By NMA President, James Baxter
The new “energy bill” that has just been signed into law has been baking for a long time. The automakers, after months of wrangling with the petroleum industry, environmentalists, consumer watchdogs, and one another bit the bullet and signed up for new fuel economy standards. No doubt, the realization that car buyers were going to give fuel economy much higher priority with three, four, and five dollar a gallon gas prices was a factor in their capitulation.
The Petroleum industry went toe to toe with the same cast of characters, plus the farm lobby, over ethanol mandates and as yet invented alternate fuels. The final trade-off was choking down the ethanol and alternative fuel mandates in exchange for salvaging oil industry tax breaks.
With all the give and take, pontificating, finger pointing, and political theater there was one party that was not invited to the debate; you and me, and the other 220 million drivers who will suffer the results (and pay for) this legislative masterpiece. You will look hard and long for any meaningful comment or input on the behalf of motorists.
This is not unusual, motorists are seldom seen as a “special interest” or segment of the society that deserves consideration when weighing public issues, even those dealing with transportation or the vehicles we own and drive.
This isn’t the fault of our elected officials. This is our fault because we don’t really acknowledge or support our interests as motorists.
Here’s a good example of how this plays out right in our own back yard:
A road goes through our community on which there are ten adjoining residences. Two thousand people use this road each day for work, shopping, and general commerce. Three of the residents along the road dislike the heavy traffic and they petition the local government to reduce the speed limit and install stop signs to make the road “safer.”
- A public hearing is held on the petition.
- The three residents are the only ones who show up.
- They present their side of the argument, which is based solely on personal inconvenience and not traffic engineering principles.
- The speed limit is lowered and the stop signs are installed.
Not one of the 2000 motorists who use the road daily show up to object to this proposal.
Driving is ubiquitous and it is taken for granted, almost like breathing, but likewise, it is surely missed when the opportunity is lost.
We think of ourselves as union members, conservationists, farmers, music fans, Democrats or Republicans, gun owners, pilots, evangelicals, gays, bikers or belonging to hundreds of other special classes who rightfully take the podium in their own defense.
But, as motorists, we are “missing in action” when it comes to defending our interests and rights.
If we value personal mobility, economic opportunity, and individual freedom, then being a “motorist” should be one of our highest priorities. If enough of us come to this realization there will be no more speed traps, road blocks, ticket cameras, kangaroo traffic courts, or stealing of highway funds to fix budget deficits. Our opinions might even matter the next time Congress tries to fix the mess they created with the just-passed energy bill.