I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Detroit: To rescue, or not to rescue, that is the question
As Congress convenes to discuss the proposed $25 billion bailout for the Big Three automakers — and as news sinks in that the federal government’s earlier financial aid plans haven’t worked out exactly as advertised — it’s helpful to read around the edges of the idea. Lots of people are thinking about whether Detroit is worth saving, and if so, how Congress and President-elect Barack Obama should proceed. Here are some of them:Three top-notch ideas were in The New York Times on Sunday, including one by retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who noted that the automakers and their vast army of suppliers are a key part of the nation’s defense. The bailout is not just an economic issue, but a strategic imperative. Give ’em the money, he says.
Hampshire College professor Robert Goodman says give ’em the money, but require Detroit to recreate itself as a “transportmaker” by building more than just fuel-efficient cars. He wants to see GM and friends create the next generation of light-rail cars, high-speed trains and buses that reduce highway traffic.
Another op-ed piece suggested the federal government boost the gasoline tax to fund a Big Three bailout. If an adjustable federal gas tax kept pump prices at $3.50 a gallon, the Treasury would see an extra $17 billion a month at current oil prices, the authors say. Some of the money could be used to help low-income families, while Detroit would get cheap loans in exchange for building fuel-efficient cars.
One economist suggests that forcing Detroit to design and build fuel-efficient cars shouldn’t be the immediate target if the bailout is offered. Tweaking a GM Hummer to get 18 miles per gallon instead of the current 15 actually saves more gas than bumping a hybrid from 50 mpg to 100, Eric de Place wrote last week in Gristmill.com. Boosting a Chevy Trailblazer to 22 mpg would save more gas than removing a Toyota Corolla from the streets altogether. You gotta love economists when they’re thinking outside the box.
On the Web site Fractals of Change, blogger and former Vermont Transportation Secretary Tom Evslin suggests the federal government replace its entire fleet over the next four years with plug-in electrics, hybrids and perhaps natural-gas vehicles. That gives Detroit something to build, but also a market for its production — a crucial part of the equation when the country is in recession.
U.S. utilities may jump into that same pool by ordering thousands of hybrids for themselves, The Wall Street Journal reports. That not only gives Detroit another reason to live, but underscores the role electricity will play in reducing foreign oil imports. Three-fourths of the nation’s smaller vehicles could be charged overnight — when electric demand normally falls off — with the existing electric infrastructure. If plug-in cars were available, it would cut demand for foreign oil in half.
There are probably dozens or hundreds of equally interesting suggestions about the fate of Detroit and whether the automakers deserve a hand in the 21st century. Post your own suggestions — or links to someone else’s — in the comments section below.