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Should the U.S. government cut subsidies for corn ethanol? Comments by Ford CEO Alan Mulally hint at that, saying the government should support "one technology" (electrification), rather than spreading funding.  (Source: Hollandtown: Holland Farm: Corn Harvest)

More controversial is the proposal to block states like California from self-governance when it comes to setting stricter fuel economy standards.   (Source: treehugger)

Alan Mulally saved his company from bankruptcy, while peers GM and Chrysler went through government takeovers and restructuring. Mr. Mulally warns that the auto industry is seeing slowing sales this quarter.  (Source: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Executive would like to see states banned from setting their own arbitrary standards

Ford Motor Company (F) CEO Alan Mulally is one of the most respected figures in the auto industry today, having been the only head of a member of the "Big Three" U.S. automakers to save his company from bankruptcy in the 2007-2008 financial crisis.  However, his new comments will certainly be considered controversial by politicians, lobbyists, and citizens alike.

I. Block States From Self-Governance of Fuel Economy?

Mr. Mulally met early Tuesday morning with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Dayton, Ohio); Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph, Michigan), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn, Mich.), a key supporter of the Detroit automakers. 

Later in the afternoon he attended a meeting co-hosted by Reps. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls, Mich.); Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland, Mich.); and Jeff Duncan, (R-Laurens, S.C.); with Rep. Hansen Clarke, (D-Detroit, Mich.) also in attendance.  He also met with Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff, and David Plouffe, senior adviser to President Barack Obama in a separate session.

At the meetings Mr. Mulally urged lawmakers to take Congressional action to implement a single consistent fuel economy standard and block states from proposing their own stricter standards.  

Despite the fact that Congress is indeed preparing a new set of fuel economy standards, which would extend the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) through 2025, the proposal to strip states of the right to regulate their own standards to a stricter threshold is controversial.  

First, opponents argue that it strips states of their right of self-governance.  This is a place where Republicans, in particular find themselves in a philosophical dilemma.  Their party has recently run on a platform of state rights, but they have traditionally opposed letting states regulate their own emissions, with former Republican President George W. Bush moving to block California and other states from doing so.

Second, the decision would run afoul of a 2007 Supreme Court ruling 
in the case Massachusetts v. EPA, which concluded that states had the right to set their own stricter mandates.  The ruling allowed California to effectively sue the federal government and force it to stop obstructing its standard.  In the wake of the suit, President Obama instructed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Congress to allow states to set their own standards.

The issue will likely be pushed.  Even as the U.S. debates the future of CAFE, California, the nation's most populous state, is moving to set its own stricter standards for 2025.  It will likely be followed by several other states that adhered to California's previous emissions policy, adopted by President Barack Obama for the entire nation.

II. Ford: Back "One Technology"

Mr. Mulally also urged members of Congress to back "one technology" if they were serious about alternative energy vehicles.

Ford Motor Company officials did not specify what this "one technology" was, but most construe it to mean electrified vehicles.  Ford has been less enthusiastic than its peers about the "other" leading alternative vehicle technology -- ethanol fuel.

The potentially implied proposal to ditch federal subsidies of ethanol and corn farming is a controversial one -- among corn farming states, at least.  Farmers have grown fat off billions in yearly government subsidies, with a major chunk of it coming from ethanol grants and mandates.  In total corn farmers drew $73.8B USD from 1995-2009 from the U.S. federal and state governments.

The pull of the corn farmers is particularly strong in the U.S. Senate, where the numerous low-populous farm states have a much larger representation.

The proposal may also target other alternative fuel technologies -- such as compressed liquefied natural gas (CLNG), which some say could supplement traditional petroleum, much like ethanol.

III. Ford in Trouble?

One thing mentioned by Mr. Mulally may trouble Ford investors.  He would not comment on Ford's Q2 2011 sales, but did say that the market is "slowing down … it's a little less than what we hoped for at the beginning of the year", according to The Detroit News.  

That could be a trouble sign as Ford and other automakers had seen strong sales over the past couple quarters.

If the American automakers are indeed starting to struggle once more, that could make the debates over ethanol and emissions even trickier.  After all, the automakers say that a strict 62-mpg standard could "kill" the American auto industry.  And any money in ethanol subsidies will likely come at the expense of government funding of electrification efforts, which the automakers will likely need to satisfy CAFE.



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RE: Why
By bah12 on 6/1/2011 12:58:52 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
We need to back all forms of different possible alt. energy that can move cars down the road.
Agreed, but as long as "us backing" them means R&D not subsidies. Subsidies are not effective. If we put 50% of the costs of the subsidies into R&D instead, we'd be way better off and out a lot less money.

Put my tax dollars into research, let the market decide if the results of that research are viable.


RE: Why
By Aikouka on 6/1/2011 1:25:07 PM , Rating: 2
I feel the same way, bah12, and amusingly enough... I was actually talking about this with someone earlier! I'd really prefer to see tax dollars pushed more toward research and development rather than providing tax credits for hybrid vehicles. Essentially, we shouldn't be propping up technology that can't sustain itself. If people consider hybrids too expensive without the tax credit, the R&D could be (partially) allocated toward lowering the cost of some of the components or even working out a cheaper method of fuel savings.


RE: Why
By chick0n on 6/1/2011 8:57:05 PM , Rating: 2
sorry, that just won't happen, cuz the government always decides what "they think" we want, not what we really want.

they should just get rid of all subsidies, including REGULAR GASOLINE. and spend all those money into R&D. but hey again, they always give us what they wanna give us, not what we actually want, so they can all keep partying everyday while we work our ass off to pay for them.


RE: Why
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RE: Why
By wookie1 on 6/1/2011 2:15:32 PM , Rating: 2
Well, once the taxes are collected from you, you're no longer free to direct how the $ are spent. This is part of the problem with these subsidies. Whether some gov't agency directly does the R&D, or it is a subsidy to a private company to do R&D doesn't really matter that much. Non-subsidized companies have a competitive disadvantage, and so you'll get the non-optimal solution favored by some beaurocrat whose motive may just be to help some of his friends or secure a better paying job after leaving the gov't.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov














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