Saturday, March 29, 2008

Random thoughts on Who Killed the Electric Car

This movie has some great points but in my opinion would have been a lot more convincing if it had gone a little lighter on the Hollywood stars and scenes like automobile executives not smiling as President Clinton tells the story about the 5 year old who wants to build a future based on the electric car. Documentaries are more effective, like all forms of journalism, when they do not feel biased. This documentary definitely went out of it way to try to make the government, auto industry and the oil industry look bad instead of allowing the deeds of the government, auto industry and oil industry make them look bad. Using Hollywood stars to advocate strikes me as counter productive as well. Why should the public take advice from people who play fictional characters? I have never understood this. The public also views Hollywood stars as rich, which they of course are, and can reasonably question why someone who is very rich should advocate purchases to the masses when the average person lacks the same financial resources. Nonetheless, the documentary does point out that the auto industry and the oil industry acted unethically, as they have many times in the past, and showed a general lack of political leadership and will in Sacramento and Washington.

The auto industry obviously colluded in its decision making about how to react to the California Air Resources Board's decision. There is absolutely no reason a company should not sell an existing product to consumers who want to buy it and thus there was no economic reason for all automobile manufacturers to destroy existing electric cars. Selling electric cars, which have fewer safety concerns than gasoline powered vehicles, wold not create future liability concerns any more than selling used gasoline cars would and selling these cars would have made the auto industry millions of dollars. The oil industry misrepresenting itself to lobby against electric cars was also completely unethical. The oil industry of course has the right to lobby the government but intentionally misleading the public and policy makers is inexcusable and is why the oil industry has and deserves such a bad reputation.

Finally, I would like to complain about General Motors. The movie makes GM out to be the primary villain, I do not know if this is true but given that GM is now in trouble, in large part because it ignored the alternative market (hybrids, electric vehicles) and is way behind Toyota and Honda, I have no sympathy for GM. GM has fought reasonable safety and environmental regulation for decades at an enormous cost to our nation. I have developed a political rule of thumb for myself that basically states if GM is for it, it's probably a terrible idea. Growing up my family owned multiple GM vehicles. They were all terrible. My family now all owns Toyotas and Hondas. I doubt any of us will ever buy any GM product again. Congratulations GM, you are a terrible company, with terrible leadership and a destroyed reputation. You deserve it.

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