The triple-digit heat wave that steamrolled across the country last week killed thousands of cattle and poultry and cooked crops in the field before farmers could pick them. And experts say consumers will help foot the bill.

In California, the nation's No. 1 agriculture and dairy producer, the temperature peaked at more than 115 degrees in late July, killing 16,500 cows, and 1 million chickens and turkeys; countless peaches, nectarines, nuts and melons were destroyed.
AP - August 9, 2006

The first seven months of this year are the warmest on record, and sea levels are rising far faster than expected. But Detroit continues to fiddle while the country burns.

If you’ve seen the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? , you already know how GM pulverized hundreds of perfectly good, ultra-energy efficient EV1s despite the fact that the people who’d leased them wanted desperately to buy the cars outright.

GM only produced the EV1 in the first place because it had to, in order to comply with a mandate passed by the California Air Resources Board in 1998 that 10 percent of new cars be emission-free by 2003. Instead of promoting these sleek, silent cars that could go about a hundred miles on a single charge, GM actively sought to sabotage their success.

Detroit’s Big Three lobbied relentlessly to have the mandate overturned, and with a sympathetic administration in power, including chief of staff Andy Card, former GM lobbyist, their wishes were granted in 2005.

So now the city of Pasadena, which had invested in a fleet of zero-emission Nissan Hypermini EVs and the charging stations to support them, has been ordered to surrender the cars. The Pasadena Star News has the whole sad saga (hat tip to Cookie Jill at Skippy):

"We asked if we could buy them, but they said absolutely not," said John Hoffner, public benefits manager at Pasadena Water and Power, of the 11 Nissan Hypermini EVs the city leased. "They were not going to allow any zero-emission vehicles on the road. They weren't going to sell them at any price."

Nissan did not renew the leases in December and soon began asking for the cars back. Since last week, the mint- and silver-colored minis have sat in a corner of the city's yards, waiting to be taken away.

Meanwhile, the price of oil’s only going up and we’re bogged down in the Middle East, but it’s business as usual for the Big Three; American automakers have consistently fought greater fuel efficiency standards and continued to churn out gas guzzlers, while Toyota and Honda take the lead in developing more fuel-efficient cars.

New electric cars like the Tesla are in the works, and people are converting their hybrids to plug-ins, while President Bush blows smoke up our tailpipes with his hype for hydrogen-fuel cell technology. As Who Killed the Electric Car? makes painfully clear, hydrogen-fuel cell cars are a pie-in-the-sky solution that’s decades away from being viable.

I saw an auto executive on the news recently explaining that the reason they’re not making more fuel-efficient cars is that consumers aren’t asking for them. But how do you ask for a product that no one’s producing? And if there’s no demand for fuel-efficient cars, why can’t they keep the hybrids in stock?

If you haven’t seen Who Killed the Electric Car?, run—don’t drive—to your nearest indie movie house. You’ll be fueled with indignation.