Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Americans and Diesel

All the discussion about General Motors comes back to the idea that Americans have to drive smaller cars and they won't. In reality, they can drive their big cars as long as they have diesel engines, thus increasing mileage, reducing emissions and probably achieving Obama's targets overnight. But they won't do this either because of outdated health scares about diesel particulates.


  1. Hybrids and diesel cars would enormously reduce their dependency on oil and reduce CO2 emissions but Big Oil and the carmakers don't want it.

  2. You're blaming junk science for Americans not moving to diesel. My default position, without looking into it, is to believe you. One consequence would be to reduce CO2 emissions and I of course agree that this cannot of itself be a bad thing. But there is a interesting hint here of one man's junk science being another one's moral crusade.

  3. Hi Bryan,

    That article in the NYT pretty much stinks. It's trying to write the storyline that the quick-fixers would like to agree upon, instead of looking at the issues for what they are. To raise the bar is fine, and that gas mileage bar has been getting higher as the years go by. So, why not raise it this year too? Sure, okay. (Yawn.)

    However, GM has been, on average, doing very well as far as gas mileage goes, and has been developing hybrids and electric cars too. Bryan . . . you drove Chevy's biggest car, and if you had set the cruise control on the highway, and kept your speed under 65 mph, you were getting well over 30 mpg. The Corvette and Camaro get the same or a couple mpg less than the Impala, but these cars have different applications, a different market to appeal to. Note too that most Corvettes are driven a fraction of the distance of an Impala, and so have a fraction of the impact on oil consumption--if that's the problem we're solving here (or are we just complaining). They're for people who love to collect and drive, types of niche markets. People buying those new Camara SSes are getting quite a treat, and they're great looking too.

    By the way, diesels and hybrids sell to a degree, to what can only be classified more as a niche than as a segment as well, and not all that well. Many people shy away from them. The average car buyer really isn't looking for that. And the alternatives American manufacturers have been focussing on are inclined to cut out foreign oil use altogether.

    Also, the vast majority of car sales are made to people who don't need to buy what they're buying. So to examine this issue on the basis of solving some great social need by putting a different product out is the wrong approach. Trying to get people to spend tens of thousands of dollars on someone else's pet project ignores supply and demand.