Corn Muffins and the Corner CAFE

By Brendan Moore


As you have probably read, President Bush met with the CEOs of Ford, GM and Chrysler yesterday in order to discuss “our addiction to oil” and what is being done about it. Everyone talked about flex-fuel vehicles, President Bush gingerly touched a couple of the flex-fuel vehicles brought to the White House by the automakers, cameras whirred, everyone smiled, and people pronounced it a success.

Let’s put aside the surreal theatre of this photo-op session and talk about the subject that was studiously avoided yesterday morning; that’s right, raising the fuel economy requirements of the cars that will be for sale in the next few years. The plan by Bush (and others, most notably the Democratic House members) to raise the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements of new vehicles is a cruel joke.

But the joke’s on us. CAFE is a completely bankrupt premise. It serves now as an illusion that Bush has put before the American people, an illusion that makes the public believe that the federal government is doing something about the United States using less oil, and therefore, gasoline.

It is simply the federal government trying to foist responsibility for reducing gasoline consumption on to the automakers. Hey, everybody, look over there, don’t look at us!

Only a tax on gasoline will reduce gasoline consumption, and only the federal government has the power to enact such a tax. They just don’t have the political will to do it.

So, instead, we get this completely meaningless diversion of CAFÉ that wasn’t discussed
yesterday, but is being hotly debated in Congress, and almost just-as-meaningless talk about corn-based ethanol and hydrogen flex-fuel, which, apparently is the technological breakthrough we need if you go by the meeting that took place at the White House yesterday. Except, of course, that it’s not going to happen anytime soon, and there are already some serious doubts as to whether either one is even close to a good answer to our oil addiction. The government and our representatives will do anything to distract the American public away from the real solution that no wants to talk about since it is currently political self-immolation.

Isn’t President Bush fond of saying that he doesn’t govern by public opinion; he does what’s right for America? Well, here’s his big moment – will he be found wanting?

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at

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  1. Our president is so smart.

  2. I live in farm country in the Midwest and everyone all around me is going to double, triple, quadruple the amount of corn they’re planting this year. I don’t care if the logic is flawed or not as long as farmers get a break for once. Instead of oil barons, maybe we’ll have corn barons! If all it takes to keep driving an SUV is to plant more corn, then how is that bad?

  3. mikem, this is why it’s bad: the problem is how to reduce the amount of gas being used, not how to help agri-business. That’s a different problem.

    You can’t say “well, we didn’t fix the original problem, but we did help out farmers by driving up the cost of foodstuffs, so I guess that’s a pretty good trade-off. Our work is done here, right, fellas? BTW, all of you are doing a heck of a job.” Which is basically what the Bush administration is advocating while not actually saying that out loud to the American public.

    It’s complete bullsh*t, and a lot of Americans seem to be buying it.

  4. Even though I have a long commute, I will gladly accept a large increase in the gas tax for a small decrease in the income tax. Definitely would be interested in that trade.

  5. Diz –

    I’m with you. If I can get an income tax offset, I’ll figure out a couple of ways to use less gasoline pretty quick.

    Brendan Moore

  6. Diz

    You are definitely on to something. I think a lot of people would make that trade. I’ll do it right now. If the government reduces my income tax rate just a litlle, I’ll be buying a 40 mpg car this weekend. Why doesn’t someone in Washington propose that?

  7. Ethanol is going to be a disaster for the U.S., plain and simple. And it’s going to be a disaster in ways a lot of people really have not thought about yet (kind of like Iraq).

  8. The problem isn’t with the car companies making cars that can run on ethanol, but have to run on gasoline. The problem is thet the oil companies are not providing the ethanol pumps to pump the ethanol so that the cars equiped with flexfuel engines can get ethanol in their cars. The problem is the oil companies, not the car companies. There are hardly any stations that pump ethanil.

  9. Our president and vice president are two guys thatmake a lot of money from the oil industry. Does anyone really believe they’re going to do anything about the death grip oil has on America? Not until they absolutely have to, right? Keep the money rolling in!

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