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White 2 (2:17)
Topic(s): Auto Industry / Car Culture / Efficiency / Government
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Video Transcript

I would say that a lot of people in the automotive debate, the automotive energy debate, are talking past each other. I mean, look, the car companies have not pushed technology, or many of them, certainly the American companies, have not pushed technology as hard as they could have. Why? Because there really wasn't any money in it until relatively recently and maybe not even now.

Toyota has pushed it, partly because it's consistent with their corporate image and corporate mission, partly because they have the money. They can afford to take the loss on hybrid vehicles because they've got all the money in the world. General Motors is a junk-rated credit. They can't afford to just throw money at technology that the customer isn't willing to pay for. The government- I think the government has enabled what certainly the green groups would call bad behavior by not raising the cost of fuel to reflect its true cost in the world economy. I don't detect a great groundswell of will on the part of the government to raise gas taxes in order to sort of drive consumer behavior, nor, by the way, do the car companies.

Have the consumers behaved completely rationally? Probably not. But on the other hand, if you are a family of four or five, or you tow a boat, or you go on long trips—and this is, after all, a very big country—and you have the means to buy and finance the operation of a large, comfortable, not very fuel efficient vehicle, it's a free country. Why shouldn't you do it? There's no signal other than kind of the, you know, what you might call sort of, you know, moral suasion coming from people like Al Gore, there's no real signal to people that they shouldn't do that.

Every summer we get a little jolt, you know— oh, the gas goes up to three bucks a gallon because of various factors that actually have a lot to do with the structure of the oil industry, a certain percentage of the population. including the media, freak out. And in the wintertime it goes back down and people go back to their normal patterns. So to change that beyond the margin is going to take a long time—it's going to take fundamental sort of cultural change and it's really going to take economic change. Because at the end of the day, buying a car is an economic choice and people do what's in their best interest.



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