Environmentalists Say Big Three are Blocking States from Imposing 'Clean Car' Standards

Tiffany Gabbay | December 5, 2008 | 7:34pm EST
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Nissan electric car being test-driven. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Environmental groups say consumers want to buy cars that get 50 miles per gallon and they want electric vehicles – but Big Three automakers don’t want to have to produce them. 

When asked why the Big Three – Ford, GM and Chrysler LLC -- should be forced to make cars that the automakers say there is no demand for, Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network claimed that the market actually wants environment-friendly vehicles. 

“Detroit claims that consumers don’t want these vehicles, while every day Detroit pays thousands of dollars to lobbyists to stop any kind of passage of higher gas mileage standards that would lead to hybrid cars, while it sues states that try to go on their own,” Tidwell told CNSNews.com. 

“For Detroit to say that consumers don’t want it  (fuel efficient cars) while simultaneously trying to stop state houses and Congress from improving standards is a circular and duplicitous argument,” he added.
Tidwell’s group, along with the Global Exchange and California Cars Initiative, called on Congress Friday to require automakers to commit to meet fleet-wide fuel economy standards of 50 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2015 and to produce 500,000 Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PHEV) by 2012, and 3 million by 2015 – before any bailout money is made available. 

The groups circled the U.S. Capitol with 25 Japanese electric and hybrid cars as part of a pro-fuel-efficient vehicles demonstration. 

The demonstration took place while the Big Three CEOs testified a second time before Congress to plead their case for a $35 billion bailout.

The environmental groups demanded that the automakers, as part of any bailout, agree to end legal action against “clean car” state laws in California and 14 other states. 

The laws would require automakers to make significant reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions of cars and light trucks sold in those states, Tidwell said.   

“Why is it that Detroit wants our tax dollars but is suing the states that are trying to make cleaner cars?” Tidwell asked.

The environmental groups claim the Detroit automakers have been suing “clean car states” in an effort to skirt the laws in place that they manufacture more fuel efficient vehicles. 

When asked why all of the vehicles in the demonstration were Japanese, Tidwell explained that only Japanese automakers are manufacturing cars that get 50 mpg and that American cars have not yet come close to matching that. 

Tidwell told CNSNews.com “The best Detroit car only gets 34 mpg.”

“The problem,” he added, “is that I would rather buy a Ford car that gets 50 mpg so I can support an American company.” 

When asked if American automakers lacked the same technology used in Japan to manufacture such fuel efficient vehicles Tidwell said that American automakers have “chosen” their path to fall behind in technology and “lease their hybrid technology from Japan.” 

He went on to explain that the Big Three had “created their own problem” by not investing in fuel-efficient technologies.

Tidwell, who said the bailout “might make sense” because he “does not want to see” any auto employees lose their jobs -- explained that the groups don’t feel their conditions are unreasonable, in exchange for what he called a “$35 billion taxpayer gift.”

“Is that an insurmountable condition?” he asked. “I don’t think it is.”
 
Tidwell, who claims that the corporate culture in Detroit, especially at GM, is one that dismisses climate change and energy security as “real concerns” said that if Detroit would “stop suing” then consumers would “get their hands on the hybrids sooner and they would see the demand they claim is not there.”
 
When asked if environmentalists were placing demands on the Big Three to produce vehicles that perhaps they cannot afford to manufacture now given their financial woes, Tidwell told CNSNews.com that if Detroit produced 50 mpg vehicles --“We’ll buy them.”
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