The situation is a case of a conspiracy in restraint of trade, with the national interest at stake. It is not just a matter of saving consumers gas money. High oil prices severely damage our economy. Furthermore, as current events concerning Iran make clear, it is essential that the U.S. have copious alternative sources of liquid fuel whose availability and price are not determined by events in the unstable Middle East. This imperative provides strong justification for government intervention.
Unfortunately, rather than move to break the hold of the oil cartel on the management of the auto companies, the Obama administration has acted to reinforce it. When GM went bankrupt, the president appointed Wall Street insider Steven Rattner as his auto czar, charged with reorganizing America’s leading automaker. However, instead of forcing GM to implement flex-fuel capability across the board, Rattner fired GM CEO Rick Wagoner, who was making tentative moves in that direction, and replaced him with Ed Whitacre, a director of Exxon. Subsequently, Rattner moved Whitacre up to be GM’s chairman of the board, giving the CEO position to Dan Akerson, a managing director of the Carlyle Group, a Saudi-funded business partnership. Under this new “friends of OPEC” management, Wagoner’s earlier commitment to have half of all GM cars be flex fuel by 2012 was, not surprisingly, shelved.
Unless Congress passes legislation to force the opening of the vehicle-fuel market to competition from non-petroleum fuels, this situation is not going to be rectified. It is for this reason that the Open Fuel Standards bill (H.R. 1687, S.B. 1603), which would require that most new cars sold within the United States offer fuel choice, has been introduced into the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.
To explain the necessity for this bill for American prosperity and national security, a special event has been scheduled for February 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building. Those speaking include former NATO supreme commander General Wesley Clark, former CIA director James Woolsey, myself, and Center for Security Policy director Frank Gaffney. Everyone concerned with the need for America and her allies to diversify their liquid-fuel supplies should urge their congressional representatives to send staff or come themselves.
As Adam Smith, the founding thinker of free-enterprise economics, wrote in The Wealth of Nations: “To prohibit a great people . . . from making all that they can of every part of their own produce . . . is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind.” In restricting their vehicles to use only the fuel offered by the Islamist-led oil cartel, the automakers are preventing America from making use of her copious non-petroleum energy resources. Despite being bailed out — in some cases repeatedly — by the public purse, the automakers have shown little public spirit. Rather, they have acted in accord with the larger portfolios of the cartel-linked or conflicted organizations and individuals who have bought into or been placed into their management, to the great detriment of not only their own customers and retail stockholders, but the economy and vital national-security interests of the United States.
This is an unacceptable situation. Congress needs to act.
— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a member of the Steering Committee of Americans for Energy, and the author of Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. His next book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudoscientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, will be published by Encounter Books on March 6.