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Sierra Daily

Jun 09, 2011

Let A Hundred Thousand Subcompacts Blossom!

Deng2-in-the-red-flag-car General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson has some jarring words for his friends at the country club: “This will make my Republican friends puke,” he told the Detroit News in a recent interview. “We ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas."

Automakers tend to favor higher gas taxes over improved fuel-efficiency standards, in part because customers walk into showrooms already knowing they want cars that get high miles-per-gallon. But  Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Global Insight, points out a small stumbling block: “It's career suicide for a politician to call for raising gas taxes," she told the paper. (Akerson may have once been in charge of global buyouts for the Carlyle Group investment firm, but that didn't stop the conservative Washington Times from characterizing his tax thoughts thusly: "Ripping off motorists is key to the leftist agenda.")

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is considering new fuel economy and emissions standards for vehicles produced between 2017 and 2025. Automakers prefer a conservative approach that would mandate annual average increases in efficiency of three percent, which would boost the fleetwide average to 47 m.p.g. by 2025. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, want to double that pace, which would get us to 62 miles per gallon by 2025.

Akerson isn’t the first auto exec to call for hiking the federal gas tax. But he seems to have greater flair for sound bites than some of his predecessors. In the same Detroit News interview,  here’s how Akerson characterized the shifting culture at GM as the corporation emerges from bankruptcy and faces ever-stiffer global competition: "It's just like the Communist party in China in the 1960s,” he said. “There has to be a cultural revolution here."

--Reed McManus

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