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Reid's Detroit dissing harms energy debate

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might be surprised to learn that Big Three autoworkers are Americans, too. Ford, General Motors and, soon again, Chrysler - they're all American companies. And if he looks at the map, he'll find Michigan sitting right there on top of America - it's the one shaped like a mitten. So where does Reid get off urging his colleagues in the Senate to "speak for the American people, not for the three car companies that are closing plants and laying off people"?

Those three car companies still put food on a lot of American tables. The Big Three employ directly more than one million Americans. They create indirect jobs for millions more. And they build their cars and trucks in 18 states. (Most of those plants, by the way, are far more energy conscious than the electricity-guzzling Las Vegas casinos in Reid's home state.)

The Nevada Democrat demonizes the domestic auto industry for resisting the fuel economy standards Congress seems to be pulling out of thin air without consideration of financial and technological limitations.

But his latest remark is over the top in its hostility toward Detroit. Reid might be reminded that auto manufacturing is already among the nation's most heavily regulated industries, and at least part of the reason automakers are laying off workers and closing plants is the onerous cost of that regulatory burden. The automakers have lent their support to proposals in the House by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and in the Senate by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that would raise fuel economy standards dramatically and at a great cost. They've done so even though they know the Corporate Average Fuel Economy law is a failed policy that has not curbed the nation's appetite for foreign oil or significantly reduced per-capita gasoline consumption.

It's unfortunate that the uninformed rants and impractical demands of Reid and others are keeping nearly the whole of the congressional debate focused on ultra-tough fuel economy mandates and preventing serious discussion of alternative policies that could prove more economically feasible and environmentally efficient.

Dingell, for example, favors an economy-wide cap-and-trade system that would allow industries to sell carbon credits if their plants and products meet environmental standards, and purchase them if they don't.

It's a sensible approach to getting the nation where it needs to be in reducing greenhouse gases. But it isn't getting the attention it deserves because of the consuming CAFE debate. A comprehensive energy policy has to do more than crucify the auto industry. It must spread the burden of conservation and emissions containment across every industry that burns fuel or emits pollutants.

And that covers just about every industry - including Harry Reid's casinos.

Reprinted from The Detroit News.
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