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Ballad of Narayama

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Who Killed the Electric Car?

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Where did these cars go?

"To preserve our children's future, we have to waste every resource we've got."

No, that was not Dick Cheney. That was Stephen Colbert, endorsing General Motors' $1.99 gasoline promotion: Buy one of their guzzlers and they'll reimburse you for fuel costs at the end of one year so that you wind up paying no more than a buck ninety-nine a gallon. (If you remember to send in your receipts with that mail-in rebate form, that is!) Colbert heartily endorses the deal, using flawless logic: The only way we're going to get more efficient fuel technology is to use up all the oil we can, as fast as we can.

Oddly, this is much the same logic behind the death of GM's electric car, the EV1, in the mid-1990s. According to the new documentary (and technological murder-mystery) "Who Killed the Electric Car?," there was simply too much easy money remaining to be made from old technology and the remaining trillion gallons of crude oil beneath the Earth's crust. So, anti-free-market forces (oil companies, petro-politicians, automakers) killed off an existing, and quite successful, fuel cell vehicle that was already available in California and Arizona. Emissions: None. Speed: Up to 184 mph. Operating cost: The equivalent of buying gasoline at 60 cents a gallon.

From the synopsis at the Apple trailers site: "It was among the fastest, most efficient production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert?"

Take a look at the trailer here.

As EV1 driver Ed Begley, Jr. (the original "Spinal Tap" drummer!) admits: "The electric vehicle is not for everybody. It can only meet the needs of 90 percent of the population."

Had GM committed to the electric car, it might be on top of the world today. Instead, GM's boneheaded short-term business decisions have nearly bankrupted the company. And now, why in the world would anyone want to buy an GM vehicle, when you know they're passing off inferior, antiquated merchandise? Unless it can compete, and catch up technologically to where it already was ten years ago, GM deserves a quick and merciless death. It's come to this: What's bad for GM is good for America!

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