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McCain: The Unknown for Detroit

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John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, visited Detroit last week and met briefly with top executives from Ford, Chrysler and General Motors after touring a Ford plant outside of Detroit.

The meeting was an effort by the likes of Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli and Ford's Alan Mulally to open up communication with a Presidential candidate who, if elected, is very likely to demand tougher fuel-economy standards and tighter emissions of carbon dioxide.

With Democratic candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, the automakers more or less know what's coming. The environmentalists will run the show, it’s presumed--or at least, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have a big voice in setting policy at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Reversing the EPA decision in December, which nixed California's bid to control carbon dioxide emissions, will be a top priority should Obama or Clinton win in November.

The automakers fear and detest the California rules because they are much tougher and force change much faster than the federal fuel-economy standards approved in December, which raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirement to 35 miles per gallon. The California rules represent the equivalent of a 43-miles-per-gallon fuel-economy standard that would force a radical downsizing of the vehicles that Californians and probably all Americans actually drive, according to calculations done by engineers at GM and other carmakers. Engineers working on engine projects also have also told TheCarConnection.com the rules would require large reductions in horsepower.

Blocking the California rules, under a President Obama or a President Clinton, would probably be extremely difficult. The best they carmakers could hope for would be some moderation in the scheduling of specific rules.

However, on this particular issue, it is not altogether clear the outcome would be much different under a President McCain. In fact, for the automakers, supporting McCain is something of a crap shoot.

First, McCain has more or less endorsed the California position on carbon dioxide emissions and secondly there is every chance that the personnel that wind up running environmental policy in a McCain administration, will need the approval of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governor’s endorsement of McCain on the eve of the California primary cleared the Senator's path to the Republican nomination by putting the state out of reach of the decidedly pro-business and anti-regulation Mitt Romney.

But on environmental issues, Schwarzenegger has proven to be a whole lot closer to his Kennedy in-laws than he has to the Republican mainstream. Schwarzenegger, who famously told Detroit's executives to get up off their butts, also has vowed an all-out fight to reverse the ruling of the EPA.

General Motors chairman Rick Wagoner has already indicated that the automakers are deeply worried by what's coming when the next President takes office. In a recent speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association, Wagoner urged dealers to get involved in the fight to block individual states like California and New York from setting their own emission standards for carbon dioxide.

In his heart of political hearts, McCain seems to be a Federalist with little affinity for states’ rights. There are also plenty of bytes floating around on YouTube of McCain talking about global warming in which, if you close your eyes, he comes across sounding more or less like former Vice President Al Gore. He also has authored, with help from Joe Lieberman, the independent Senator from Connecticut, his own bill for fighting global warming, which actually is considered pretty tough by most independent observers.

The Arizona Senator also has consistently called for tougher fuel-economy standards and was one of the Senators that changed fuel economy from a strictly domestic policy issue into a national security issue. The change in the terms of the debate, coupled with rising fuel prices, left the automakers with no leverage in the fight against tougher fuel-economy standards.

McCain is clearly one of the most pro-regulation candidates to win the Republican nomination in nearly half a century. For Detroit, it's instructive to remember the President who signed the toughest environmental legislation to date wasn't John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson--it was Richard Nixon.--Joe Szczesny

McCain tells Chris Wallace that global warming is linked to security:



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Comments (11)
  1. It is a "NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE!.
    THE "BALL-LESS" WONDER[s]!, THAT ARE RUN[ing] AND OPERATING LARGE CORPORATIONS, SHOULD NOT NEED A REMINDER FROM GOVERNMENT NOR THE MILITARY, AND SHOULD HAVE TAKEN ACTION LONG BEFORE IT ARRIVED AT THE DOORSTEP OF THE MEDIA AND GOVERNMENT !,
    SHAMELESSNESS ON THE PART OF BANKING AND CORPORATE AMERICA, FOR WAITING AND DEMANDING THAT THE GOVERNMENT TAKE ACTION, ESPECIALLY SINCE WE OPERATE WITH AN ALL VOLUNTEER FORCE.
    GET A PAIR DETROIT ACT ON YOUR OWN FOR ONCE, OR DO YOU JUST PLAIN "{FEAR}' THAT YOU WILL HAVE NO ONE TO PASS BLAME TOO??.

    WE as American[s] would do BETTER!. {AS}, Detroit and Financial America are so very LAME!. And Have the Impoverished "WORLD" Build are cars for us, obviously DETROIT HAS "Forgotten" how too!.

    Nerveless!, has Detroit and Financial North America have become!.
     
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  2. We are losing more and more of our freedoms to the enviro-fascists in the Democratic party. Unfortunately, John McCain sounds more like one of them than a conservative Republican. We will no longer be able to drive the kind of cars that we want. The CAFE standards are nothing more than a hidden tax because cars will cost thousands more and guess who has to pay…
     
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  3. Is there a presidential candidate that will actually help the auto industry? It seems to have become political suicide to support one of the nation's most important industries! How is that possible?? Could someone please help me out on this? I really fear for our country is this is how things work in Washington.
     
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  4. I am not thrilled about John McCain but am certain and confident his decisions regarding Detroit and fuel regulations will be closer to what is reasonable and realistic than Clinton or Obama.
     
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  5. Sounds like the American people will win whether McCain or Obama or Clinton wins. If you want a bigger, more powerful car, keep the one you have. If what you want is to keep up with traffic, drive sensibly, and stay under say 90 mph, you will be fine with a much smaller engine.

    If American makers had been using their heads, they would be making economical greenish cars now, and people would be buying them instead of the rice burners. (At least they would if the cars were likely to be durable.)

    If cars like this were available at your Ford or Chevy dealer, you probably would buy them. It seems that since industrial giants have miniature brains or eyes which don't have good vision, we need to have the government think for them. We certainly don't need the companies to be in a horsepower race or a race to make cars bigger and faster.
     
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  6. "RobAFromNC says 'We are losing more and more of our freedoms to the enviro-fascists in the Democratic party.'"

    A couple of comments:

    1. As the article above notes, the biggest and most stringent regulations ever enacted (relative to the then-status quo), were enacted under a Republican administration.

    2. I'm not sure what freedoms we're talking about here but, as a 20-yr. veteran of the automotive industry, even I can understand the difference between regulating performance and regulating design. In other words, if you think that the only answer to the question of meeting future regulations (or future realities of diminishing easily-harvested fossil-fuels) is to make the poor-excuses-for-cars that we were saddled with in the 80s, then you've forgotten that for any regulation or change in reality, there are literally thousands of engineers and designers looking for an answer. I have ABSOLUTELY no doubt that, just as we currently have 400+ hp Corvettes capable of 25mpg on the highway, we will have a fleet of vehicles in 10 years made up of various alternative power sources which, through equivalency ratios, will easily meet regulations. In fact, if the idea of an old tech and potentially limited response to changing conditions is your idea of freedom then I'd like to remind you of the fact that the dinosaurs who made such a personal commitment to the fossil fuels that you're currently burning didn't have the brain-power and/or "freedom" to act and guarantee their own future. We do... and we should do whatever we can to do so, while also trying to ensure a high quality of life as measured by the metrics that we have traditionally used.

    Again, obstructionist & historically-flawed (if not dishonest) rhetoric, like that above from RobAFromNC, is irresponsible and works to limit our future moves to ensure the "American way of life". It ignores the benefits we all have gained (including anybody driving a current Domestic V8) from regulations that, rather than limit the industry, have resulted in the current power binge that we're all on.

    As long as future regulations are based on performance, rather than design, I'm happy to answer the call and take up the challenge. Whining from the balcony be damned.
     
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  7. Are you living in the 20th century ? We need car with high fuel economy. With are not alone wanting a car. All people aroug the globe want cars ans they copy our way of life. The barrel is a 100$ and keep rising.
     
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  8. After Hurricane Katrina and as gas prices rose, the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles skyrocketed without any help from government regulations. This is a perfect reason why gasoline should be taxed at a rate just high enough to continue this trend. We do not need government beurocrats micro-managing the auto industry with some arbitrary fuel or CO2 requirements. CAFE standards are foolish, and allow companies like Toyota to build more models of gas-guzzling trucks and SUV's than ever without being penalized because of the reserve credits from their smaller, more fuel-efficient models. This is both a direct blow to the domestic makers and does nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil as a nation, a lose/lose scenario. Regarding design, the reason we have SUV's like the Hybrid Escape or Hybrid Tahoe (or a 400hp Corvette with 25 MPG hwy) is because the markets have dictated what the automakers build, not the government, so the automakers are finding ways to give people what they want while meeting the demands of greater fuel economy to boot. More government enviro-regulations will only mandate that cars become smaller, lighter, less responsive, and inherently less safe to drive (increasing mortality). Only the elitists who want us to drive a Mini Cooper will be safe while they continue to drive there Volvo/BMW/Audi full-size sedans.
     
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  9. Gas is sitting today at $101 a barrel - and you guys are worried about who the next president will be because they're gonna make life tougher for you?

    A reality check will serve you well. Everyone (you know - people around the world) need to be more vigilant about emissions, mileage and the environment. Industry in other sectors are jumping on the 'green' bandwagon, but no, not the American auto industry - well not their North American divisions. Here in Europe, Ford and GM tout all their efforts to go green. Not just lip service like in American ads, but real changes and when the EU backs them up, the industry adapts not dictates. Our taxes are going down here for cars that have lower CO2 emissions, biofuels are leaping forward, not just ethanol. C'mon Detroit shake off those doldrums - get excited about making cars of today again. Somebody needs to break out of the herd and lead the way. Who? When?
     
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  10. Does anyone else have problems posting here? I just spent 20 minutes typing out the total solution to all of the issues above, put the four letter code in and when it went to the next page it said I didn't enter the code. This has happened before, and when you page back, everything is lost.

    You are all now going to be denied my brilliant analysis, second only to the loss of the library at Alexandria, since I have to go watch Beavis and Butthead re-runs now.

    The one thing I will say is McCain is a conservative like Hilliary is a woman. They might have the title, but they aren't going to be what you are looking for.
     
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  11. The solution for California is simple. Stop selling all of the MB's BMW's, Ferrari's, and any other vehicle that get's less than 30MPG in California. Limit all of the wealthy and famous to Kia's, Hyundai's, and Toyota's and see how they react.
     
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