Environmentalists: Force Detroit to Make Alternative-Fuel Cars in Return for Bailout

Tiffany Gabbay | December 11, 2008 | 8:37pm EST
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Debut of Japanese Wooden Alternative Fuel Car, 2008 (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - With a view toward weaning America off fossil fuel, “green movement” activists say the incoming Obama administration and Democratic Congress should mandate that U.S. automakers produce “cleaner” and more “fuel efficient” cars in return for the $14-billion emergency loan being considered by Congress.

Colin Peppard, a transportation policy analyst for Friends of the Earth, told CNSNews.com that the U.S. automakers also “should be required to drop lawsuits and any opposition to any federal or state emissions requirements” as a condition to receiving government assistance.“(Like) legislation in California mandates the sale of a certain number of fuel efficient or electric plug-in vehicles (EPVs), we’d make a recommendation (for the same to be implemented) at the state level (elsewhere).” 

Peppard added: “I’m not sure if we can make the same recommendation at the federal level.”

(A provision of the balout bill that passed the House would require automakers to make made "advanced technology" and fuel efficent automobiles.) 

Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America, mirrored Peppard’s sentiments about the auto industry. 

“We are continuing to build cars that waste a lot of oil and make us dependent on imports for 60 percent of the oil in this country and that create too much global warming pollution” said Aurilio.

In order to “reduce oil dependency and solve global warming pollution,” Aurilio said that moving forward we have to “increase fuel economy standards” – by requiring a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. 

“We passed a landmark CAFE bill (a bill which requires higher standards of automobile fuel efficiency) which the auto industry fought every step of the way and which the Bush administration totally undermined in terms of what they are doing to implement it,” Aurilio said.

However, when asked how the automakers can produce a potentially mandated number of fuel efficient vehicles while struggling for the most basic financial survival, Aurilio told CNSNews.com that she has “heard the Big 3 cry poverty” since she started working in the environmental advocacy arena in 1993. 

According to Aurilio, GM has the potential to create a dramatically improved fuel-efficient vehicle. Touching on former promises by both GM and Toyota to produce a “plug-in hybrid vehicle by 2010,” Aurilio said that we could potentially see “100 to 150 mile per gallon” fuel efficiency. 

“That is the future and that’s where we ought to be going,” Aurilio added.

Libertarian economists, meanwhile, say that CAFE standards, which raise the required fuel efficiency stamdards -- ironically can increase pollution because engineers must often sacrifice polluition control equipment in order to reach higher miles-per-gallon (MPG) targets. 

The environmentalists held a press conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday to release a “green stimulus proposal” that they say will create as many as 3.6 million “green jobs.” The “green economic recovery proposal” would seek funds from the incoming Obama administration’s proposed stimulus and public works program. 
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