No auto bailout

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As the disgraced Detroit three automakers are asking Congress for tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, we should remember the last several billion that we gave the industry, and the outcome of it. In the 1990s, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles worked to make 80-plus miles-per-gallon cars and allowed for communications amongst scientists between the big three automakers to help speed that process along.

The Partnership was a huge success, with three 70-plus mpg prototypes. General Motors had the Precept, a five-seat sedan with ample trunk space, with one version getting 108 mpg equivalent running on hydrogen. Ford had the Prodigy getting 72 mpg, and Daimler-Chrysler also had a 72 mpg vehicle. Taxpayers were proud that their billions were not wasted, and expected these vehicles on the market.

But none of the automakers put any of these vehicles into production, or anything similar. Instead, they chose gas-guzzling SUVs, the epitome of stupidity from a climate change and energy conservation perspective. Using slick ads to push their behemoth vehicles, the automakers are among the biggest culprits in the fast rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

What happened to the efficient vehicles? The failure to incorporate that technology was also a major cause of our economic collapse. With the rise in gas prices this past summer, the values of SUV’s plummeted, and for many, their gas guzzlers are now worth less than the loan they have on them.

Why should we give a bail-out now, when the automakers are the ones who put themselves into the crisis they are in through their own idiocy? Why don’t they dust off these efficient vehicles and put them into production, something both our wallets and our planet could have used a decade ago?

They say those who forget history are bound to repeat it. After the foolish follies of the auto industries, in pushing gas guzzlers on the American public (along with tax breaks that they manipulated through Congress), why should we bail them out?

What we need is the massive investment in mass transit and high speed passenger rail: a much better way to travel with exponential fuel savings compared to the most efficient vehicles.

– Chad Kister
Nelsonville, Ohio
Kister is an author and producer of the 2006 film, “Caribou People.”