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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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False choice
By wookie1 on 6/1/2011 2:05:55 PM , Rating: 2
The article presents a false choice between federal and state CAFE rules. The option of ditching CAFE is not presented. Why do we need to restrict what consumers can buy? How could the gov't really understand the vehicle needs of 300 million people? Why don't we leave it up to the consumer to choose the vehicle that provides the best compromise for them? Delivery businesses have different needs than small families, which are different than large families, different than other businesses, etc. Why try to craft one rule to fit all people?

Imagine if this were a rule about the minimum R rating of insulation in your home. What if the gov't said that all homes must be insulated to withstand the winters in Barrow, Alaska? How would you feel about the extra cost of this if you lived outside of Barrow, especially in someplace like San Diego? Why couldn't you be left to choose what insulation you wanted to suit your local climate and budget?




RE: False choice
By YashBudini on 6/1/2011 7:13:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Delivery businesses have different needs than small families, which are different than large families, different than other businesses, etc. Why try to craft one rule to fit all people?

You really believe there are zero exceptions on such rules? Have you bothered to do any research on commercial vehicles?

Jets can use as much as 7 gallons of fuel per mile, yet they are efficient. Buses work the same way on a smaller scale. You think buses are going to be viewed like VW bugs?


RE: False choice
By senbassador on 6/2/2011 8:17:35 PM , Rating: 2
"Why do we need to restrict what consumers can buy?"

Well, isn't that kind of the purpose of having a government? The government already restricts that you can't smoke pot, and that you have to be at least 21 to drink alcohol, and 18 to buy cigarettes. What if a consumer wanted to purchase some child porn or dog fighting videos. But like you said, why do we need to restrict what consumers can buy? Where do you want to draw the line?

"Why don't we leave it up to the consumer to choose the vehicle that provides the best compromise for them?"

Well, for one, using gasoline and emitting exhaust from your vehicle DOES affect other people around you, just like excessive 2nd hand cigarette smoke can potentially harm others besides yourself. Economists call these things externalities. Not that I am pro-big government or anything, I just don't think you can make blanket "why don't we leave it up to the consumer..." statements, when the consumer is doing things that can harm other people around them. Hey, why can't the consumer buy an AK-47? You see where this is going.


RE: False choice
By fxnick on 6/2/2011 11:47:14 PM , Rating: 2
...the consumer CAN buy an AK-47...just saying..


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