The President of the United States called the American auto industry to service in his 2007 State of the Union Address. And the Detroit car companies basically said "no." As a resident of Michigan the response is disappointing to the point of embarrassment.
Set aside the increasingly popular idea - in the Great Lakes and across the country - that alternative energy innovation presents a real opportunity to generate jobs, diversify and grow the economy, and achieve more sustainable development. Set aside the idea that Michigan - building on the innovative prowess of the auto industry - strives to become a global leader of transportation technology.
The war in Iraq is costing the nation thousands of soldier's lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. And one of the most significant policy proposals President Bush introduced to fight terrorism in his recent speech wasn't ramping up troop levels in the Middle East. It was setting a long-term strategy to promote modern energy sources, kick America's dependence on foreign oil, and cut off the steady flow of U.S. oil dollars funding the enemy.
And the auto industry says ramping up fuel efficiency will cost too much, kill jobs, and stifle their corporate turnarounds? Henry Ford retooled entire factories to help win a world war! Who's side is modern day Ford, GM, and Chrysler on?
Congressman John Dingell, a Democrat, requested White House documents justifying the proposed fuel efficiency standards that would help the nation achieve a 20 percent reduction gasoline consumption in 10 years. "Please delineate any fuel saving technologies that were identified to justify a 4 percent annual increase [in fuel efficiency] for both passenger cars and trucks," the congressman asked.
Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Joe Knollenberg, a Republican, took to the editorial page of the Detroit News saying the new fuel standards "risk destroying the Big Three."
Without a doubt, the American auto industry is going through intense and wrenching change. And if President Bush was truly serious about fuel conservation he'd raise the gas tax. But aggressively pursuing new and more effective ways to power cars is not only in Detroit's long term interests, it's increasingly critical to the security of the nation.