Congressional Democrats are beginning to roll out the first of their big global warming measures: a drastic increase in the fuel mileage requirements imposed on American automakers. It is a classic case of centralized government planning, with Senator Byron Dorgan dictating to us what characteristics we ought to want in a new automobile (see the quote from him in the article below).
But it is central planning without the hyper-industrial triumphalism of the Old Left, which promised that state-run industry would lead to ever-increasing, universal prosperity. The Old Left failed spectacularly at that goal, but their successors have not dropped the demand for government control of all of our economic decisions. They have merely switched to justifying thir controls by appealing to the anti-industrial creed of environmentalism.
"Senate Passes Energy Bill," Sholnn Freeman, Washington Post, June 22 The Senate passed a sweeping energy legislation package last night that would mandate the first substantial change in the nation's vehicle fuel-efficiency law since 1975 despite opposition from auto companies and their Senate supporters.
After three days of intense debate and complex maneuvering, Democratic leaders won passage of the bill shortly before midnight by a 65 to 27 vote.
The package, which still must pass the House, would also require that the use of biofuels climb to 36 billion gallons by 2022, would set penalties for gasoline price-gouging, and would give the government new powers to investigate oil companies' pricing. It would provide federal grants and loan guarantees to promote research into fuel-efficient vehicles and would support test projects to capture carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants to be stored underground….
The politics of fuel economy had gone virtually unchanged since Congress passed the first nationwide standards—known as corporate average fuel economy, or CAFÉ—in 1975. The last time the full Senate tried to boost fuel-economy standards was in 2002, and the effort was defeated handily….
The United States, with current efficiency standards of 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 22.2 per gallon for SUVs and small trucks, has lagged behind the rest of the developed world. In the European Union, automakers have agreed to voluntary increases in fuel-economy standards that next year will lift the average to 44.2 miles per gallon, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. In Japan, average vehicle fuel economy tops 45 miles per gallon. China's level is in the mid-30s and projected to rise, propelled by government policy….
"Now, in our vehicles, we have better cup-holders, we have keyless entry, we have better music systems, we have heated seats," Dorgan said. "It is time that we expect more automobile efficiency."…
In another Senate battle yesterday, Democrats lost a fight against oil companies when Republicans blocked a $32 billion tax package that would have poured money into alternative fuel projects by raising taxes on oil and gas companies.