A “Federally Dictated Confection” or a “Life Changing” Car?

Sometimes conservatives just flat-out lie through their gold teeth.

Take, for only one instance, Charles Krauthammer, a Fox-stained conservative who gets much credit for smarts. A couple of weeks ago he wrote a column titled, “Obama’s oil flimflam,” filled with the usual Obama-should-drill-drill-drill-and-oh-yeah-he-should-build-the Keystone-pipeline and all will be well at the gas pump.

Now, this Krauthammer column was nothing out of the ordinary in the sense that it contained the requisite Obama-bashing that conservatives crave like chocolate. But it also contained this paragraph:

…Obama offers what he fancies to be the fuels of the future. You would think that he’d be a tad more modest today about his powers of divination after…GM’s suspension of production — for lack of demand — of another federally dictated confection, the flammable Chevy Volt.

You may have noticed there is a link embedded under the words Chevy Volt. Go ahead and follow it. I’ll wait.

Now, if you bothered to read that Washington Post story you know that GM did suspend production of the Chevy Volt, but the story also carried this paragraph:

GM executives have said the recent frenzy over a Volt battery fire in crash tests has hurt sales. On the merits, the fires weren’t a huge concern — the Volts only caught fire days or weeks after extreme lab testing, and according to a government investigation they’re no more likely to catch fire than gas-powered automobiles. Still, panicky headlines ensued. Conservatives started denouncing the company (Rush Limbaugh called GM “a corporation that’s trying to kill its customers”). And GM needed to retrofit new vehicles. Add that up, and GM sold only 603 Volts in January, down from 1,520 in December.

I ask a question: That deceitful and hateful statement from Limbaugh about GM “trying to kill its customers” differs in what way from Krauthammer’s lies about the “federally dictated” and “flammable” Chevy Volt?  The answer is that it doesn’t differ at all. Both Limbaugh and Krauthammer are lying about the car, mainly because it fits their narrative about Obama and about the government and about socially important corporations that happen to need government help to survive.

Less than a week after Krauthammer’s column came out, a right-winger and former GM honcho, Bob Lutz (“The Volt was my idea,” he has written), wrote a column for Forbes titled, I Give Up On Correcting The Wrong-Headed Right Over The Volt.  He noted Krauthammer’s falsehoods and then he wrote this:

Now, Krauthammer is a smart, highly educated and well-informed individual. I have to assume he knows the truth. The fact that he persists in the myth of Volt combustibility and Obama-conception of the vehicle cannot be in error.

I am, sadly, coming to the conclusion that all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth!

This saddens me, because, to this writer, conservatism IS fundamental truth. It only damages its inherent credibility with momentarily convenient fiction.

So, Mr. Krauthammer joins the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously. After all, how do I know they’re telling the truth when the subject is one I’m not as familiar with as the Volt?

Besides Limbaugh and Krauthammer, some of those right-wingers that Bob Lutz is forced not to take seriously are Mittens, George WillStuart Varney, Neil Cavuto, Eric Bolling, Matt Drudge, Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly. Those last two the conservative Lutz categorized as members of “the rabid, sadly misinformed right” and “the loony right.”

Another conservative appeared last week on the normally IQ-sapping Fox and Friends and sang the praises of the Chevy Volt, but before he did Texan Lee Spieckerman said this:

I love oil. I’m a drill, baby, drill guy…I love Fox “News” and feel like I’m kind of attacking my own family here because I love O’Reilly, I love Neil Cavuto, I love Eric Bolling, but like a lot of my fellow conservatives, they seem to have kind of a fetish for demonizing the Volt, and they’re perpetuating this myth that the Volt was some kind of Obama administration green-energy fantasy…that was forced on General Motors during the bailout.

It had been in development two years before Obama was elected, and it was championed by one of the greatest car executives in American history, Bob Lutz, who is a conservative and a climate-change skeptic…the tax break for buying the Volt was implemented by the Bush administration…

During the segment, Fox put up this graphic, which is the least it could do since it has greatly contributed to the misinformation out there about the Volt:

The Volt was the 2011 North American Car of the Year and was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year and is the 2012 European Car of the Year, but it is fairly expensive—even with the $7,500 tax credit it’ll set you back $32,000—and that, no doubt, is the biggest factor in its lackluster sales to date, even taking into consideration the lies told about it on Fox and elsewhere.

Lee Spieckerman summed up the vehicle nicely when he said:

There are probably 10 inventions over the past 150 years that were life changing for Americans, and I think the Volt has the potential to be one of those things. I mean, a car that runs on American electricity derived from American sources. What will those crazy lefties think of next?

This crazy lefty is thinking of a way to harness all of the energy that is going into the massive misinformation operation that is Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. If there were only a way to put Mittens’ lies in my gas tank, I wouldn’t need what is now a Fox-endorsed Chevy Volt.


  1. ansonburlingame

     /  April 2, 2012

    To all,

    Now here is a new progressive phrase that I have not seen before. “…about socially important corporations that happen to need government help to survive.”

    Just what I ask is a “socially important corporation”? I thought all corportations were amoral and only existed for profit, period?

    So how, please tell me, does one find a “socially, amoral, only for profite corporation” in the first place.

    THEN how and who figures out that such a corporation deserved or needs government help to survive? Why of course, our all knowing government would make that decision, right?

    I wonder how much politics would play in that decision as well?

    In my view a socially important corporation is one that sells a product that society chooses to purchase and the market, not government makes that decision. Social services are government and private groups that provide things that corporations choose not to provide, like an Interstate Hwy system as just an example.

    The Volt ultimately was removed from the market because no one yet wants to buy an expensive car that only goes about 100 miles before it must be recharged. Simple as that. Toyotas that were unsafe were fixed by recall, not the whole line of cars taken off the market!



  2. Limbaugh accusing GM of trying to kill its customers is the kind of rhetoric that makes it unbearable for me to listen to him for more than a few seconds at a time. He’s being outrageous and getting rich because of it, just like Madonna and Lady Gaga. Funny how that works.

    However, this post just happens to involve something I have some knowledge of, batteries. The Chevy Volt uses lithium-ion technology which is a different chemistry from past batteries. The first practical mass-market batteries were of course lead-acid. That was followed by nickel-cadmium, and then there was a fairly brief phase using nickel-metal-hydride. But lithium-ion chemistry was a big leap forward. That’s what really enabled the downsizing and practicality of today’s powerful electronics like smart phones and the iPad. Unfortunately, making lithium-ion battery cells, like most battery technology only more-so, very high-tech. By that I mean that it has very narrow design tolerances and requires a very high level of quality control. Combine that with the fact that it involves packaging a large amount of energy into a small package and you have something that’s expensive and potentially dangerous. (On the other hand, when you think about gasoline, that’s no less dangerous.)

    Here’s the bottom line on technology like the Volt, as I see it. There doesn’t appear to be a better chemistry on the technology horizon than lithium-ion and because of it’s nature it will continue to be very expensive and have occasional quality problems. Electric cars will continue to be a small niche for the industry, very nice for short trips if you want to afford it. But fossil-fuel technology, amazingly, continues to improve in efficiency and there is ample margin for its adaption to practical usage. That’s the foreseeable future for now. It’s just that people will have to get used to lower acceleration and less power. It evolved that way in Europe and it’s inevitable here. Sadly. I know it’s not the American Way, and those who can afford the alternatives (the 1%?) will do so.

    The administration is right to explore alternative energy research and development, but in my opinion the tax credit for electric cars is not a good investment. Mr. Obama could use a battery expert on his staff. (Although if he had one he would probably depress all the other staffers with his pessimism, pessimism borne of sad experience.)

    “The storage battery is, in my opinion, a catchpenny, a sensation, a mechanism for swindling the public by stock companies. The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing. … Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying. … Scientifically, storage is all right, but, commercially, as absolute a failure as one can imagine.” — Thomas Edison, 1883


    • Jim,

      I’m more of a fuel cell guy myself but apparently the technology is not there yet.

      As to the electric cars, I believe a comprehensive life-cycle analysis would show electric cars to be much more expensive than gasoline powered cars. It is especially problematic for electric cars at the end of their useful life. Batteries, as you know, are not recyclable, are highly toxic, and are full of heavy metals. Just the disposal of this “hazardous” waste would likely run into five figures for EACH car! So, pick your environmental poison.

      Anyway, I’ll wait for the fuel cells.



      • Herb,

        Your comments about batteries make sense, although the lithium-ion chemistry is much less toxic than lead-acid, nickel-metal-hydride or nickel-cadmium. Lithium is one of the most abundant metals in the earth’s crust. The main danger, as well as advantage, is that the energy density of lithium-ion is 60 times that of lead-acid!

        There’s another huge consumer gotcha that’s going to go off before too long, which is when the batteries “wear out”: the replacement cost of one of those suckers. It’s going to knock their socks off.

        Fuel cells are similar to batteries of course. They use chemistry to operate, including a catalyst, usually platinum. Expensive? Think gold, and then some. A big plus is that they can burn a variety of fuels. I too keep waiting for them, but they never seem to catch fire. (Pun intended. 🙂 )


  3. Klem

     /  April 2, 2012

    There is one part of this long boring story you for got to mention; Almost no one buys electric cars. E-cars have been around since the 1920’s but they disappeared because no one bought them. They reappear about every 20 – 30 years or so but they always vanish for the same reason, no one buys them. The Chevy Volt sold 9000 cars in all of 2011 and sales in 2012 have been equally dismal. The Chevy Cruze sold 231,000 units in 2011 in the USA alone. Nissan is discovering the same problem with their Leaf, they have only sold 10,000 in the USA. All kinds of people talk the talk about e-cars, but almost no one walks the walk by actually putting money down and buying one.

    Chances are you don’t own one either. Electric cars suck.


  4. To all,

    To call the Chevy Volt electric car is incorrect. It was never marketed as an electric car only, that was done so by the vehicles opponents.

    My understanding is that the Volt goes around 40 miles on electric power only and then a gasoline motor kicks on to run a generator that then powers the electric motor. I recall a story that said the first 1200 buyers were getting around 1000 miles per tank full.

    I suspect that demand for these type of vehicles will fluctuate along with gas prices. It seems that GM has more flexibility to alter production in relation to demand and with it’s unions.

    I think that these vehicles will always peak in sales during the summer and then fade in the fall when gas drops. To give up would be a mistake,in my opinion. Someone will get it right. Do not forget that originally some 300 companies had tried to build automobiles.



    • Kabe,

      I’m glad you made the point about the Volt not being a fully electric car. Eric Bolling stupidly told the story of the battery shutting off in a tunnel without mentioning that the gas engine kicked on, as it was supposed to do.

      The only push back you hear on this car comes from personalities on Fox (or Rush Limbaugh and talk radio), as far as I can see.



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  April 2, 2012

    To all,

    Batteries for transportation purposes sound very much like a “bridge” technology. On one side we have fossil fuels and on the other side is a power source plentiful and powerful enough to power transportation engines (cars, truck and airplanes) that is divorced from fossil fuels for environmental reasons as well as ultimate cost.

    Batteries must be recharged, period, which of course requires electricity, produced by, yep, fossil fuels primarily. You don’t break the fossil fuel reliance unless all electrical power becomes nuclear or “green”.

    But the real question is what exactly is on the other side of the bridge? My guest is hydrogen. Burn hydrogen and all you get is water as a byproduct. If I was government (or industry for that matter) and had bucks to spend on technology for transportation, I would be looking very carefully at hydrogen, the fuel of the universe.

    For you enviro friendly folks think of it this way. A large source of electrical power (nuclear and later fusion) separates hydrogen from oxygen (water) to produce hydrogen for transportation which recomibnes with oxygen. The result is POWER to drive transportation beginning and ending with water.

    No fossil fuel in the entire cycle except perhaps for purposes of lubriction of metal engines. And who knows, composite (carbon based and organic matter) materials may replace the metal in the future.

    Today while still on the “bridge” we have hybride cars (but not yet trucks or for sure airplanes). 50 mpg is a given with such cars now and I would expect 100mpg in a few years.

    But if you think the future is driving a car with a solar cell on the roof, then go ahead!!!



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