DeathStar

In a battle between the Death Star and Tesla, the Death Star won — or at least received more attention from the White House after a petition for its creation received a more enthusiastic response than Tesla’s petition for the White House’s support in its fight with state legislators. The company wants to be able to sell its electric vehicles directly to consumers; unfortunately for Tesla, several states have laws requiring vehicles to be sold through car dealerships, which means the company’s vehicles must compete for attention with their gas-guzzling forebears.

The White House didn’t respond to the petition until Friday despite the fact that it received more than enough signatures to meet the response threshold (100,000) in 2013. The response reads — after removing background information about Obama’s clean energy efforts — in part:

Thanks for your We the People petition. We’re excited about the next generation of transportation choices, including the kind of electric vehicles that Tesla and others have developed. These companies are taking steps to help spur innovation in the promising area of advanced batteries and electric automobiles. Vehicle electrification and other advanced technologies are vital components ofPresident Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and his commitment to addressing climate change and reducing carbon pollution, in addition to reducing our dependence on oil.

But as you know, laws regulating auto sales are issues that have traditionally sat with lawmakers at the state level.

We believe in the goal of improving consumer choice for American families, including more vehicles that provide savings at the pump for consumers. However, we understand that pre-empting current state laws on direct-to-consumer auto sales would require an act of Congress.

Here’s what Tesla’s vice president of corporate and business development, Diamuid O’Connell, said in a press statement about the White House’s response:

138,469 people signed the petition asking the White House to allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states. More than a year later, at 7.30pm EST on Friday as most of America prepared for the weekend, the White House released its disappointing response to those people. Rather than seize an opportunity to promote innovation and support the first successful American car company to be started in more than a century, the White House issued a response that was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star. Instead of showing the sort of leadership exhibited by senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission who declared their support for consumer freedom of choice, the White House merely passed the buck to Congress and trumpeted its advances in promoting vehicle efficiency. Given the economic and environmental principles at stake, we would have hoped for stronger leadership and more action.

Yet it’s unclear what else the White House could have done in response to the petition. It might have been able to release a more passionate statement, but it’s still right in saying that this issue must be decided on a state level. Pretending otherwise in favor of stronger rhetoric would’ve been meaningless.

Besides, electric vehicles and the like are being protested by people stupid enough to attach smokestacks to their trucks and further destroy the environment just because they’re unhappy with “liberal” efforts to save the planet most of us would like to continue living on. Do those people, who can affect state politics, seem likely to support change because the White House wrote what amounts to a passionate blog post?

So yes, the White House did get more enthusiastic about the Death Star than about Tesla’s attempt to force state lawmakers into abolishing pointless rules that benefit no-one except the people who own car dealerships. That’s because the Death Star petition didn’t matter; Tesla’s does, and unfortunately that means the White House had to be more political in its response. Welcome to the astonishingly dysfunctional world known as politics in the United States.