Dover Bitch

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Last night, DB went to the movies again because "Who Killed the Electric Car?" opened in select cities. Eventually it will be playing all over.

Go see it.

If the film didn't end on a note of optimism, it might have incited a riot. There are that many well-documented outrages in it and the actual destruction of the electric cars evokes an emotional response not unlike the feeling you may have had as a child when Bambi discovered her dead mother or when Old Yeller met his sad fate.

Today, while visiting Crooks & Liars, DB watched John Stossell attack people concerned about global warming with a dastardly misinformation campaign that ended with this pile of crap:

Let me just say that this, at bottom, it's a hatred of capitalism, a hatred of industrial production. Yes, it's true, we produce more carbon dioxide. But we are also the cleanest country in the world. As we get wealthier, the air gets cleaner. We can afford to do the things that maybe someday, if the globe is getting warmer, we may have to make adjustments. It's our wealth that will allow us to save the world. If we let these socialists control our lives, we'll all be worse off.

DB would like to propose a funding drive and competition, like the X Prize, to create a vehicle specifically to send Stossel to another planet.

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" is a perfect response to Stossel's contemptible drivel. Aside from the fact that "someday, if the globe is getting warmer" is a complete denial of reality, the fact of the matter is that GM refused to sell perfectly good electric cars to people standing outside with nearly $2 million. Instead of allowing supply to meet demand, they refused to renew the leases on the vehicles, refused to sell them, confiscated them and destroyed them. Perfectly good vehicles already built with buyers lined up to buy them.

Not that GM was entirely against making a buck:

"I called lawyers and said, 'What would happen if I didn't turn the car in?' and 'Could we fight this?' I was advised I would be prosecuted for stealing the car! They did an inspection of the car and for every little scratch they charged me. Then they took the car away from me and promptly crushed it."

Engineers, inventors and the people tasked with developing the EV programs were the absolute embodiment of capitalism and "industrial production." They put their hearts and souls into developing a great product and the wealthiest and most powerful interests in America shut them down.

But Stossel says that unless you put all your faith in the geniuses running companies like GM to "save the world," you are supporting socialists who want to "control our lives."

Can there be too much governmental regulation? Certainly. But is all regulation just an attempt at socialism? Absolutely not. When you change phone companies, you can keep your phone number. Is that because the phone companies love us all so much that they wanted us to have more freedom? No, it's because the phone companies lost a long, hard-fought battle with the government. Does anybody who enjoys the freedom to keep their phone number also, therefore, believe that the government should take over all the phone companies and stifle innovation? Ridiculous.

Things happen in the world that affect businesses. Problems in the Middle East affect oil. Cold weather kills crops. These natural and world events do not happen by design. They are not intended to create a positive effect for America. But corporations and capitalists adjust to these things. If they couldn't, the system would fail. But any regulation designed to protect consumers or the environment... these are insurmountable challenges.

If it weren't for governmental mandate, cars wouldn't have seatbelts and airbags and they'd get 10 miles to the gallon. By Stossel's logic, anybody in favor of faucets is against plumbing and water.

Stossel is living in a fairy tale world if he truly believes that unregulated capitalism is going to solve our environmental challenges. GM fought tooth and nail against governmental mandates and, as a result, Toyota is kicking their asses. Enormous corporations are not infallible and they do not encourage competition. They wouldn't have fought so hard against California -- and they wouldn't have completely destroyed their electric vehicles -- if they had any interest in helping America kick its oil addiction.

GM bought controlling interest in a battery manufacturer because the technology they invented was superior to what GM had been using. To whom did GM sell that interest when they scrapped the program? Chevron-Texaco. It's like the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," with a huge warehouse of things never to be seen again.

That's what unregulated capitalism yields. A great, innovative and environmentally responsible product with a market ready to buy... dead forever. I guess thinking that sucks makes DB a socialist.

In fact, one reason for optimism at the end of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" is that individual entrepreneurs enabled GM to build an effective electric vehicle in the first place and the hope is that more independent innovation will be on the horizon.

But as long as the government is going to support futuristic and oil-company-approved technologies, at the expense of existing and already acceptable alternative technologies like the electric car, it is hard to see how we're ever going to kick the addiction to oil.

Please go see "Who Killed the Electric Car?" when it comes to your town.

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