President Obama boasted at a United Auto Workers conference last week that General Motors was back in business, producing cutting-edge vehicles like the plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt. He even promised to buy one when his time in office ends “five years from now.”
Whoops! Just three days later, GM announced that it would suspend Volt production for five weeks this spring, idling 1,300 workers at a Hamtramck, Mich., factory.
These events confirm the wasteful folly of allocating capital according to the dictates of politicians, such as when Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared in November 2008: “A business model based on gas — a gas-guzzling past — is unacceptable. We need a business model based on cars of the future, and we already know what that future is: the plug-in hybrid electric car.”
The electric vehicle flop also illuminates a point about science — or the politics of science.
Democrats and liberals are fond of calling their conservative and Republican adversaries “anti-science.” To the extent that the right espouses “creation science,” or disputes established facts about environmental degradation, it’s an appropriate label.
But progressives’ fascination with electric cars and other alternative-energy schemes reflects their own refusal to face the practical limitations of alternative energy — limitations that themselves reflect stubborn scientific facts.
Four decades after the 1973 oil crisis, this logic is wearing thin. Any company that figured out how to build a practical mass-market electric car would be swimming in cash. That no one has done so suggests we are bumping up against the limits of nature, not just politics or economics.
Certainly the many hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. government, GM and GM’s competitors have poured into the effort might have been better spent on more plausible energy-efficiency efforts, such as advanced internal combustion engines.
Instead, Big Government and Big Business have focused on the Volt, the Fisker Karma or the Tesla Roadster, none of which is remotely affordable for the “99 percent” of Americans. And yet in his 2013 budget, Obama proposes to boost the tax credit for electric vehicle buyers to $10,000.
What’s “progressive” about that, I’ll never understand.