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November 23, 2006


From DC

What a lame, misleading survey. Let’s look at the questions people were really answering.

“A strong and bipartisan 78% of Americans want their cars to give three times the current gas mileage with no decrease in size, power, comfort, or safety.”

“Americans think they have foolishly bought fuel-inefficient SUVs and trucks when they could have bought smaller, more efficient vehicles widely available from American, Japanese, and European automakers.”

“Most Americans want to pick up the health care costs for formerly overpaid but now early-retired autoworkers, and they are willing to pay higher taxes, cut Head Start funding, and reduce highway maintenance in order to pay for it.

“Almost all Americans want Detroit to start selling here at home the imaginary full-size highly fuel-efficient vehicles that they sell overseas, even if they do not really exist.”

“Mainstream and evangelical Christians, conservative and orthodox Jews, and even radical Muslims all agree that “Jesus would like you to drive a Prius”.”

With a special bonus question, The Civil Society Institute determined that both of its staff members and all three of its financial backers believe Americans to be simple-minded rubes who without enlightened guidance by wise “catalysts for change” always tend to be greedy, selfish and evil.

The perhaps well-meaning people at The Civil Society Institute have in effect surveyed themselves. No competent polling company would have used such silly questions to generate such meaningless results.


The study concludes that Americans really want this technology. The missing, critical question is how much they're willing to pay for it. This study won't be meaningful until they ask what Americans are willing to give up to get a 40mpg (average) fleet by way of either smaller cars or paying more money. Anyone can say that they want a 40mpg car when no one tells them what it costs, just as I'd like all the perks of government spending without actually having to pay for it.


Harvey D.


The 40 mpg, 5 passenger, car is here. It is called the Camry Hybrid. I guess that somebody will have to tell 78% of Americans to put their $$ where their mouth is and go the Toyota garage and buy the car they say they want.

OTOH, few people do what they say or want to do.

While we're at it, the 50 pmg car exist, it is called the Prius and is selling rather well in USA.

Somebody must tell the people to read the newspapers during their daily Big Mac Attack.


Now you're making me want to look into a Camry hybrid for my next car. The problem for me is whether to buy now or wait until the technology (plug-in, serial hybrid?) is farther along.



How about instead of a meaningless survey, people actually let market forces work the way they are supposed to. When gas becomes so prohibitively expensive that an alternatively fueled vehicle is cheaper - then that's when people will actually start buying them. They shouldn't have to be told by the environmentialists which car they have to drive - that's just un-American.


I would go with the camry then add an extra plugin battery pack Stephen, they should be available at mass production prices soon. Calcars for one, is working on this optional add on.

That way the first 20 or 30 miles will be driven on electric power instead of oil vastly boosting your average mileage.

And that electricity only costs the equivalent of gas at 75 cents per gallon.


Hey Andy,

RE:"How about instead of a meaningless survey, people actually let market forces work the way they are supposed to. When gas becomes so prohibitively expensive that an alternatively fueled vehicle is cheaper - then that's when people will actually start buying them."

I would guess market forces, atleast in the case of oil, would not work in our favor (human beings). The price of oil based on the law of supply and demand would increase in basically 3 major scenarios (there are other factors like major storms interrupting our refinery capabilities, let's stick with the majors). The oil consumption based on population will increase to a point where production levels can't keep in pace. Or the production levels can't keep in pace with demand cause total reserves are depleted past peak oil production levels. The worse scenerio and the one that will most likely happen is both previous scenerios happening at the same time. As we head toward our peak production levels... the population of the planet will undoubtedly increase (under normal circumstances) thus the demand for energy will increase. If we wait for the point where petroleum based cars are too cost ineffective, what would that do to the environment and the global economy? Would we face unheard of inflation because petroluem based products such as plastics reach unheard of price levels also? What would happen to the environment if we wait for these technologies to become cost effective due to market forces?

I whole heartedly believe we need to do any and all things neccessary to help alternative energy solutions emerge. Surveys can help... if you ask the right people and ask the right questions. Perception will change... perception must change. We need to make oil obsolete as an energy source... they will always have plastics.

Harvey D.


I'm with you for the Camry Hybrid. Rumors are that the plug-in version may be around by 2009/2010. I too can't wait to buy one, even at a $10+K preminum.

I drive my wife's 4-cyl Camry ounce in a while. It is a good mid-size trouble free car with a huge trunk, very easy to get in and out and easy on gas.

From DC

Jimmi actually describes a scenario where the market would function well. If the world starts to run low on oil, gasoline prices will rise. When prices rise enough people will choose to buy more fuel efficient cars. Oil will not run out overnight. It fact it will never run out, it will just get more and more expensive if it becomes harder to find, and people will use less and less of it. People cannot replace their low mileage cars overnight, but short term spikes aside, oil prices do not permanently change overnight, either.

Gas prices rose from $1.50 in 2002 to over $3.00 this year, and now they have fallen back to around $2.00. We all dealt with it. Some people reduced their driving to save money (which left more gasoline for others). Some people will remember those $3.00 gas prices when they buy their next car. If people want to buy today’s small high-mileage cars, Detroit and Japan will happily make as many as they can sell. And if Detroit could force people to buy SUVs you can be sure they would have done it when gas hit $3.00 a gallon, but they couldn’t. (See gas price history at http://zfacts.com/p/35.html.) Shale oil and tar sands put a ceiling on the long term price of oil. At $100 a barrel we can have oil for a long, long time, and we have pretty much proven our economy can tolerate oil at those prices.

In the meantime technology is moving ahead. Early adopters are buying hybrids and even the first road-worthy electric cars, and electricity can come from our unlimited coal supplies or from wind or solar power. Venture capitalists are funding new-technology battery companies because they sense that the technology and the market demand are about to intersect. Big companies do not create disruptive technologies. Those innovations come from little companies like Tesla Motors and Phoenix Motorcars and EESTOR and Altair Nano and FeelGood Cars. Many of those little companies will fail. Only when the technology and the market have been proven by small enterprises will GM, Ford, and the rest jump into the market by buying small companies or licensing their technology. This is not because big companies are evil or stupid, this is just how business works. A bunch of hobbyists working in their garages created the PC industry. Only then did a frightened IBM jump in (and mostly succeed).

Maybe way back in the early sixties before Japan and Germany had fully recovered from World War II the big three U.S. automakers had enough muscle to tell customers what they were going to buy. But those days are long past. Customers have money. Manufacturers want money. Money talks. Buyers tell companies what to build. Markets work. The good people at The Civil Society Institute have it all backwards, which is why only a bogus survey will support their ideas.


"Customers have money. Manufacturers want money. Money talks. Buyers tell companies what to build. Markets work."

That old talking point load of corporatarian claptrap won't work on the technology savvy here in blogland.

We know of the many vital, promising technologies that are being blocked by monpoly forces working in concert with corrupt government officials. Markets are not free and they are not working.

100s of thousands are dying in oil wars that now threaten the whole planet due to nuclear proliferation. Global climate disaster due to greenhouse gases is another huge problem made worse by monopoly control of the capital necessary for inovation of energy resources.

From DC


A Camry with an extra battery pack sounds like a great car. 20-30 miles will cover a typical day's driving for most people, and if the day is not typical you can drive as far as you want with the gasoline engine. Sounds like a 95% electric solution, and with comfort, size, and proven technology.


To DC,

Being an investor, I completely understand the theories that the market is suppose to be "efficient". But the efficiency of the market is not in question. The ill effects of waiting too long to switch to other energy sources is.

Let's say for instance that the oil levels reach critical lows and the price of a barrel of oil reaches $100. Of coarse people will start to seek alternative solutions which in turn should drop the price lower. But at the elevated levels the price of plastics and petroleum based products will rise also. With higher oil prices it will make it alot harder for underdeveloped nations to acquire the needed energy to industrialize. It would be more advantageous if we can bring the demand of oil down while supplies are plentiful.

As far as the oil prices in the last 2-3 years I think we all know that the loss of our gulf coast refineries due to the Katrina summer and the war on terror have depleted our reserves and thus the prices increased cause of the demand the US needed to replenish it's reserves (not to forget China's increased demand). Of coarse now the US is at full reserve levels and the logistics of deployment are gone... the price of oil has dropped due to the demand decrease.

I hope the theory that oil is a by-product of plate-techtonics is true which would make my point mute. But an efficient market does nothing for the environment. An efficient market will not deal with a situation where responsible energy usage is neccessary. An efficient market will not save the lives lost due to conquests of countries to acquire oil reserves.

We need to make oil a non-factor!!!

From DC


Yikes, corporatarian claptrap! So I guess the big three automakers bought up the 100 mpg carburetor patent back in 1968 and buried the technology?

Big conspiracies cannot work. Human nature will not allow it. Big companies and big government involve lots of people. Let’s say General Motors discovers or buys some technology that would be “inconvenient” for their business if it came to market. Discovering and hiding that technology takes more than just Roger Smith himself or whoever runs GM these days. That takes some engineers, some lawyers, some secretaries, a few well-fed executives, the guy in the copy room, etc., way more than three people. That’s just too many people to keep a secret. Either out of disgust someone will leak the info or out of greed they will steal it and sell it to a competitor.

You probably know people who work in big companies or in the government. Would they help hide a criminal conspiracy? All of them? Ten out of ten? Would you? When it is practically riskless to expose it with just an anonymous envelope in the mail to a competitor, a congressman, or Ralph Nader or The Civil Society Institute? Can’t be done. (BTW, that’s how we know there are no frozen martians at Wright-Pat air force base.)

Think about it. Our government, with security clearances, lie detector tests, the FBI, life sentences for spying, and 99.999% loyal citizens could not keep silent submarine technology from leaking to the soviets. And those guys sold those secrets for a whole lot less than the 100 mpg carburetor was worth.

From DC


Yes, I agree there are some things going on with oil that the market will not solve on its own. I am not too concerned about pollution since oil is relatively clean, but some people believe burning hydrocarbons will heat up the planet, and the market will not look after that without some help. If the price for plastics tripled over time I like to think we could handle it. My big concern is that importing oil has meant stuffing enormous wealth into primitive societies. Maybe these people hated us all along, but with billions and billions of oil dollars they can build big armies (Iraq & Iran), develop nuclear weapons (Iran), sponsor wars (Saudi Arabia in Afghanistan, Iraq vs. Iran, Iraq in Kuwait), and support murderous radicals worldwide (Saudi Arabia). It would be great to cut off the money and let these folks drift back into the Bronze Age where they would probably be happier. Anyhow, I think we are on the way to success. The practical electric car has just about arrived. With that, we can shift entirely to coal and stop using oil if we choose, and solar is not too far away. If it takes a few years of dealing with a little extra soot and some potentially damaging CO2 emissions, at least the Middle East should calm down or keep its problems at home. I would happily endure a little pollution to avoid war and terrorism.


Feel the desperation FromDC, the tide of public opinion has turned.

"some people believe burning hydrocarbons will heat up the planet"

Make that "most" people.

You are right that most people realize that war over oil and nuclear power proliferation together are tending to make it more likely that terror groups will get the bomb.

As far as conspiracy theories go, none are necessary to point out the effort of industry lobbyists and their representatives within our government to keep alternatives to fossil and nuclear power off the mass production lines.

The prez just sold a bunch of nuclear power to India, but wait! China then started a bidding war to provide it even cheaper.


How to "plugin" a hybrid? Without replacing it's very expensive, complex computer system. This is the major cost related to these retrofits, much more expensive than the actual batteries.

By adding extra quick charge lithium nano tech battery capacity then fooling it's computer into thinking the system is in regenerative braking mode whenever ones foot is off the accelerator. And using that trickery to keep the smaller battery that comes with the hybrid charged up from the bigger plugin battery.

Imagine a hybrid driving down a mountain, using the regenerative braking for a much larger percentage of the trip. Does the onboard computer know wether it is really going uphill or down? Nope.

Connect the extra battery to the regenerative braking recharge lines, then trigger the recharge with a switch on the accelerator pedal that only goes into recharge mode whenever the pedal is in the up position. No computer necessary, only a couple of diodes and a switch.

It might help to replace the original Nimh battery with a quick charge model also, but in a way that the computer does not notice.


From DC writes:

Shale oil and tar sands put a ceiling on the long term price of oil.

This is a common misconception, but it's very wrong.  Tar sands require natural gas for the processing and upgrading, and gas supplies are running short (esp. in Canada, which is also short of essential water).  Shale oil requires huge amounts of energy to crack the kerogen into fractions which can be removed, and the sources are not evident.

This places (rather low) ceilings on the production of both tar sands and shale oil.  Unless production can be expanded at will, these supplies offer no way to limit the price of oil.

electricity can come from our unlimited coal supplies

There ain't no such thing.  The USA has perhaps 250 years of coal supplies if consumption does not increase and consideration includes coal too poor or too deep to be worth recovering.  If we double our coal consumption to make motor fuel and keep increasing consumption exponentially, we have more like 30 years (and then we hit simultaneous walls for motor fuel AND electric power).

Renewables and nuclear are the only solutions capable of large expansions.  PHEV's are the way to go.

As for conspiracies:  some don't have to be hidden.  Take the PNGV.  Had it gone forward, it would have delivered 80 MPG full-size sedans to the market right about now.  (Would have been great timing, no?)  They would also have been ripe for conversion to PHEV's, making them potentially independent of liquid motor fuel for short trips.  One of the first actions of the Bush administration in 2001 was to sign a bill killing the PNGV, and substituting a hydrogen car program with no prospect of delivering cars for 20 years.

They did this in plain sight.



The terrorists factor is another reason to kick the oil habit. As an investor, I can't calculate geopolitical factors and extreme circumstances such as terror cells acquiring the bomb when trying to employ economics on a particular sector. Which is all the more reason why we can't wait for the market to be efficient in this case. We need to help it by any and all means.

As for absorbing the cost of global inflation due to plastics... why even make it a factor? We really need to stop with this "It will work itself out... we'll just deal with it" attitude. Can we please say "preventitive maintenance"!!!

And as E-Poet has stated just above me... we only have a limited amount of coal also... eventhough the US and China have the largest coal reserves, waiting for the market to be efficient and dictate change can also have adverse consequences. The sooner we can kick oil, coal, natural gas and switch to renewables, nuclear fission/fusion the better off we all will be.

Jeffrey Klein

We often want what is not available, and believe what is not true. We should realize that hybrids are not yet free market competitive, because they are being sold way below cost. Electric cars and fuel cells are not going to be practical in the 21st century.

Better internal combustion, and bio-fuels will be. It is time for the government and venture capitalists to invest in the technologies of the near future.

Corn and grass derived alcohol are also impractical. We should be looking at new generation diesel fueled with soy oil.

Jeffrey Klein

Look at some near term, practical fuel saving technology at www.limtechnology.com


Toyota hasn't been subsidizing the Prius for quite a while; they make a healthy profit on every one, and they certainly don't have to give discounts to move them!


We should realize that hybrids are not yet free market competitive, because they are being sold way below cost. Electric cars and fuel cells are not going to be practical in the 21st century.

Silly A123, Silly Altair, Toyota, Honda, and all the rest... 94 more years of pointless fiddling!

kent beuchert

Calling the Civil Society Institute non-partisan is sort of like calling the Nader
organization non-partisan. This organisation is clearly motivated largely on the basis of politics. I don't know whether their survey is accurate, but I do know that one can manipulate the results simply by changing the way a question is asked. I am disregarding the supposed results of this survey, since its results so closely align to those of the organization that supposedly conducted it. We all know that in the past the public was suposedly all in favor of gas mileage limits until it came time to actually impose them, which tended to enrich only the foreign auto companies. The UAW is strongly opposed to these limits, so I
doubt that anyone from Michigan was included
in the survey.


"which tended to enrich only the foreign auto companies. The UAW is strongly opposed to these limits"

And that opposition has all but doomed uS automakers. Had government gradually increased standards all along, Detroit would have been forced to compete.

Now it is probably too late. After the bankruptcies to shed pension and healthcare obligations, the rest of the UAW's jobs will be exported to anti-labor nations.

The ironic part? China, the main job benefoiciary nation is turning environmental! They see it as a good competitive capitalist strategy.

Too bad Detroit auto execs and UAW execs don't see it that way. A union opposed to its own worker's best interests, that's sad.

I think the rank and file auto workers would now favor inovation instead of gas guzzling, they see the light, the way to beat the world again.

Serial plugin hybrids with quick charge batteries backed up with fuel cell/microturbine generation that uses any liquid fuel. And the whole system will get 10 times the current iCE mileage.

That all US technology would get the UAW's lost jobs back in a hurry. Toyota and Honda would be left flatfooted at the starting gun if only Detroit would fund the startyup companies making this technology. They got miilons now, but need billions to facilitate mass production.

Please wake up Detroit!!! UAW members wake up your leaders and tell them to shout out to the boardrooms!!

We need all your determination to win these oil wars, peacefully. Your industry was instrumental in winning WW2, please don't let oil wars turn into WW3.

Stop 'em now and regain world leadership for uS automakers.


"Oh you can't scare me I'm sticking to the UNION, I'm sticking to the UNION, to the day I die"

Old labor song. That spirit is still out there. And it could revive US automakers. Union members picketing for new techology, why not?


RE: ">And that opposition has all but doomed uS automakers. Had government gradually increased standards all along, Detroit would have been forced to compete.
>Now it is probably too late. After the bankruptcies to shed pension and healthcare obligations, the rest of the UAW's jobs will be exported to anti-labor nations.
>The ironic part? China, the main job benefoiciary nation is turning environmental! They see it as a good competitive capitalist strategy.
>Too bad Detroit auto execs and UAW execs don't see it that way. A union opposed to its own worker's best interests, that's sad."

I'll say this one more time if you guys didn't see it the other 3 times I wrote this... wouldn't it be funny if China became a world leader in alternative energy solutions while taking over the US economy and become #1 =) (hint hint... look at US and European companies that have vested intrests in China when dealing with alt energy solutions... you'll laugh all the way to the bank).



The automakers union is exactly what got the Big 3 automakers in trouble in the first place.

Take any industry that has a union and see how nearly bankrupt it is - airlines, government, post office, car makers - they are all sucking the corporations (and the taxpayers) dry while foreign competition kicks our ass. There was a time and a place for unions but that time is long gone.

You want to save the auto industry - disband the unions and start hiring labor at competitive prices!

Of course the economics education in America is so poor that basic economic principles like this, don't get taught to most of the populace - but that shouldn't suprise you, since it's run by the Teacher's Union.....'nuff said.


So if illegal aliens could work for below minimum wage for the automakers they would spend those huge new profits on new technology?

Uh huh.

US automakers already employ people in mexico and china who work cheap, it doesn't seem to be helping them out. Toyota and Honda employ people right here in the uSA for competitive wages and they are beating Detroit like a rented mule.

Quality and inovation are the missing link.

If you had a pension coming from a company would you be ok with that company wrecking its own business in order to shed that responsibility through bankruptcy? Be honest now.

Remember what your good book said, do unto others...


Pensions are going away just like the number of people in the US that belong to unions. Contrary to popular belief companies exist to make MONEY. Period. That's why they have 401ks now - because pensions are sucking the companies dry - so much so that they can't do business anymore. Companies will spend surplus cash on whatever makes them money and keeps them in business. Unions and pensions are the exact reason why Japanese auto makers are "beating US automakers like a rented mule". I wouldn't be stupid enough to keep all my eggs in one basket when it comes to my retirement - just like I'm not counting on Social Insecurity for my retirement either....It's a sad situation for the workers but they need to do something to keep themselves solvent otherwise there won't BE anymore automakers in the US and the workers STILL won't get their pensions...which scenario is better for the greater good of America and the economy? No US automakers at all? Or several thousand unhappy workers pissed off at a profitable US Auto industry?

Harvey D.

UAW members high salaries, costly fringe benefits, low productivity, poor work quality, poor unfit design + Big Three lack of vision and unfounded decisions ++ have all contributed to the present unsustainable situation.

To survive, both sides will have to change their inefficient ways. It is not going to be easy and they may not manage to do it in time.

Market shares are (and have been) moving quickly away to Japanese, Korean and soon to Chinese more efficient manufacturers. and the turn around is not for tomorrow, unless all those people wake up.

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