The Holden Commodore Omega, photo by User:OSX. Can we afford to have everyone driving such huge cars?
I know I only wrote about this issue last week (Reduced profits of auto companies a good thing?) but the headlines keep cropping up in Google Reader and I have to expand on my ideas again.
Today's two articles are about General Motors and their failing bottom line: to put it bluntly they're simply struggling with sharply reduced demand. Adelaide Now lets us know that Holden (GM's Australian subsidiary) is cutting back production again. Time magazine asks whether or not General Motors is worth saving.
As with other car companies, General Motors has a disproportionally greater responsibility over other companies to help us in our global effort to protect our environment, and so far their [lack of] fulfillment of their environmental obligations has been laughable. Due to a loophole in American law which does not impose more stringent fuel efficiency standards on light trucks and SUVs because they're not "cars", the Big Three fell asleep behind their corporate wheels and didn't do anything while companies like Honda and Toyota have worked to improve efficiency and create hybrid technologies. They are certainly a long way from being perfect, but at least they're driving in the right direction.
I think General Motors should be given financial assistance, but only on the proviso that they wake up and starting taking the environment seriously: such funding should go towards developing more fuel efficient cars and researching alternative fuels, NOT towards restyling the bodywork on their current petrol-guzzlers for a new year range. They should also be supervised, and be encouraged to take seriously some brilliant, practical and unconventional ideas.
Such funding however should also be complimented by much larger government funding grants for the serious construction of public transport; this doesn't just apply to the United States. And I mean serious. Our planet cannot afford any more cars. It couldn't afford any more cars 20 years ago.
Only with a concerted and long term plan to improve public transport systems around the world will we see any change. We need to fundamentally rethink the way we get around this planet.