Fighting to continue the insanity

Stop SignBuzz Hargrove, the head of the Canadian Auto Workers union, throws in with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an unusually unhinged speech covered by the Canadian Press:

With politicians increasingly absorbing green policies into their platforms, Hargrove also attacked environmentalists who want the auto sector targeted to fight climate change.

The upcoming elections are fuelling a lot of rhetoric as politicians try to “out green” one another, Hargrove said.

“Politicians are running with it now because Canadians are saying it’s a key issue in the upcoming election and it just infuriates me,” Hargrove said in a wide-ranging address to delegates.

“We stand to lose 150,000 jobs in our auto industry if the insanity of this environmental movement is allowed to continue.”

Canada is only responsible for about two per cent of the world’s total greenhouse gas production and shutting down the entire country would barely make an impact, Hargrove said.

Hargrove went off the deep end in the last election and burned his and his union’s long association with the New Democratic Party to support losing Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. The justification at the time was that Harper, then leader of the opposition, had to be kept out of power at all costs. Didn’t work.

What Hargrove and Harper now seem to have in common is an unwillingness to sacrifice any short-term comfort to avert long-term disaster. What both need to understand is that it’s not government doing this stuff, but consumers making demands of automakers that are ill-equipped to meet them.

The cars made in Canada are exported all over the place, and man, do we ever make bruisers. Even if you know nothing about cars, consider names like Grand Caravan, Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, Regal and Monte Carlo, and that we export them like mad.

What Hargrove is fighting against is the “madness” of consumer choice. Consumers are turning away from great big vehicles that, pollution put entirely aside, make them hostage to the oil markets, which are hostage to whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and King Abdullah got up on the right side of their beds.

As a resident of Ontario, I’m not overjoyed by this. I wish my province’s economy weren’t so closely tied to a deeply troubled business model. But I wish all the more that my premier weren’t talking about throwing more money after it.

“We’re going to make Ontario the clean-car capital of the world,” [Ontario Premier Dalton] McGuinty said, hinting that such an initiative would be a part of his government’s climate change plan, which he said would be announced in a few weeks.

“In the auto sector you don’t have to choose between what’s good for the customer and what’s good for the environment,” he said. “Going green isn’t necessarily about going small.”

Not necessarily, although that’s certainly the easiest way. I’m not sure McGuinty realizes how hard it’s going to be to not make a total godawful mess of things over the next 30 or 40 years, or how unhelpful it is to suggest that a land yacht is OK as long as it’s got a hybrid engine in it.

SUVs are inherently worse for the environment than small cars made with the same technology, they’re terrible for urban planning with their demands for big parking spots and wide turning radii, and nobody in their right mind believes they’re the future of the auto market.

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