Dublin Saab

Cars, politics, sports and what not from my view. (Closed Sundays and Holidays)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fuel rules and excellence in journalism

This morning while trolling through automotive stories at Yahoo I had to do a double take when I came across two articles, covering the same topic, with headlines that were at complete odds with each other. But first, some back ground.

Back in 1973 – that’s 32 years ago – the US Federal Government instituted rules that, for the first time, dictated a fuel economy standard. These rules, labeled CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) established two separate classes of vehicles, cars and trucks, with each class getting a different target. The rules only applied to vehicles under 8,500 lbs. as those over were classified as industrial / commercial trucks. In essence that system seems okay, however it has a hidden flaw that has lead to a generation of loopholes big enough to drive the proverbial SUV through.


A 1972 Buick Electra, the last time US cars were fully free to drink.

The flaw is that the automakers are the ones who decide what is, or is not, a car or truck. A great illustration of this is the Chrysler PT Cruiser. The PT is built on the same platform as the economy Dodge Neon. It has the Neon’s suspension, the Neon’s transmission and the Neon’s engine. It is merely a Neon in retro styled clothing. So what is this Neon derivative classified as by Chrysler? Why it’s a truck, of course. Why? By classing it as a truck it helps make up for the all those trucks they sell with Hemi V8’s and Viper V10’s and consumers have been lapping up as fast as they come off the lines.

While Chrysler, and the other auto manufacturers are keeping to the letter of the rules they have rendered 32 years of CAFÉ increases useless by cooking the books.


The Crysler PT Cruiser, a small 150hp 4 cyl. truck.

Now Bush is proposing a major change, fundamental reform in fact, in the entire way CAFÉ is run. Gone will be the meaningless and arbitrary car or truck classes and in it’s place will be 6 new classes based on weight. With these new classes the car companies will not be able to play the shell game they have for the last three decades. Chrysler won’t be able to use the Neon based 3,200 lb PT Cruiser in an effort to help out the 6,200 lb Ram 2500 Crew Cab. This should be hailed as a step in the right direction.

Also the new rules will top out at 5 tons so now, for the first time, the Hummer H2, coming in at 8,600 lbs. will no longer be exempt from CAFÉ requirements. This should be cheered as a proper move.

Included in this major reform is a modest increase in the target numbers for all vehicles. With the 8 mpg H2 going from exempt to a class, consisting of only other super heavy vehicles, that must achieve, by 2011, an average of 21.4 mpg, even the most extreme environmentalist, should I think, at the minimum, give a grudging nod that at least it’s a baby step towards utopia.

That is the history, the new rules and my opinion of how they should be viewed. Now on to the dueling headline.


A big RAM that will no longer get help from the little PT.

From the AFP comes the headline; US to raise auto fuel economy standard.

This article is a great example of lazy reporting. The writer puts in a few pro quotes, a few anti quotes, sprinkles in just a dash of numbers and wraps it all up as informative news. But what information does it give? The Bush administration supports their own proposal? That’s not news. Leftist watermelons (green on the outside and red on the inside) are against the Bush proposal? Again, not news. As for information on the new rules there’s simply not enough to provide any knowledge of what the rule actually are, allowing the reader to make up their own mind.

I had to spend over and hour, reading multiple sources and then finally going to government website to get the skinny on the rules. Laziness in journalism is, in my view, the number one cause that the MSM (Main Stream Media) is faced for why it’s “readership” numbers keep going down.

And for the second, competing headline, we go to the Guardian for; Bush drive to save fuel fails to include cars and SUV’s.

This article is raw bias. It starts out with a lie, that the Hummer H2 would not be included, and continues from there to pretty much present only one side of the issue and then finishes with a sad story of a store owner dying during a “drive off”.

The writer of the Guardian tries to make the connection that high gas prices are to blame for this man’s death and since Bush is to blame for the high gas prices – and who’s new proposals fail to make any improvement – is therefore responsible. Whatever. People, sadly, have been driving off ever since the invention of the self-serve pump. People drive off after putting a scant $2 in their cars. As for the store owner, Mr. Caddi, well, he shouldn’t have grabbed onto a speeding car. The person that drove off and ran him over is reprehensible and guilty of murder but still, trying to stop a car with your body is both stupid and not really germane to the new CAFÉ rules.

What is the point of this “news article”? Inform the readers and allow them to determine their own thoughts? I think not.

But I hope I have succeeded where the journalists have failed. I would like to think that you can, with these links, make up your own mind, which seems to be something the AFP doesn’t care about and that the Guardian truly wishes to avoid.

17 Comments:

At August 25, 2005 4:28 PM, Blogger Nightcrawler said...

DS- you have just illustrated more journalistic talent and ability than 95% of the "journalists" who are out there now. They've forgotten how to ask the right questions just as they've forgotten how to find the answers to the questions they should have asked. It's all agenda-based now. Your piece gets an A+.

 
At August 27, 2005 4:44 AM, Blogger The Evil Jeremy. said...

I am glad that you denote a practical bias, rather than an ideological one. Most journalism isn't bad because it's biased; it's bad because it's bad--victimized by groupthink and sloth, regardless of its ideological bent.

 
At September 03, 2005 12:12 AM, Anonymous Cindy Bigtiteze said...

When George Bush is on vacation.

Black people die!

Sing It!

 
At September 27, 2005 6:29 AM, Blogger The Evil Jeremy. said...

I'll address present post later, but wished all Atlanteans to know that I have moved: http://literarylicense.blogspot.com

 
At October 05, 2005 3:01 PM, Blogger Nightcrawler said...

Where the hell did you run of to, DS?

 
At October 10, 2005 9:05 PM, Blogger Jason said...

DS, first off I want to thank you for this post, because I thought about it throughout a rather grueling run this afternoon. And now, I respectfully will attempt to tear it apart.

And EJ, I’m disappointed that you bought this.

The problem with this post is that the author makes two specious suggestions: (1) that he’s a credible source (or more specifically that he’s a more credible source than the author of a news wire service), and (2) that he’s objective (or, again, more objective than a news wire service). But first, let me say a bit about the object of the criticism.

DS, knocking around an AP or Reuters news wire service as being vague and poorly researched is hardly all that clever. In a typical day, a medium-sized newspaper runs probably 12 stories in its “A” Section. According to one recent survey, about 19 percent of Americans use a newspaper daily. That’s ANY newspaper. And of those, how many of them read the entire thing, cover-to-cover? We are in a saturated information age, and frankly the purpose of the news services is merely to give a basic run down of a particular event. Would I, like you, wish that more Americans spent their day reading the Wall Street Journal or New York Times? Sure, the elitist in each of us would find that swell, but the cursory nature of the wire services isn’t a function of some failure in journalistic ethics, it’s a function of the market.

Interestingly, the wire service story served its purpose perfectly for you: it spurred you to read the article and do some homework. That actually means that the story served its purpose, it highlighted an issue and suggested a potential controversy, and you moved on to more in depth sources to figure out your opinion on it. But for the vast majority of news readers, after reading it, they didn’t care all that much, and moved on. For the record, that includes me (but more on that later).

Now on to the problems with your objectivity, which is both a general problem and a specific one. In general, a casual reader to your blog can see that you are predisposed to agree with the Bush administration. Of course, that shouldn’t be grounds to dismiss your argument (a sin equally committed by the left and right), but it does mean that one should read your posting with a healthy bit of skepticism, than say, the AP or Reuters might not get (the claims about “liberal” bias notwithstanding, I think you’d confess to being an explicit advocate of your beliefs as opposed to having some hidden alleged bias). As for your specific lack of objectivity, you lost it when you descended into sophomoric, neo-McCarthyist name calling. Perhaps you thought that “watermelon” was just too clever to resist, but it’s a little hard to make a criticism that the wire services somehow failed to get an issue “right,” when you’ve made clear that you are right – a right-wing reactionary, that is.

Now let’s turn to your credibility. You obviously have a background in engineering, which certainly gives you more than the average bear. But your description of the rules doesn’t include any quotation or specific reference to the regulations. It leaves me with one simply question: did you read them? If the answer to that is “no,” then you’ve lost every bit that you get for knowing what BSE stands for. Let’s assume you have (and even if you didn’t, this next point still stands) – where is the source for your interpretation? What specific background reading did you do? Was it perhaps from an industry-backed source? In turn, did you then spend time at some “watermelon” oriented web sites? (For example, the Sierra Club claims that “A size based system encourages automakers to build larger vehicles in order to qualify for weaker fuel economy standards, resulting in lower fleet wide fuel economy.” Is that true? I don’t know, but you summarily dismiss the claims of “leftist watermelons” while failing to actually talk about what they said. Just because you don’t believe that their criticisms are credible doesn’t make it so. And now we’re back to bias.

In the interest of candor, I’ll quickly confess that I don’t really care that much about the regulations at issue. Seems to me that the looming energy disaster that this country is facing demands a legislative solution involving both the supply and demand elements of the equation (which was largely the point of the “Leftists” that you conveniently ignored). To put it succinctly, I believe that the problem is a 100, and if you are right about the rules the problem will be a 95, and if the Greenies are right the problem is a 105. So, like most Americans, I read a brief news summary story and stopped. I think that the Republican Party is too beholden to Detroit and the oil companies to craft an intelligent, comprehensive, serious energy policy. So, there’s my bias. But I’m not putting my opinion out there as some sort of independent, detached observer. In a nutshell, you haven’t succeeded in anything but put out a conservative, pro-Bush administration view that isn’t particularly helpful to anyone trying to objectively look at the issue.

Finally, I would encourage you to clean up the partisanship and send in your opinion in an official comment to the proposed regulations. Washington could use more citizen participation in the regulatory process.

 
At October 10, 2005 9:05 PM, Blogger Jason said...

DS, first off I want to thank you for this post, because I thought about it throughout a rather grueling run this afternoon. And now, I respectfully will attempt to tear it apart.

And EJ, I’m disappointed that you bought this.

The problem with this post is that the author makes two specious suggestions: (1) that he’s a credible source (or more specifically that he’s a more credible source than the author of a news wire service), and (2) that he’s objective (or, again, more objective than a news wire service). But first, let me say a bit about the object of the criticism.

DS, knocking around an AP or Reuters news wire service as being vague and poorly researched is hardly all that clever. In a typical day, a medium-sized newspaper runs probably 12 stories in its “A” Section. According to one recent survey, about 19 percent of Americans use a newspaper daily. That’s ANY newspaper. And of those, how many of them read the entire thing, cover-to-cover? We are in a saturated information age, and frankly the purpose of the news services is merely to give a basic run down of a particular event. Would I, like you, wish that more Americans spent their day reading the Wall Street Journal or New York Times? Sure, the elitist in each of us would find that swell, but the cursory nature of the wire services isn’t a function of some failure in journalistic ethics, it’s a function of the market.

Interestingly, the wire service story served its purpose perfectly for you: it spurred you to read the article and do some homework. That actually means that the story served its purpose, it highlighted an issue and suggested a potential controversy, and you moved on to more in depth sources to figure out your opinion on it. But for the vast majority of news readers, after reading it, they didn’t care all that much, and moved on. For the record, that includes me (but more on that later).

Now on to the problems with your objectivity, which is both a general problem and a specific one. In general, a casual reader to your blog can see that you are predisposed to agree with the Bush administration. Of course, that shouldn’t be grounds to dismiss your argument (a sin equally committed by the left and right), but it does mean that one should read your posting with a healthy bit of skepticism, than say, the AP or Reuters might not get (the claims about “liberal” bias notwithstanding, I think you’d confess to being an explicit advocate of your beliefs as opposed to having some hidden alleged bias). As for your specific lack of objectivity, you lost it when you descended into sophomoric, neo-McCarthyist name calling. Perhaps you thought that “watermelon” was just too clever to resist, but it’s a little hard to make a criticism that the wire services somehow failed to get an issue “right,” when you’ve made clear that you are right – a right-wing reactionary, that is.

Now let’s turn to your credibility. You obviously have a background in engineering, which certainly gives you more than the average bear. But your description of the rules doesn’t include any quotation or specific reference to the regulations. It leaves me with one simply question: did you read them? If the answer to that is “no,” then you’ve lost every bit that you get for knowing what BSE stands for. Let’s assume you have (and even if you didn’t, this next point still stands) – where is the source for your interpretation? What specific background reading did you do? Was it perhaps from an industry-backed source? In turn, did you then spend time at some “watermelon” oriented web sites? (For example, the Sierra Club claims that “A size based system encourages automakers to build larger vehicles in order to qualify for weaker fuel economy standards, resulting in lower fleet wide fuel economy.” Is that true? I don’t know, but you summarily dismiss the claims of “leftist watermelons” while failing to actually talk about what they said. Just because you don’t believe that their criticisms are credible doesn’t make it so. And now we’re back to bias.

In the interest of candor, I’ll quickly confess that I don’t really care that much about the regulations at issue. Seems to me that the looming energy disaster that this country is facing demands a legislative solution involving both the supply and demand elements of the equation (which was largely the point of the “Leftists” that you conveniently ignored). To put it succinctly, I believe that the problem is a 100, and if you are right about the rules the problem will be a 95, and if the Greenies are right the problem is a 105. So, like most Americans, I read a brief news summary story and stopped. I think that the Republican Party is too beholden to Detroit and the oil companies to craft an intelligent, comprehensive, serious energy policy. So, there’s my bias. But I’m not putting my opinion out there as some sort of independent, detached observer. In a nutshell, you haven’t succeeded in anything but put out a conservative, pro-Bush administration view that isn’t particularly helpful to anyone trying to objectively look at the issue.

Finally, I would encourage you to clean up the partisanship and send in your opinion in an official comment to the proposed regulations. Washington could use more citizen participation in the regulatory process.

 
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At October 12, 2005 9:45 AM, Blogger nope said...

Hi,

I'm sorry for being intrusive in to your blog. But I am Melissa and I am a mother of two that is just trying to get out of an incredible financial debt. See my hubby is away in Iraq trying to protect this great country that we live in, and I am at home with our two kids telling bill collectors please be patiant. When my husband returns from war we will beable to catch up on our payments. We have already had are 2001 Ford repossessed from the bank, and are now down to a 83 buick that is rusted from front to back and the heater don't work, and tire tax is due in November.

I'm not asking for your pitty because we got our ownselfs into this mess but we would love you and thank you in our prayers if you would just keep this link on your blog for others to view.

God Bless You.

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