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Herm, I think the issue they're getting at is that there's little incentive for the automakers to do anything beyond getting to a certain threshold value, and the jumps between those thresholds can be large. For example, if a car gets 29.5 to 30.4 mpg, it's still reported as 30 mpg, but most likely the automaker will shoot for 29.5. So the consumer can lose out ("loss of efficiency") OR the automakers can be using short-term thinking (small design tweaks) instead of long-term thinking. I think their argument, one which most economists hold, is that a continuous incentive (instead of one based on threshold values with large gaps in between) offers a better situation, both for the automakers and car buyers.
Crime was a fear of the original People Mover in Detroit, too. Turns out those fears were unfounded. Now, the bigger problem with the People Mover (and the more appropriate fear for the proposed system) is a lack of ridership. I'm a big fan of transit when it is well-planned and serves the people, but I worry that this Woodward line will be extremely under-used. The first phase will only go from the waterfront to the New Center area. Very few daily commuters live along that route, and without the daily commuters the system will quickly languish. The second phase will supposedly reach to the suburbs, but I wonder if it will ever happen. As an aside, Robocop was filmed in L.A., yet Transformers was set in L.A. but much of it was filmed in Detroit. Go figure.
Treehugger, as a resident of Michigan I have to point out that farmers here have been making sugar from sugar beets for a long time. Granted, I've no idea how economical it is or what the ROI is, but they're doing it.