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The Nonstop Fuel Debate

This past weekend I was mulling over Thomas Friedmanâ??s question from his Friday New York Times column:

So I have a question: If I am rooting for General Motors to go bankrupt and be bought out by Toyota, does that make me a bad person?

True, Toyota is a well-managed company and has engineered hybrid energy technology, but no, GM, though late in the game, is not still â??scoffing at hybrid technology.â?

In his Sunday article, Daniel Howes of The Detroit News offered not one, but three questions in rebuttal.

The first one:

I'm all for energy independence and I think the competitive pressure that Toyota's hybrid successes are putting on Detroit is a good thing. But I have a question: What about American industrial independence?

Detroit's automakers are fighting for their lives because competition from Toyota, among others, exposed their weaknesses and forced change -- on the quality of their cars and trucks, on their efficiency and, yes, on their slow response to Toyota's push into hybrid cars and SUVs.

Ford can't build its Escape hybrid SUVs fast enough. Coming, too, are Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute versions. There will be hybrid Fusion and Milan sedans -- five full gas-electric hybrids within the next three years, and more are planned.

GM plans to offer gas-electric hybrid versions of its Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon soon after the launch of its next-generation full-size SUVs early next year.

In fact, current GM production vehicles include buses and full-size pickups using hybrid technology.

Howes also questioned Toyotaâ??s fuel efficiency in comparison to GM. Iâ??m not sure he was comparing apples with apples though. I donâ??t have enough information.

I do know that regardless of corporate trials and tribulations or any debate about Toyota vs. GM, I strongly feel that hybrids are very important -- but not necessarily as a final solution. They still require the use of gasoline. Period.

And whether or not you believe in synchronicity, this past weekend Lynne also just happened to graciously email me some articles about the "drilling for oil and natural gas in the Great Lakes" debate. In addition to ecological concerns, tourism and jobs are specified as potentially being threatened, according to opponents of drilling.

Ideally, finding alternate fuel sources for vehicles should not be abandoned, regardless of Thomas Friedmanâ??s comment about â??sci-fi hydrogen fuel cells.â? The crux of the problem is expecting discovery of fully workable liquid, gaseous, or solid state storage to happen immediately. Reputable, responsible research often takes time. It could take a decade or more.

And thatâ??s where hybrid technology comes in. Right now, itâ??s a way to lessen our dependence on gas guzzling. Either that or, I guess, four or more dollars per gallon for gasoline possibly could help reduce consumption.

And what about nuclear-produced electricity to recharge those new hybrid or electrical cars at night? But then, even mentioning this, Iâ??m likely opening another can of worms, so Iâ??ll end my observations for now,...

well, except to say that Thomas Friedmanâ??s comment that â??the Bush team has been M.I.A. on energy since 9/11â? rings so true.

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