Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Newt Gingrich, corporate wench! Along with: your car sucks

Again with the 10 points

Jeffrey St. Clair:
Gore didn't make many friends in the House, but his propensity to techno-flatulence (e.g., "The government is just a big software program") soon prompted him to sniff out a kindred soul in the form of a pudgy young Congressman from suburban Atlanta with a marvelous facility for rotund phrase-making on any issue to hand. From the time he was first elected, in 1978, Newt Gingrich was positioning himself with precisely the same blend of opportunism, albeit at a noisier level, as Al Gore.

The two consecrated their amity in a group called the Congressional Clearing House on the Future. They met monthly, published a newsletter and hosted lectures by futurists and pop scientists including Carl Sagan and Alvin Toffler. But these monthly klatsches were not enough to satiate the passions of Gore and Gingrich for heady chat about meta-technical trends, artificial intelligence, the population bomb and extraterrestrial life (Gore believes ardently that We Are Not Alone). The two would meet for dinner at each other's houses. Poor Tipper, hoping for a romantic candle-lit evening with her spouse, would open the door to see the beaming, porcine features of the rising Republican star from Georgia on the doorstep. The relationship didn't end when Gore reached the Senate. In fact, in 1985 he and Gingrich co-authored a bill titled the Critical Trends Assessment Act. The legislation called for the creation of a White House Office on Futurism (WHOOF) to "study the effects of government policies on critical trends and alternative futures". In his career in Congress, Gore was rarely the principal author of a bill. This was an exception, albeit a doomed one. Although the two battled for WHOOF strenuously, it never went anywhere.

So after seeing all the friendly press his former best bud has been racking up, Newt decides to get in the game with his version of environmentalism. The November 2007 issue of Outside Magazine, has an interview with Newt Gingrich about his new environmental book. Here's some of the Q&A:
How different is your philosophy from that of the Bush administration?
I think we're more willing to set strict standards. We have a deeper interest in incentivizing alternative-fuel development. We also take the idea of a national energy strategy more seriously. We need a strategy that's good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for national security. Unless you can meet those three tests, you don't have an adequate energy strategy.

Isn't that exactly what Al Gore would say?
I'm sure Gore is very sincere in his concern for the environment, but I think in a lot of ways that concern is an excuse for higher taxes and more bureaucracy.

So what's your solution?
The left focuses on punishing people, and we need a strategy that rewards people. Terry and I believe that we are on the edge of a huge scientific revolution. We believe that markets work, and have historically created more choices, of higher quality, lower cost, and greater convenience. The great breakthroughs in human history have occurred when people—like Thomas Edison or Jonas Salk or Bill Gates—came along and suddenly created something new and different.

There's also a small review that doesn't discuss much of the book:
This "richer is greener" ethos takes up much of the book, with the authors extolling cooperation between the public and private sectors. They cite, for example, a partnership between Ford Motor Company and Conservation International to promote eco-leadership in business, and the Dutch government's tax incentives for those who invest in cutting-edge alternative-energy projects. There's little quantitative evidence among these feel-good anecdotes, however, that market forces alone can stop ecological meltdown.

Hmmm..."little quantitative evidence"...sounds like every other "saving the earth" book.

Maybe this is the space to ask "what has happened to gas mileage and cars? Looking at this Bureau of Transportation Statistics chart, there is a very gradual uptick in fuel efficiency. For example, 1995 passenger cars are at 28.6 and by 2005 there's a 1.4 mpg increase to 30.0. But while there's a gradual improvement for whole categories, the ultra high mileage cars have disappeared. For most of the 1990s I drove a Geo Metro that at 160,000 miles was still averaging 55 mpg. This 1995 Environmental Magazine article also mention a Honda Civc VX hatchback"at 47 mpg city/56." I occassionally commute in a 1994 Honda Civic 4-door that at almost 190,000 is still pushing 35-37 mpg. What happened?

Looking at another list at, there are no cars rated at above 50 mpg. There are only two in the 40s: Toyota Prius Hybrid and Honda Civic Hybrid. Just a couple years ago, weren't there a handful of hybrids claiming mileage above 50? Heck, even our 5-year old Saturn Vue gets close to 30 mpg. In addition to what seems to eb the decreasing efficiency of hybrids, I've never been convinced they're worth the extra cost. The Honda Civic Hybrid starts at $22,600 and has an estimated highway mileage of 45mpg. The Honda Civic Sedan starts at $15,010 with 36 Hwy mpg. Is that extra 10 miles per gallon really worth about $5,500? Seems like if I really wanted to spend that extra $5k, I could find more productive ways to use it. Like outfitting the house with tankless water heaters and saving energy and water.


Blogger XWL said...

It's not just a problem of hybrid v. plain vanilla econoboxes. Passenger cars are heavier than they need to be. All the weight added by increasingly stringent safety requirements largely explains the status quo (or slippage) in mileage.

I'd choose a lighter, cheaper, slightly underpowered, less safe car without airbags if I could (I had an 88 Corolla FX that was a fantastic car), but carmakers aren't allowed to sell them to me.

The Classic VW Beetle would never pass muster today, or even the fantastic mid 80s Honda Civic Hatchback.

The Yarises and Fits of today are far safer, but also bloated beyond what is needed.

You just aren't allowed to assume personal risk anymore.

11/07/2007 02:35:00 PM  

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