Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ted "Green" Stevens? Hold Your Applause, Please

Grist thinks it's got a "man bites dog" story in an article in their "Muckraker" column about Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska -- who's made a career out of pushing for the destruction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as knowing how to spell Abramoff -- introducing legislation that would require passenger cars sold in the U.S. to get an average of 40 miles per gallon within a decade. This would be an increase of 12.5 mpg over the current standards, according to the article.

Oh, I should mention one thing: The bill doesn't include SUVs and light trucks.

I think someone is being played for a sucker here. Since something like half or more of the "cars" (passenger vehicles) sold are SUVs or trucks, it's clearly aimed more at helping Stevens' political career than at making a dent in the consumption of non-renewable fuels. And that's not the only loophole in the proposed bill, which
includes a caveat that would let automakers off the hook if the costs of fuel-economy upgrades were determined to outweigh the benefits...
As determined by whom? The automakers? Vehicles would average 50 mpg right now if legislation that was in place in the 70's hadn't been thrown out during the Reagan administration. Automakers have had to be dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way regarding improvements in safety and fuel efficiency. Leaving it up to the auto industry -- via SUV loopholes in fuel-efficiency legislation -- is how we ended up with streets and highways clogged with gas-guzzling glorified farm equipment.

Maybe the Senator is concerned that our consumption of fossil fuels will drop enough so that we won't need the oil from ANWR, so he left out the real gas-guzzlers, knowing that for every passenger car on the road that gets a 12.5 mpg improvement, there's at least one screw-everybody-else bulgemobile that should get 25 mpg, but gets 12.5 instead.
The importance of the Stevens bill "isn't in the details," says the Sierra Club's Dan Becker. "The importance is that an extremely conservative Republican and longtime opponent of CAFE has come out with a fairly decent and very interesting fuel-economy bill. His turnaround on this issue is a profound signal of change -- on par with Nixon going to China."
A crock, simply put. If the obvious cynicism of something like this escapes the folks at Sierra Club, then we should expect a flood of Swiss-cheese regulatory proposals and political grandstanding from Republicans, with an eye towards heading off any meaningful law-making from Democrats, and towards feathering their nests (or covering their asses) as the political pendulum swings the other way.