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Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Low Profile Sweetheart Deal from the EPA to General Motors

I woke up, turned on CNN, and thought, "Holy crap! It's like 'death day'..." We've got James Brown in a coffin, Gerald Ford in a coffin, and Saddam Hussein on the gallows. 36 dead in Iraq so far today and 77 wounded.

Tomorrow we'll wear stupid hats, get drunk, and say good riddance to 2006. I'll be glad when I can look back at a year again and not say good riddance. Until then, so long you lousy year.

There's reason to think that 2007 will be better. President Bush has been politically hamstrung with a democratic majority in both houses. Nancy Pelosi has said that impeachment's 'off the table,' but it's really difficult to see how any real investigation into just about anything -- from the long string of lies leading to the Iraq war, to the use of propaganda against the american people, to government corruption, to domestic spying -- won't turn up real crimes. It may be that justice, not to mention the people, will demand impeachment.

Take this fun little story, currently flying under the radar as all the famous, infamous, and unknown dead people suck up all the media attention.

L.A. Times:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the way for automakers to produce hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars to meet zero-emission vehicle requirements in California and 10 other states.

In a waiver signed last week, EPA officials approved amendments adopted in 2003 by the California Air Resources Board that allow manufacturers to produce fuel cells as an alternative to battery-powered cars and light trucks previously required by the state.

"This is a real Christmas gift for all of us," Air Resources Board Chairman Dr. Robert Sawyer said in a statement. "All Californians will breathe easier because of this measure, and the technology that makes these clean cars possible can now be made available to everyone."

Actually, it's a big Christmas gift to General Motors. What this waiver allows them to do is to include prototypes and test vehicles when figuring the number of 'clean' vehicles it produces. But, since those vehicles aren't even in production, much less for sale, it renders California's requirements pretty much meaningless and ineffective. According to Wired's Autopia, "...This EPA waiver lets GM include impractical vehicles as part of its required number of clean vehicles. The intent was to encourage the sale of clean commercial vehicles, not expensive prototypes funded by tax dollars. When fuel cell vehicles become commercially viable, they should be included, but that shouldn't excuse GM from doing anything today about fuel efficiency."

Pretty sweet deal, huh? Screw the law, screw California's silly little democracy, government exists to serve Big Auto.

In 2001, the Bush team received $200,000 from General Motors to help pay for the inaugural and former Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card left GM as a lobbyist to work in the White House. Card himself gave nearly $10,000 to the Bush campaign.

A few days before George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration ceremony, General Motors threw Andrew Card an elaborate farewell party on the roof of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Card, who was leaving to become the president’s chief of staff, had been GM’s chief lobbyist for more than year. Before that, Card had been the automotive industry’s main voice as the CEO of its now-defunct trade group, the American Automobile Manufacturers Association. The AAMA was a well-funded group (it spent more than $12 million on lobbying in 1997-1998) that fought with Japan over trade issues and lobbied the U.S. government against stricter fuel emissions standards - issues that are frequently on Congress' plate...

Think about how the corporation's these Bush administration figures come from have fared recently. Dick Cheney and Halliburton comes to mind. Before the Iraq war, Halliburton's stock price was $20 dollars -- in three years it had more than tripled to $63. It's since dropped to about $31, but that still represents a rise of nearly 40%. No one's going broke over at Halliburton. War profiteering is a growth industry.

These are the sort of things that go on right out there in the open. Imagine what they want to keep secret.


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