Sunday, June 9, 2019

Going the Wrong Way on Cars and Climate

Serves me right for reading. I come across this article on the automobile industry in my favorite rag and it makes me really stop and think. Not that I think about the auto industry on a regular basis, but here we are at a turning point that has both national and global ramifications.

I had no idea that China was so influential when it comes to car sales in the world. From the article:
China increasingly rules the global auto market and determines its course. In recent years, China’s voracious appetite for vehicles has accounted for almost all of the growth in global sales. Chinese consumers bought 24 million cars last year, far more than any other nation. Americans were a distant second with 17 million cars. General Motors sells far more cars in Asia — 947,000 in the first three months of this year — than it does in the United States.
That's impressive. And it also points out the scary math that I'm sure people think about, but that hasn't been given its due. The United States has about 330 million people and Chin has almost two billion. India has another billion plus. Our birthrate has been dropping for a few years and our chief executive is not fond of growth through immigration. How, then, are we to compete? Tariffs will only go so far and, it seems, will do more harm than good for the workers and suppliers that are making the engines go. Tariffs will also raise prices and cut profit margins. Moreover, young people are moving out of rural and suburban areas into more urban settings, where a car is not a necessity and is even seen as a liability that costs too much, pollutes, and makes life more difficult in a city.

And then, of course, there's the environment.

Except for those Know Nothings who are running the government, the general consensus and facts as we know them clearly show that the climate is warming, and that's having a profound effect on our planet. We love our cars in the United States, and they have done a great deal of good for our growth, our economy, and our national pride. Those days, though, are on their way out. Americans are buying fewer cars and auto manufacturing is done mostly in Mexico. Cars pollute. They need parking lots and roads and gas stations and gas and insurance and money to buy all of those extras, and increasingly that money is going to other places in the economy.

It would be nice if our national policy was not moving in the exact opposite direction that it needs to on cars and energy. A push for electric cars would help. A push for more mass transit systems would help even more. China is not going to go away, or even lose, whatever that means, a trade war. They simply have too many people and too much government that is willing to step in and ensure that their key industries have the leverage they need to succeed.

The United States, though, does have strategies it can follow to ensure its continued economic advance, but they should not include more fossil fuels and larger SUVs and trucks. Many businesses are taking it upon themselves to commit to a greener, cleaner future, and perhaps American ingenuity and creativity will enable us to shift away from the old model and into the new one. The rest of the world sees the danger. We seem to see only threats to our way of life, which in many ways needs a serious upgrade.

We need leaders who will realize this and enact policies that will help us get there.

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