The hallmark of the environmental debate is that there are so many important players on so many different sides. Eminent scientists and intellectuals have taken every side of the debate, challenging their eminent colleagues. When it comes to the two most involved and highly charged players, the automakers and politicians, things get even more curious. On the same day that Bush opposed a gas tax to give states more money to repair bridges, Alan Mulally said he supports the idea of a gas tax to encourage customers to buy more fuel efficient vehicles.
Mulally believes Congress' CAFE standards represent failed policy and has hurt automakers. Regulating fuel efficiency has, in his opinion, only lead to consumers buying more cars and driving more. While making sure to stress that he and Ford are all in favor of fuel efficient vehicles and environmental health, he wants some of the onus put back on consumers. He said, "I just think it's so important that we all join in this debate and we really decide what we want to do about energy security and global warming. A piece of that could be a tax."
[Source: Detroit News]
No matter what you think of a gas tax, there seem to be a few unexplained pieces in Mulally's argument. If he's open to the idea of a gas tax to influence consumers to buy more fuel efficient cars, using the European example, it isn't clear how that's supposed to help automakers. The reasons Europeans buy fuel sipping cars go far beyond just the price of gas, and car companies don't get any of that money. Or is he just asking Americans to give Ford a reason to build cars with better mpg? If American customers buy more Focuses than Explorers, how does that help Ford? or is that consumer-driven efficiency simply meant to give Ford reason to put more resources into fuel efficient vehicles in general (and not just the Focus)? The debate rages, curiouser and curiouser...