Thomas Friedman on the politics (not economics) of fuel economy
Thomas Friedman is a keen observer of political and economic affairs, and I’ve always admired his ability to show how the two tie together. That’s why I was so disappointed with his post here.
His post excoriating Toyota for supporting the less aggressive of two competing proposals in Congress for boosting CAFE requirements reads to me like a political positioning document calculated to focus heat and light on proposal that is directionally sensible (better fuel economy is good) but problematic in the mechanics and implementation, and ultimately represents poor public policy. (And I consider myself to be an environmentalist who is concerned about global warming.)
MotorTrend, of all publications, does a good job exploring the issues, and frankly, is more along the lines I would expect from Friedman. They kick of their analysis with the comment that Friedman’s post is "so uniformed it’s hard to know where to start." The thing is, I don’t believe this is simply uninformed on Friedman’s part. He doesn’t generally put out uninformed opinions. Moreover, the analysis strikes me as particularly un-Friedman like in that it doesn’t do the usual good job in linking economic and political drivers to explain social and political behavior. Ironically, the Rep. Dingell proposal (a Democrat from Michigan) is actually structured in a way that I think would do a much better job driving reduced greenhouse gases with economic incentives. That proposal is also far from perfect, but at least it provides a mechanism to expose consumers to some pain for environmentally unfriendly behaviors in a relatively transparent way.