Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Suing the Auto Industry Won't Fix the Problem

Will there ever be good news for the auto industry? Last week, California filed a lawsuit against the six largest automakers in the United States alleging emissions are causing global warming, injuring the state's environment and economy, and endangering public health. Most of the opinions I read applauded the lawsuit. Zack @ Pohlitics said:
The auto industry has been complacent with the looming climate crisis for decades, and it's about damn time that something like this happened to push them to do something about it.
I agree that the auto industry was short-sighted and should have been working toward curbing these emissions a long time ago, but they're only one part of the problem.

Ironically, California blogger, Blognonymous, agrees:
The decision to pollute more is entirely in the hands of John Q. Public. You can buy a SUV...or not. The Prius is there if you want it. You can own a car...or not. Public transit is there if you want to take it. Mileage and emissions stats are there for you to read...or not.

If AG Lockyer wants to sue someone, he should sue California's 40,000,000 drivers.
Absolutely. He should also sue the drivers in our other 49 states, along with every trucking firm, package delivery service, taxi fleet, etc. In fact, Honda expands on this even more: "The real issue regarding climate change is how the United States as a nation, not the individual states, is going to address the proliferation of greenhouse gases."

Unfortunately, Washington has demonstrated bipartisan failure in this area for years, but it is the Bush administration that currently speaks for the nation, and the results speak for themselves:
Bush turned back on the Kyoto global warming treaty, partly as a result of pressure from ExxonMobil.

Only a tiny fraction of American companies that pollute have signed up for President Bush's voluntary program to reduce emissions of gasses that many scientists believe cause global warming. [CBS, 1/1/04]
Most recently, EPA chief, Stephen Johnson, rejected the recommendations of his staff — and an unusual public plea from independent science advisers — choosing instead to tighten only one of two standards regulating the amount of lethal particles of soot in the air. The Clean Air Act requires the standards to be reviewed every 5 years. They remain at their original 1997 level.

Gee, maybe that has something to do with this bit of information at Tom Paine:
[...]But polluter industry lobbyists have been working hard to block significant improvements to current standards. The electric power industry has been the leader in this coordinated industry campaign, mobilizing at least eight governors to parrot power industry arguments.

On July 12, a cadre of industry lobbyists—including those from the oil, coal, electric power, chemical, steel, auto, diesel engine and other industries—made their case directly to [Bush EPA appointee] Johnson.

Their message: Don’t “move the goalposts,” or make current standards much tougher. Quicker than George Allen could say “macaca,” this precise phrase was used by no fewer than four Republican senators the very next day in a hearing organized to pressure Johnson, who was rumored to be considering tougher standards.
After reading about these lobbyists, it also makes me wonder if there's some truth behind stories like this one from Michigan's thumb where a community is struggling to get their wind turbines operating:
Pauly said he thinks the utility is putting up roadblocks because it doesn't want to see someone else generating electricity in the Thumb.

The windmills had been operating for about a month. DTE gets most of its power from burning coal.

"DTE, it's the only game in town and they're concerned about the money," Pauly said. "I hate to say that and I don't generally talk like that, but in this case, I think that's exactly what it is."
Suing the auto makers will not result in tougher standards. That will take honest, ethical leadership at the top. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Update: Click this link to read about Jennifer Granholm and what she's doing to protect the environment.


GraemeAnfinson said...

and to think, we could all be driving electric cars

Kvatch said...

Kathy, I'm forgetting my manners. I wanted to pop by and thank you for the mention a couple of days ago but forgot. So...thank you! But...why is my agreement ironic? ;-)

Kathy said...

Kvatch, I found your position ironic because you come from California where the lawsuit originates, and also because I know you favor higher CAFE standards and less dependence on autos. I guess I was surprised to read that you were willing to spread the blame around (and possibly cost your state billions of $$$ if the lawsuit gets tossed). :-)