I'm hoping that every Spend Matters reader in North America who either has control over fleet spend or their own personal automotive purchases is doing their patriotic duty to not buy American. Or at least to not buy Government Motors or Chrysler. Because when you see behavior like Senator Tom Harkin's, telling Congress that he wants "to use a climate bill to force auto companies to make new cars and trucks capable of running on 85 percent ethanol as well as conventional gasoline," you've got to think twice about how he plans to do it and how uncompetitive government owned automotive companies will be in the future. In his view, it's easy, because "We own the automobile companies. Why not? I think that will be an easy one." NAM's Shop Floor Blog, quoted above, suggests Harkin's reference is due entirely to "government interests in Chrysler and General Motors".
Let's examine Harkin's motivations for a minute and why this comment is so scary -- and why we need to treat this as a Spend Management policy decision that is worth taking action on to send a message. Senator Harkin is from the Corn Belt -- Iowa to be exact. His motivation around ethanol is entirely based on propping up the price of corn to keep his constituents happy (as if government farm subsidies, which Obama has been too much of a wuss to tackle and that we all pay for in higher prices, are not enough).
So let's get this straight. Under the guise of climate change, a Senator, with motivations for his own selfish re-election and fundraising reasons, wants to mandate that "government owned" car companies run on the very substance that keeps him in office, bringing home the bacon (pork) so to speak. Never mind the fact that building engines that run on both fuels cost more to develop, sub-optimize power and economy for conventional fuel by requiring the flex-fuel option, in some cases weigh more than conventional engines and do not result in any savings to consumers.
If there was ever a better reason for all of us to vote with our dollars and go out and buy Fords, Hondas and Toyotas, I'm not sure what it is. Let's hope the government does dictate such standards because in the end, if they do, it will hasten the demise of organizations that have no business being owned by the government in the first place.