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Fuel Economy Standards

Joan Claybrook’s article (Editorial Pages, July 15) “Move to Cut Fuel Economy Standards Should Be Run Off Road,” should also help us to recall some local history. Under the motto of “What is good for General Motors . . .”, we got:

--The dismantling of what today could have been a fantastic rapid transit system. It was the combined forces of General Motors and Standard Oil that bought up the Big Red Car system (which had right of ways and covered most of Southern California) and junked it to give us our absolute dependence on the automobile.

--It was mainly the “gas guzzler” that brought us smog. The word was unknown before World War II.

--It was the need to “feed” the automobile that brought us to our knees during the 1973 oil crises; increasing production of fuel-inefficient automobiles will help to perpetuate this danger.

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--Fuel for the automobile accounts for half of our negative trade deficit amounting to about $60 billion a year.

And now we find the giants, General Motors and Ford, back again trying to destroy years of progress finally made by adopting Corporate Average Fuel Standards (CAFE), in the interest only of selling big automobiles. Chrysler has demonstrated it is possible to meet CAFE standards and still make a healthy profit. We should not allow Ford and GM to push us backward!

Readers are urged to take a strong stand against the weakening of the standards by letting their congressmen know that they support ever continuing fuel-efficient automobiles.

SANDY ELSTER

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Venice

This is in response to your editorial (July 16), “Enforcing the Fuel Standards.”

While the standards may not be capricious, they are clearly both arbitrary and unconstitutional, the latter by any serious consideration of the 10th Amendment.

Basically, the standard tells the American people what percentage of them must drive small, underpowered, and unsafe cars, or eventually, how many children to have so each family will fit into one of the high-gas-mileage cars required. It denies both freedom of choice for the buyer and freedom of economic action to the manufacturer.

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No unprovable statements about what the regulation has done can compensate for the loss of freedom associated with this regulation. How do you know what would have happened to U.S. oil consumption in the absence of the standard, with foreign cars available to the U.S. public?

Even worse, the uncomprehending support of such expansion of unconstitutional government powers by influential publications such as The Times merely assures us all that even more such expansion will follow.

And finally, your thinly veiled criticism of the auto companies’ profit motive sustains the socialist tendencies of The Times’ editorial staff, which apparently has no notion that they work for a (gasp!) money-making company in a society where profits lead to more jobs, more income, and more taxes (hooray!) for the regulators to misuse and abuse.

HARLOW JUDSON

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La Habra

I must come out in defense of the government’s good sense in supporting GM and Ford’s attempt to reduce the mileage rating required on their new cars.

Certainly, when an American company finds it cannot produce efficient cars, or make sufficient profit, then it behooves the American government to lower the standards the company must meet.

Never mind that lowering the requirement will cost Americans millions of extra gallons of gas, the dollars to pay for them, and the security of knowing that we are maintaining some independence from foreign oil.

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Never mind, also, that these auto manufacturers will rake in untold millions from us as they increase the average size of their autos by continuing to build expensive gas-guzzlers.

And never mind the increased smog caused by an inefficient car using more gas and burning it poorly.

Let us only blindly support the self-serving machinations of the auto makers (although Chrysler appears able to meet the standards), and the Administration’s insistence upon handing the welfare of the American people over to business interests.

Ford and GM’s threat of layoffs certainly rings poorly in an industry that seems able to sell millions of efficient cars every year. Maybe we should trust someone else to manufacture our cars. Ford and GM seem intent on proving that those who buy Japanese have good horse sense.

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Incidentally, this move might have been more palatable if a surcharge were tacked onto every car with gas mileage under a certain level. Let those who insist on buying gas-guzzlers throw a few hundred dollars into the public till. We can use it to pay for medical expenses for respiratory problems, for wearing out of the roads by heavier cars and for research into energy sources that won’t run dry.

ALLAN RABINOWITZ

Los Angeles

Attempts by General Motors and Ford to increase their profits at the expense of the public interest are nothing new. What is new is that this Administration is apparently willing to play their game.

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Too little attention is given to facts surrounding American consumption of motor fuels. The nation owns and operates 40% of all automotive vehicles on the planet (our per-capita ownership is almost twice that of the nearest nation and our cars are notably less efficient); it uses 50% of the world’s motor fuel, and one-third of the petroleum.

And this is not because we are the richest; eight other nations are more affluent, several much more so. We have more automobiles because we subsidize our motorists more than does any other nation.

Our automotive sector has become the largest single part of the economy, probably 25%. Several unfortunate effects have been induced: household savings rates are the lowest among industrialized nations; public transit facilities are bankrupted; our cities are congested, smoggy and, at the same time, sprawled over the countryside.

American wages are high because American living costs must include the cost of one automobile per workman--and automobiles are far more expensive than we realize.

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The focus of our auto industry on the short-term profit is legendary. This initiative is an effort to exploit the weakness of certain of our citizens--those unfortunates who need a Cadillac or a Lincoln to feel good about themselves; but it will also exploit the nation. GM and Ford should be told to shove it.

STANLEY HART

Irvine


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