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Saturday, July 19, 2008

McCain Throws MI Under The Bus

Today John McCain appeared in Warren at the GM Tech Center. According to the Detroit News, when asked if California should be allowed to set its own carbon emissions standards, he said
"It's hard for me to tell the states they can't set their own standards. ... At the end of the day, I think states should make their own decisions."
According to the News, this is a flip-flop from something he said in Ohio, where he supposedly said that he favors a national standard.

Even liberal Democrat John Dingell gets it:
"I don't think much of the idea of several sets of standards that the auto industry has to make and I think if you're trying to destroy the auto industry, that's a pretty good way of beginning," said Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Associated Press)
Someone needs to sit McCain down and have a good hard talk about economics with him. Fragmented regulatory standards are a huge shadow tax on businesses that have an interstate presence. Imagine what it would be like if UPS had to deliver packages a different way depending on if they were going east or west of the Mississipi.

Regional standards create big headaches (and costs) for the automakers. They have to make complicated plans to comply with each state's mandates while still planning product development and production for the EPA-only states. Product mix may have to be dramatically different, with unintended consequences like shortages of small cars in some regions and oversupply of trucks in others.

It looks like McCain is looking to trade votes in the midwest battleground states, which have a large automotive industry presence, for votes in the "green states", which are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. I hope his political calculus is right, because Michigan and Ohio seem pretty important right now.

Here's a better idea. The green states should encourage their citizens to choose more fuel efficient vehicles by taxing fuel more. The EPA should set a single national standard for fuel economy. And there should be as few fuel formulations permitted as absolutely necessary, preferably two: summer and winter. (Summer blend gas has fewer light hydrocarbons to reduce smog-forming evaporative emissions.)


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