by Susan Stamper Brown
CHARLESTON, S.C. — On this lovely, but exceedingly hot, Sunday afternoon, with computer-in-lap, I am enjoying the benefits of wireless Internet technology as I sit in the passenger’s seat of my five-year old SUV purchased from CarMax. My husband and I enjoy road trips just about as much as we enjoy the steamy-hot cups of java that we sip along the way. For the majority of the Bush 43 years, a cup of Starbucks cost more than a gallon of gas, but now both are essentially the same, meaning this road trip will more than likely be the last we can afford to take – until America puts a Republican president back in the Oval Office.
Proponents of President Obama’s new vehicle cafe standards might argue that his policy makes it affordable to get back out on the road in this day of almost $4.00 per gallon of gasoline. While vehicles that sip gasoline like we sip our coffee on road trips sounds enticing, do not be fooled; this sipping will come at a cost quite unaffordable to most Americans.
Consider the $40,000 Chevy Volt that was declared the Motor Trend 2011 Car of the Year for its advanced engineering that allows the car to run as a series hybrid, parallel hybrid, or as an electric vehicle. Sounds nice – until you realize the car’s price tag is higher than the average per capita income of $39,000, and the cost of electricity is on the rise.
General Motors may indeed deserve credit for Volt’s technology, but GM’s partnership with Motor Trend’s publisher, Source Interlink, calls into question if the Volt received the award standing on its own four wheels, or “Government Motors” had a little help from its Uncle Sam – and now must convince taxpayers that our “investment” was worthwhile, as well as set the stage for the next phase of this administration’s back door approach to “Cap and Trade.”
The administration assumes its new cafe standards of 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025 will somehow spur economic growth when auto makers begin to crank up the assembly lines to make automobiles most of us cannot afford. In the first two months of this year, out of 268,308 Chevrolets sold, the Volt accounted for one-fifth of 1 percent, or 602 — indicating that most American’s are not interested in the 4 cylinder sardine can on wheels — even if it is the “car of the future” as described by Obama.
Quite honestly, each American should get one wrapped in a giant red ribbon delivered to our driveways for free, since we’ve already paid for one several times over. Consider how much taxpayer money was “invested” (a.k.a. wasted) on the bailout, development and research costs, outsourcing to the Korean battery supplier, federal loans for plant retooling, Energy Department grants, and consumer tax incentives. Not including dealerships in California caught gaming the system by selling Volts to each other and each collecting the $7500 tax credit.
Don’t let my credentials as a SUV driver make you think that I do not see the value in fuel-efficient cars built in America. When the time comes that automobile manufacturers can produce vehicles that are not only fuel-efficient and affordable, but also fun to drive, I will be first in line to buy one. Until then, I’ll be perfectly content cruising down the highway sipping my tall, extra-hot, nonfat latte’ with one shot of peppermint.