fun to drive. It should be for the price. I criticize the fact that you put these selfish values above consideration for the larger picture. Its the same factors as mentioned before: we're at the mercy of other countries while we so heavily depend on them for our energy needs. We should consider these things when thinking about what vehicle to buy. So if you're driving around in a Hummer: maybe you did consider these things but favored your own selfish interests instead. Or you didn't consider these things, the reason probably being you are selfish and ignorant. Either of these reasons warrants criticism in my book. I know its not fair to blanket judge all SUV owners, and I try not to, but its not that important compared to the imporance of national security and energy.

Hey, preachy people annoy me too. Especially the religious variety. We don't know if Hell exists, so I won't tell you about that. The idea of heaven or hell doesn't matter, what matters is how you affect people and planet in this life. We do know the facts about how wasteful and polluting SUVs are, thats a reality we can't get away from. I don't intend to preach, I intend to criticize. I want a person to be aware of these things, I want them to feel guilty for making that choice. If they get peer pressure, they feel socially maligned, they might not buy one next time. Hell, that might not be the right approach, but I have to admit its the reality of my perspective.

Which leads into your 3rd point, and why I'm so passionate about it. I do understand decisions for buying an SUV. I would not be so passionately anti-SUV if I hadn't analyzed and picked apart all the reasons and factors that go into it. Some people really do need one, but thats very few. And considering how prominent they are on the road, there are a lot of people just feeding their ego with it. I respect you for being honest about that, most people are not.

Oh man, that would be something to hang out in a Home Depot parking lot and criticize those guys for their trucks. I assure you, I tend to be an activist, so I've had confrontations. It tends to be women, because they're the ones most likely to be driving an SUV. Women don't scare me physically, but there have been a couple times where I thought it might get physical, and my opponent would have been a large man. My latest idea is to target church parking lots and leave flyers with information. The point being to make people aware without causing offense.

I don't see this issue as something where the people I criticize just see things differently than me. I see the reality, what the boom of SUVs on our roads does to our country, and I see people who choose to favor selfish interests over the good of the whole. What I don't understand is why this is not a universal perspective. Its fact. Well, I do understand why, its because people don't tend to think of the big picture, they think of their own interests and their own little world they reside in. They value their own comfort and enjoyment over the state of our country. What I don't understand is how anyone can deny that.

I disagree with your larger picture, that's all
Imports from Saudi Arabia accounted for less than 20% of the oil the US imported in April. Source (you'll have to do a little math):

Along with the knowledge that we produce about 5.7 million barrels per day domestically, you could calculate that Saudi Arabia accounts for less than 10% of our oil consumption. Our top two suppliers are Canada and Mexico.

I am glad you approve of my sports car. My mid-sized SUV gets slightly better mileage in town and about 25% better on the road. Plus, it has a killer Alpine sound system that totally thumps. The sports car is 100% original with factory sound that I'm reluctant to replace. Also, the SUV is better for hauling 2 big dogs and another person or 2. I suppose I don't need 2 large dogs -- they are probably ruining the country with their demand for 40 lbs of premium kibbles per month. And yes, I pick up after them with PLASTIC bags, made from dead dinosaurs.

But to be honest, I don't care what you think. If you approached me at Home Depot, I might back inside and buy you some bolts so you could secure the furniture in your home so it doesn't get sucked up your back side when you sit down.

Nice to know you pick on women because they don't scare you... That's especially charming.

Anyone's problem...
You confuse passion with knowledge. Simply stated, your economic analysis does not make sense nor does your sense of personal freedom and responsibility. Enlightened self-interest is what makes free market capitalism not only survive but thrive, as long as there is a strong legal construct. That's why our economy is booming and, ex-the oil price boom, the Russian economy is stagnating at best...and also why the Chinese 'miracle' will fail over time. It is only rich economies/societies, operating under the rule of law, that have the luxury of attacking pollution---witness the African nations that chop down the last twig for firewood, then use the dry dung...and then they die. You talk about 'knowledge' but you are so fixed on your own 'insights' that you refuse to see the data, the evidence that blow your economic fallacies to smithereens. GM's failing is in not lobbying the Congress to get out of the way and let this nation embark on a crash program of nuclear powwer plants since there is NO OTHER TECHNOLOGY on the horizon that comes close to competing with nukes in being able to make hydrogen a viable financial alternative. Until that happens they can waste all the billion$$ they want on developing hydrogen powered vehicles--- to no avail.

Ford tried to make a bigger SUV. They misjudged the market and stopped production.

One other point, physics cannot be ignored. People want and need room in a vehicle. That means it weights more, is less aerodynamic and requires more energy.

They are also not very popular outside the USA
Except for the Opel and Saab, GM cars are not popular in Europe.

They are strickly a nitch-market company now because they did not go international.

Middle East
Suburbans and Impalas were very popular in Saudi Arabia.

They also seem to have other international brands:

Holden and Vauxhall plus networks with Isuzu, Suzuki and Daewoo.
The Pontiac Vibe has a Toyota platform.

I don't beleive their problem is they did not go international, because, obviously, they have.

Don't see many Citroens or Rennaults in the USA.

Car Taxes
I forgot you are in Sweden, so disregard the comments about French cars.
What are the car taxes in Sweden?

How much tax do you have to pay to buy a Swedish car for personal use? How much for an import?

Taxes in Finland for cars were less if used for a business, like a taxi. Therefore the taxis in Helsinki were all very nice cars. Personal use cars were heavily taxed and were therefore the cheap Russian made Fiat types or French Citroens.

Environmental Ego
"An SUV is usually an ego thing also."

My wife likes our Expedition because it allows her to see over the cars and gives her confidence on the road. There is enough room for our children and in winter the 4WD helps for traction.
One could argue that those buying hybrids are doing so for ego. "Look at me, I have more money to spend to make an environmental statement than you."
What is the unsubsidized payback for a Prius or any other hybrid?

GM in China
"Last year GM surpassed Volkswagen to become the top seller nationally in China. Toyota—the hottest carmaker in the United States—ranked a distant fifth. "It's almost a reverse mirror image of North America," says Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan."

GM Leadership
"Today each adds design and marketing costs to the bottom line in a company that has seen its market share dip toward 20 percent. Chevy's Tahoe, a full-size SUV, also has its GMC- and Cadillac-branded sister vehicles, each with distinct design teams, marketing campaigns and dealerships dating from an era when the divisions competed with one another with paint colors and tail-fin shapes. When GM decommissioned its Oldsmobile division in 2004, it cost the company a cool $1 billion. "To go from eight [models] to four would cost $4 billion," says McAlinden. "These are legacies of a day when GM was much, much bigger, and they have nothing to do with the union."

I'm in former Yugoslavia, mostly in the north. But I get to Austria and Italia often.

Taxes are high everywhere, especially highway tolls in Italia and Slovenija, and the fuel taxes.

On the other hand, one can buy a new car for about 10,000 Euro.

The most popular cars around here are VW, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Peugot, Mercedes, BMW.

disagree how?
I don't see how you disagree with my larger picture. The data and link you provided support my larger picture.
Yeah, 10% of our oil consumption comes from Saudi Arabia! What would happen if they suddenly cut the amount they'll sell us in half? Would that cause any problems, do you think? We could also look at who rounds out the top ten oil exporters to the US: Venezuala, Nigeria, Iraq, Angola, Ecuador, Algeria and Kuwait. Very stable countries, close allies, right? If we make a conservative estimate and say each of these countries each provides only 2 to 6% of our consumption, what would happen if they cut their exports to the US? Thank goodness Canada and Mexico have oil reserves. And thank goodness for America's strength up to this point. Fortunately, it would hurt most of the countries of the world if America's economy tanked, so even countries that may hate us will sell us oil. Its mostly for the money, but it also keeps the world from economic meltdown. What a quandry, we all have to be nice to each other (to an extent) because we're all so dependent on each other.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I approve of your sports car. Its still a product of vanity. But thats your business, how we make ourselves feel good in our lives is our own business. At least until our choices affect others. And thats my point, SUVs affect others. The main reason gas is at $3 a gallon is increased demand because of SUVs. We all suffer because some choose to drive the least efficient of vehicle offerings. And are their reasons important enough to cause others to suffer? Thats the question it comes down to.

Of course you don't care what I think. If you did you'd have to think about these things. I know the last thing SUV drivers want to do is think.

What? You use plastic bags to pick up the dog poo?!? You're a sinner! Seriously though, why pick it up at all?

everyone's problem
"Enlightened self-interest is what makes free market capitalism not only survive but thrive"

I agree with what you said here except the enlightened part. Its mindless consumerism that makes market capitalism thrive. We don't need all the knick-knack crap, etc. thats for sale out there. But all those uneeded businesses are good for capitalism. Its jobs, tax revenue, advertising spending, rent payments, etc. Americans got money to burn compared to the rest of the world, so you bet businesses will pop up to take it.

"You talk about 'knowledge' but you are so fixed on your own 'insights' that you refuse to see the data, the evidence that blow your economic fallacies to smithereens."

Do you have some data to share that blows my economic fallacies to smithereens? Please, prove me wrong.

What does GM have to do with nuclear power? GM would not build a nuclear plant even if they had all the green lights to do it. Seriously, you think they would build one for the purpose of having a hydrogen supply for hydrogen powered vehicles?
GM is not failing because they haven't lobbied Congress enough. Thats pretty funny though. They're failing because of poor management decisions over the years. Banking on vehicles that get 15 mpg while gas at the pump is $3 a gallon and going up is just the final straw.

environmental ego is bad for one, good for all
"My wife likes our Expedition because it allows her to see over the cars and gives her confidence on the road. There is enough room for our children and in winter the 4WD helps for traction."

So, you and your wife decided her being able to see over the cars, extra confidence and extra room for the kids is more important than your country's security and the price of gas for everyone. Or did you think of that?

Never mind that cars behind her on the road can see nothing because of her vehicle.
Never mind that this choice of vehicle causes more pollution and soot in the air your kids breathe.

What would she have done 20 years ago when SUVs didn't really exist? Why not get a V-6 SUV, a lighter more efficient one, with all the same benefits and cost you less in gas to boot?

Is the answer not ego? Selfishness? Social status?

You're right that buying hybrids could also be about ego. That case would be a bad thing for the person doing so, any form of ego gratification is a form of weakness. But in the bigger picture, the affect on society as a whole, what is better: a person feeding their ego by buying a car that uses less gas and pollutes less, or a person feeding their ego by buying a car that uses more gas and pollutes more? Thats the bare bones fact of it.

Why would you take offense at someone making a good environmental statement anyway? If its smugness, I'm in the boat with you, I hate smugness. But its easy to ignore a smug person who isn't doing anything to cause suffering to others. In fact, they're helping the problem: less demand for gas = less cost for gas. I'd find something else to hit them over the head with because of the smugness.

bob fails to live up to his standards
He proclaims that other people have an obligation to put their own lives, and the lives of their families at risk in order to reduce our nations fuel consumption an infitesimally small amount.

I notice that bob is still breathing and consuming our world's precious resources.

When is bob going to live up to the standard that he sets for everyone else, and stop consuming, completely.

bob declares that he knows what other people need, better than they do.
At what point does a neat gadget, or a usefull doo dad become a knick-knack, or worse, crap?

I trust individuals, deciding for themselves what they want, long before I trust you and the rest of you elitists to decide for us.

Mark fails to live up to Bob's standards
I just say that because you're so ignorant Mark. I've said repeatedly that Americans in general are stupid, you don't even meet that standard. You still think Bush is a good President. Thats all I need to say.

If you think the gas consumption of an Expedition compared to a Camry is infitesimally small you really got no clue. Multiply that by 100,000 and you'll see why what I say is true.
I can't deny that big SUVs are safer in a collision, especially with a smaller vehicle. But a person adds infitesimally small amount of risk by driving a normal car versus an SUV. A person could get a pretty nice, safe car for the same money as an SUV. Not to mention small SUVs or mini-vans that are still a good improvement in efficiency over an Expedition, for example.

I think you play devil's advocate more than I do Mark. Even when it makes no sense, or has no worthwhile value, you'll still jump in. I'm really not an elitist, but with people like you around its hard not to feel like one. You make Britney Spears seem smart.

Bugger Off
I hope I have the opportunity to meet you in a parking lot some time so I could say this to you in person with proper inflection.

typical liberal elitism- even while he demonstrates that he can't read
Bush is not a liberal president. That alone ranks him amongst the greats.
He's presided over the destruction of al-queda and the beginnings of the democratization of the middle east. Two more things that will rank him amongst the great presidents.
He's presided over a booming economy, despite problems inherited from his predecesor and the 9/11 attacks.
More reason's to consider Bush amongst the best presidents.

I never said that the difference between an SUV and an econobox was infintesimal. I said that the reduction in the US's consumption of a single person switching was infintesimal.

If you are going to disagree, at least try to disagree with what I said, not what you wanted me to say.

bob's internal contradictions
Bob declares that everyone else is stupid. But then he declares that he's not an elitist.

everyone's problem
I'm trying to come up with a polite way to tell you that your comments are illiterate, bordering on the moronic.
I cannot do so yet, but I'll work on it.

Meanwhile, to deal with just one of your preposterous statements:
If hydrogen cannot be produced economically then GM (or Ford or Toyota or the Dept. of Transportation) can research hydrogen powered cars till the cows come home all to no avail. Asking what GM and nuclear have to do with one another simply broadcasts your ignorance of both economics and basic physics. There is no known technology even on the horizon that gets hydrogen at a cost effective price other than nuclear power.
That's a fact...

I guess you and the 'illuminati' and/or 'the annointed' will become the arbiters of what does or does not constitute mindless consumerism---
Go ahead....Make sure that everyone who reads your comments will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you, (like the oh-so-successful-Soviet Central planners?) know what's best for the rest of us.
Spare me, please....You seem to have a messiah complex when the rest of us simply want to be saved from would-be saviors such as you.

You don't have to be polite about it. It would suffice if you just told me in what way my comments are illiterate. Its easy for you to say they are, but you can say anything without support. I could say you are a cross dresser going by the name of Flaming Bung, don't mean its true.

Its funny too how you already ignored my specific request for evidence of how you can blow my economic fallacies to smithereens. Again, you talk a lot, but say very little. But I know thats your strategy. You're about the message, not substance.

You do get half credit on one point, you gave one half-assed explanation:

"If hydrogen cannot be produced economically then GM (or Ford or Toyota or the Dept. of Transportation) can research hydrogen powered cars till the cows come home all to no avail. Asking what GM and nuclear have to do with one another simply broadcasts your ignorance of both economics and basic physics."

Perhaps this was a miscommunication though. I went back and read what we both posted. It seems I misunderstood your point. I thought you were saying that GM would build and run a nuclear plant mainly for the purpose of having a supply of hydrogen for cars. Its a laughable idea. Otherwise I agree with you, but I'm not such freak about it. I agree we should build more nuclear plants. I'm also right that GM is failing because of poor management decisions vs. failing because they didn't lobby Congress enough.

We all have our own perception of what consitutes mindless consumerism, we don't need an arbiter. I can posit examples if you can't think of any, maybe you would agree maybe you wouldn't. It doesn't matter anyway. I'm still right that mindless consumerism is more influential in the success of market capitalism than enlightened self-interest.

I don't think I have a messiah complex, but I'll keep a check on myself to make sure. I do probably know whats best for you though. Here's a clue: if its best for you its probably best for me, and thats a good thing. What a novel idea, things that are good for everyone. But its tough to get there if you only think about yourself. Which is a huge reason people drive SUVs.

you're so funny Mark
I love how you make accusations of others that are so true of yourself. I've never seen it so obvious with a person as it is with you.

"Bush is not a liberal president."

You might want to rethink that statement mark. Well, to rethink it means you already thought about it before, and thats probably not accurate. Especially considering how obviously wrong it is. Look at Bush's actions, not his words, and you will see a liberal President. Forget the party and the message, just look at the actions.

"He's presided over the destruction of al-queda"

Really? Is that why terrorist attacks in the world have increased ten-fold since 9/11? We haven't even destroyed the Taliban, what possibly in the world makes you think we've destroyed al-queda?

"and the beginnings of the democratization of the middle east."
Thats a bold statement. You get half credit for it. Time will tell if its true. The potential is now there, but we're not in the clear yet.

"He's presided over a booming economy"

This horse is being beaten even after death. Its partly true. The rich are doing very well. Corporations are doing very well. The middle class is being squeezed. Federal debt is booming to fuel the economic growth. Bush has boomed the economy today at the expense of taxpayers tomorrow.

"I never said that the difference between an SUV and an econobox was infintesimal. I said that the reduction in the US's consumption of a single person switching was infintesimal."

No you didn't. This is so funny, you say I'm the one that can't read and then you go and misquote your own words. Here is exactly what you said:
"He proclaims that other people have an obligation to put their own lives, and the lives of their families at risk in order to reduce our nations fuel consumption an infitesimally small amount."

First of all, a Toyota Camry is not an econobox. I specifically referred to the Camry in my post. And nowhere did you mention a singular family in your original post. Again, if you refer to my post, I said that you need to multiply this scenario by 100,000 to understand I am right. And thats just looking at one type of vehicle. So, for example, 1 family selling its Expedition to replace it with a Camry is not going to affect the price of gas. But if 100,000 families across the country did the same thing, you just lowered the price of gas by a dollar. And thats a very conservative estimate. You could multiply it by 500,000 or maybe even a million to get an idea of the real picture.
The point you raise is exactly the example of small thinking that I criticize. "What difference does my one little Expedition make?" people might say. One doesn't make a difference, but when there are a million other people out there saying the same thing to justify their selfishness, its a HUGE difference.

"Bob declares that everyone else is stupid."

No I didn't Mark, I'd like to see you show where I said that. I said Americans in general are stupid. Just because its ironclad that you're a moron, doesn't mean everyone else is too. But I can see where you got it from, you're the only one that matters, right MarkTheGreat?

I'm sure you know how to read mark, but you've shown once again that you only understand things that agree with your indoctrinated thinking. But alas, I'm an idiot for even responding to you. You got me.

Bush is more liberal than Ghengis Khan, therefore he's a liberal.

If that's the way your mind works, so be it.

10's of thousands of members killed. Funding networks destoyed. Top leadership killed or captured. Weapons cache's destroyed or captured.

Yes, al-queda has been destroyed. Is there still mopping up to do. Yes. Will they be a problem for generations to come. Yes.

Democratization in the middle east is more than just Iraq. It's Afghanistan. It's elections (getting more free every year) in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, even Egypt.

How many millions of gallons of gas does the US consume in a year. If one family changes from an Escalade to an econo box, the total goes down a few 10's of gallons.
A few 10's of gallons, compared to 10's of millions, is miniscule, even infintesimal.

One of these days you will learn to read and recognize reality. To bad it won't be today.

Critics are unhinged from reality
In the linked Forbes article, UC Davis' Sperling estimated that present technology would allow for $500/kw fuel cells when manufactured at volume. Well GM doesn't publish their cost per KW figures but Canada's Ballard, which specializes in fuel cells, does. Its 2005 figures for fuel cell costs were $73/kw. It had published 2004 figures well under $100 which Sperling should have known of at the time. Ballard projects its 2010 costs to be around $32/kw. But Sperling was either ignorant of the truth or simply lying about what the state of the art is capable of.

The DoE predicts that local generation of hydrogen via water electrolysis will cost under $3/gge (gallon gasoline equivalent) by 2010 and will continue to drop thereafter. If we're even close to that, the problems of transportation largely go away.

Hydrogen dreams are not as unrealistic as its detractors argue.

You are right, bigger is not always better
The Excursion is a perfect example, so is the shrinking size of "luxury" cars. But auto manufacturers must sell any idea to the public. The SUV, big, mid-sized and small, is an idea sold to the public as being cool. In my opinion it is because the mini-van craze of the late 80's did not produce the profits the car companies were making off pick-ups and SUVs. There is little advantage to the SUV over the mini-van (especially in big cities), and several disadvantages. This is a fact I will stand by as I have owned both in recent years and I'm looking to get a good, used Mini this year and get rid of my mid-sized SUV.

But, in my opinion, the push to make the SUV sexy and macho so they could sell more of them worked in spades. It worked so well, in faact, that it helped bring about the demise of several other lines of vehicles. The Mini-van is almost extinct, the true "family car" is gone.

The best selling GM auto is the Pontiac Grand Am. The reason is it's classic sporty lines, low price and unlimited power-train (You can get anything from a 4 cyl. to a V-8) options and vehicle extras. It has proven itself to be very reliable, will seat five, and has a very strong re-sale value. It makes a very good first new car, or used car, for young adults because it looks good, runs strong and is very affordable.

What the customer wanted
SUVs have been around a long time.

Suburbans, International Travel-all, Jeep wagoneer, Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, etc.

I personally would like to sell our Ford Expedition and get a mini-van. My wife really likes the field of veiw and sense of control with the SUV.

'Soccer moms' went from station wagons to mini-vans to SUVs.

Once they started appointing SUVs like cars, women started appreciating them more. (My mom hated our International Scout.)

Car companies made what the customer wanted. That's what companies do.

Have you noticed now the Smart car will be available in the USA soon? Why are cars made for the autobahn not suitable in the USA?

I agree and disagree
I agree that they have been around, but most were 4WD speciality vehicles that appealed to a certain group only. I agree that "soccer moms" went through that transition, but I think the improvements were as much a follower of the trend than the reason for it. Power Steering, auto transmissions and the like were in SUVs for a long time before they got popular. The larger SUVs began to get noticed because they were a bit more comfortable. The women started driving them in larger numbers and the Auto manufacturers started making them the star of their fleet and responding to the increase in demand.

But this came with a very aggressive ad campaign. Car companies aren't stupid, they new the SUV was a high priced and high profit margin vehicle and they could make it even more so. They did.

In other words they,at least to some extent, created the craze. But it is a chicken and egg arguement and I don't "Blame" the auto manufacturers; they were just doing business.

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