From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufactuing (5/20/2011)

To this day do you know which auto manufacturer spends more money than any other in lobbying the Congress of the United States to fight against the adoption of even higher fuel efficiency standards in this country?




Guess again.



It’s Toyota.

That’s right.  Toyota.

As a strategic, aggressive and very calculating global competitor, one that spent the six decades after World War II out-thinking, out-planning, out-innovating and ultimately out-producing its U.S. counterparts on its way to the top of the auto manufacturing mountaintop, Toyota understands deeply that the best way to maintain a competitive edge over Detroit’s Big Three is to allow them to continue to operate just as they always have, treating fuel economy like just any another new car option, such as leather seats, tinted windows, and sunroofs.

I thought about Toyota’s brilliant and slyly underhanded strategy with respect to fuel economy standards this week as I was reading a news item about a law just adopted in South Carolina, everyone’s favorite bastion of enlightenment, open-mindedness and progressive thinking.

The new South Carolina law — which was all wrapped up in red, white and blue and branded the Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act by the neo-con zealots who supported it — will allow manufacturers in the Palmetto State to continue to produce incandescent light bulbs from this point forward; this despite a 2007 Bush-era federal law which will outlaw the manufacture of such bulbs in the U.S., beginning in 2012.

I, of course, was shaking my head in disbelief as I read the item.  Especially when the ideologues who fought for it said it was about protecting South Carolina jobs.

Forget that incandescent light bulbs are to internal lighting what 8-track cassettes are to recorded music.

Forget the fact that whatever internal sense of self-destiny a state might achieve by passing such a law, will be more than offset by the dim light, no pun intended, that such a law will cast on any state that passes it.

And forget that pinning the future of any company to a single product — particularly a hopelessly outmoded one — while blithely dismissing next-generation technologies and the ever-changing demands of the marketplace, is a sure-fire ticket for immediate expulsion from the Great American Food Chain.

What matters, damn it all, is getting the government off my back, so that as an American I can be free to exercise my right to waste energy and do things the way I’ve always done them. Even if doing so kills my company, erodes my profits, destroys my environment and puts every last person who works for me out of a job.

Boy, talk about killing with kindness.  Or stupidity.  Or both.

Take your pick.

Meanwhile on a related front, Martin Hutchinson, an editor and blogger at Money Morning, says the South Carolina end run around a federal law designed to save energy and promote investment in renewable resources, just might have a ripple effect on states throughout the nation.

And finally, where would we be without the inimitable Stephen Colbert, a native South Carolinian, and his priceless takes on our most, ahem, burning issues?

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