Economy, Regs, & Taxes

A Bolt of Enlightening

Another GM foray into the quicksand of failed eco-car ventures.

Jan. 15, 2015

One might think that with the phenomenal “success” of the Chevrolet Volt gas-electric car – for the record, that’s sarcasm – we wouldn’t see another General Motors (GM) foray into the quicksand of failed eco-car ventures for quite some time. Unfortunately, in the Kafka-esque world wrought by Barack Obama, one would be wrong.

The perverse system of incentives and penalties set up by the economic rubes within the current regime is simply too strong for automakers to ignore. Witness GM’s buffoonerific redux of its electric Edsel, the Volt, recast with a new, totally-thinking-out-of-the-box name, the … … “Bolt.” Yeah. That’s what we thought, too.

To be sure, the Bolt promises to deliver a 200-mile-per-charge range, considerably better than the anemic 38-mile range of its impotent older brother. But at a time when gas prices have plummeted, putting another government-subsidized (to the tune of $7,500 per vehicle) eco-pipedream on the road doesn’t seem to make sense – or does it? We’ve lamented on numerous occasions this administration’s willful disregard of economic reality in lieu of Pollyanna visions of zero-fuel-emission tomorrows and social-engineering agendas. This mindset is what brought GM to its knees before Obama’s $10 billion auto industry bailout, resulting in its cynical renaming by the public as “Government Motors.” But it gets worse: This delusion is also the reason domestic auto companies like GM produce things like the Volt and its progeny in the first place.

Let’s review: The reason GM created the Volt was to help reach absurd federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles sold in the U.S. Team Audacity, leveraging its recycled “save-the-planet” politics, then upped the ante, mandating a thermodynamic-law-defying 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) fleet average. (That number is based on zero scientific or engineering support, according to an in-depth congressional investigation on the subject.) The full force and effect of that mandate is conveniently set to trigger in 2017, after the man inflicting that damage has conveniently jumped ship from the smoldering remains of the executive branch. He and his cronies can then point fingers at follow-on administration officials for having abandoned such “worthy” – and utterly unreachable – goals.

Meanwhile, automakers earn “credits” to offset this other-worldly mpg target to the extent they produce electric vehicles (EVs) that lower overall mpg values per manufacturer. Hence, the Dolt – er, Bolt EV. Markets will respond to incentives, no matter how skewed the outcomes or how loaded the dice. In this case, those dice have been loaded by central planners promising a “better tomorrow” – the same ones who somehow always manage to escape accountability for yesterday’s abject failures or today’s stark realities.

Setting aside the abysmal failure of the Volt and its ilk, the more fundamental, chronic, systemic failure is that of this administration to acknowledge the reality of Economics 101. Witness, for example, that while Obama postured and preened even as he bad-mouthed Republicans' “drill, baby, drill” game plan, gas prices roughly halved overnight thanks to drilling. His response? Why, taking credit for the incredible drop, of course!

“America is the number one producer of oil, the number one producer of gas,” Obama boasted. “That’s helping to save drivers about $1.10 a gallon at the pump over this time last year.”

Never mind that oil production on government-controlled land dropped 16% since 2009, or that private production increased 61% over the same period – facts are irrelevant when you have a great smile, after all. No, the “important” takeaway was that the Obama administration brought cheaper gas prices to the pump through its standard acts of miracle-working and hand-waving.

Notwithstanding these charlatans, in a better world, the free market itself would establish how many SUVs, sport cars, EVs and the like would compose the U.S. auto market, and what the value of each auto would be. Unfortunately, we do not yet live in such a world, and will not until at least 2017. In any case, as long as the American public can be snowed by such thinly cloaked, self-serving political posers as Obama, we will continue to get what we deserve: Talking heads instead of true leaders.

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