Romney Probably Won't Have a Say on the Electric Car, but China Will

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Mitt Romney's become fond of criticizing the Chevy Volt, saying he doesn't want the government to tell automakers what kinds of cars to make, but it won't be the government that forces him into an electric vehicle; it'll be market forces from Asia. The growing demand for petroleum there will soon make fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Volt an absolute necessity in the United States.

Romney's latest swipe at the Volt came after General Motors announced Tuesday that 40 percent of its March sales consisted of cars that got more than 30 miles to the gallon -- it became the first automaker to sell more than 100,000 such cars in a month. Speaking in Wisconsin, Romney did not sound terribly impressed by that, ThinkProgress reported: "I’m not sure America was ready for the Chevy Volt. I mean, I hope it does well, I don’t want to disparage any product coming out of Detroit. But I think instead of having politicians tell us what kind of cars we ought to make, we ought to let the people who are trying to understand the market make that decision," he said. Previously, TP noted, he'd laughed off the Volt and its ilk in December as "an idea whose time has not come."

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But some of those very market watchers Romney wants to make the decisions about fuel-efficient car production are saying the U.S. will soon have no choice but to build more efficient cars, thanks to petroleum demand from China. The world's second-largest economy overtook the United States in car sales in 2009, and as Chris Nelder writes at Txhnologist (via Grist), that means it, and the rest of Asia, will increasingly drive the world's petroleum demand: "The sheer number of vehicles being added in Asia means a whole new level of competition for oil. It’s a competition that Asia will almost surely win, and will probably do more to drive the adoption of electric cars in the U.S. than any policy or tax credit." GM's sales numbers bear that out, whether Romney likes it or not.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.