Wilson caps off his editorial with a nonpartisan call to become "involved" in the political process.
But the real problem is when Autoweek or other automotive publications take anti-freedom, anti-hobbyist or anti-free market stances, such as the Automotive News publisher Keith Crain's cheer-leading for draconian CAFE standards. While advocating for more "environmental" regulation may satisfy a few liberal subscribers, the vast majority of automotive magazine and newspaper readers would rather have market solutions to the alleged "problems" of automobility.
Perhaps the only thing American automotive magazines have done worse than rallying the political muscle of automobile enthusiasts has been providing support for the American automobile industry against the multiple attack of the consumer/safety/environmental interests. No magazine I'm aware of even attempts to put these issues into focus in such a way as to spur grassroots action, or even to correct the record in the public debate! Thus, with the exceptions of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a few other trade groups, and the small organizations you mentioned in Wilson's editorial, the "pro-automotive liberty" forces are weak and disorganized.
But general calls to "get involved," without more direction, lack effectiveness. If the National Rifle Association merely suggested voting, without fully briefing the relevant issues and advising its members on exactly who is putting the our personal freedoms at risk, the political clout of the "gun owners lobby" would be greatly diminished. Wilson's tepid declaration that "We don’t care if your votes cancels ours" doesn't exhibit either leadership or any sense of how precariously balanced and fragile automotive liberty is. Yet it is an all too common viewpoint among automotive journalists.
We are at about the "1967-1968" era the second performance car era. If the automobile enthusiast community isn't vigilant and engaged, we will soon be reliving the anti-car, 1970s (although with much fewer avenues for circumvention this time around). Automotive journalists ought to be sounding the alarms to the threats occurring at local, state and national levels.
For example, the automotive press has reported on the State of California's lawsuit against six of the world's largest automakers, including General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp., over global warming, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages. California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) claims the automakers "have created a public nuisance by producing 'millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide.'"
The automotive press has done precious little to present the other side of the argument. Moreover, the press has failed to identify the real risks to automotive liberty in a way that resonates with grassroots enthusiasts.
The real threat is that these sorts of high profile lawsuits will drive public opinion, and then Congress to pass restrictions aimed at reducing carbon output.
Imagine how much fun motoring will be in 10 or 20 years if:
- Fuel economy standards become so high that no V8s can be produced.
- The OEMs "can" all V8 crate engines and other performance parts out of fear of "carbon" litigation.
- Draconian "carbon use" taxes (sort of like the punitive cigarette taxes smokers now routinely pay under the various "tobacco lawsuit settlements") on gasoline, gasoline-burning equipment and the replacement parts for such equipment are enacted to curb "excess" emissions. (Far-fetched? I just read Al Gore (D) is now pushing a "carbon use" tax as a replacement for payroll taxes!)
- Harsh "clunker" legislation is passed, aimed at clearing the roads of C02-emitting "old" cars and drying up parts supplies for them.
- Increased state- or industry-sponsored "crusher" programs (such as UNOCAL's infamous one) are instituted in settlement of the lawsuits.
- Increased restrictions on registering "kit" and "continuation" cars (such as the "new" 1969 Camaros built from Chinese uni-body stampings or even "new" 1932 Ford-based "street rods") are enacted to force people into state-approved, factory-built economy cars.
- Competition for the shrinking number of "collector" cars drives prices even higher than they already are today.
- Lawyers and regulators begin turning their focus on extorting payments from racing venues, tuners and aftermarket supply companies for "carbon pollution."
More force-fed propaganda fills the public school curriculum about the harms that motorsports and "gas guzzlers" (i.e. performance cars and race-car tow vehicles) allegedly cause to the environment (as if it couldn't get any worse)
All of these scenarios are foreseeable if this sort of California/Kyoto CO2 madness takes hold.
A second big threat is that these lawsuits will force the automakers to settle them by pledging to cut fun cars like the Shelby GT500, the Mustang GT, the Z06 and other Corvettes, the SRT-8s and 10s, the new Challenger, the new Camaro, and anything else that smacks of "excessive" carbon emissions.
Without new performance cars (that someday become more affordable USED cars and create a trickle-down of parts in the aftermarket), the whole grassroots motorsports movement takes huge steps back to the days when the automakers didn't offer anything interesting or helpful to performance enthusiasts.
The anti-car forces understand all of this.
If you have any doubt, read some of the recent feedback to my post on "Click and Clack and the 500 Horsepower Ford Mustang." There are legions who will defend paternalistic nonsense, such as:
"Upwards of 200 horsepower is practically expected today. And there are cars with 300 h.p., 400 h.p. and more. In my humble opinion, that’s crazy. There’s not a car on the road that truly needs more than 200 h.p. Most cars would be fine with a lot less."– Tom Magliozzi, co-host of NPR’s "Car Talk."
"We’ve gone horsepower crazy." Ray Magliozzi, co-host of NPR’s "Car Talk."
This kind of "expert" talk resonates in the elite, bi-coastal "echo chamber" of anti-car hysteria, which incidentally also funds liberal anti-car politicians such as California Attorney General Lochyer (D).
Many automobile enthusiasts see the carbon dioxide litigation and legislation as not a serious threat. Yet a look at the battles against tobacco and guns ought to suggest otherwise. The cigarette companies fought their battle in the courts for over twenty years, before they lost. And they started losing because public perceptions changed.
The gunmakers are still fighting their battle (although the early results have been mostly positive--as they were for the tobacco companies). And every year, legislative attempts are made to pass expensive, restrictive stuff, such as ammo "fingerprinting," ammo taxes, and ownership restrictions.
Although the case for automotive liberty is inherently much stronger than the argument in favor of tobacco use, the battle for public opinion can still be lost through neglect or inaction. If we lose the battle for it to Al Gore (D), Attorney General Lockyer (D) and the Sierra Club-types, policies oriented towards killing both the new and vintage high-performance automobile hobbies can take hold.
The critical risk is that Ford Motor Company (R) and the rest of the Big 6 might settle the lawsuit(s) under terms that aren't favorable to enthusiasts and collectors (such as refusing to license aftermarket replacement items for models deemed to emit an unfair share of carbon dioxide).
Old guys who remember 1969-1975 have seen some of this before. For example, FoMoCo was kowtowed by Congressional hostility into killing virtually its entire factory racing and "Muscle Parts" programs in November 1970. It took TWELVE YEARS to get things even partially back on track. The lesson is that if the OEMs can't make a "business case" for serving racers, "hot rodders" and performance enthusiasts, they will throw us under the bus without a second throught.
And if it comes down to the Big 6 automakers having to spend billions and billions to pay off the states and "clean up" the CO2 "problem" for the "good of all mankind," do you really think anyone is going to look out for a couple million "crazy gearheads" and their "fuelish" interests at the margins?
The time to get focused on stopping this insanity is NOW! Not ten or twenty years from now when we've all been branded anti-social outlaws, the Big 6 have been coerced to abandon us, and we're all sneaking around like smokers just to get an occasional "hit!"
Lawsuits, such as the one filed by California are targeted toward US, even if we aren't named defendants. The car-hating liberal polticians who think up this stuff must be driven out of office and replaced by people who will protect our interests and automotive freedoms at every level.
The California lawsuit is emblematic of the threats to our liberty at all levels of government that the automotive press is under-reporting. If automobile enthusiasts are blissfully ignorant and apathetic, it's because the automotive press has failed to report on the critical issues and motivate grassroots political action.