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Deron Lovaas’s Blog

Keeping the pressure on Toyota

Deron Lovaas

Posted September 21, 2007 in Moving Beyond Oil

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So far more than 5000 of you have taken action, sending messages to Toyota urging them to be consistent by backing green policy as well as green products like the Prius.

They've noticed, and a spokesperson has posted a blog entry which tells a slanted, incomplete story. So let's get the facts straight on fuel economy:

Currently, there are three measures regarding fuel economy in the United States Congress -the Senate bill and two bills in the House of Representatives.

The Senate passed a bill that would increase mileage standards to 35 mpg by 2020 - a reasonable ask, especially considering that fuel economy standards have been in a stall for decades. The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, which includes Toyota, fought that proposal tooth and nail.

On the other side of the Capitol, the auto industry changed its tactics since this was the first time after decades of fighting higher fuel economy standards that they lost in either chamber.

In a Machiavellian move they fronted the Hill-Terry bill. Make no mistake this is written by the auto companies, for the auto companies. Then they began an expensive marketing campaign, doing an 180-degree turn and claiming to want better standards. In fact, according to the National Journal the industry has spent $2 million on advertising alone lobbying against better fuel economy in the energy bill. I wonder how many good engineers they could hire with that money.

Let's compare the bills: The Fuel Economy Reform Act - the 35 mpg standard - would save America 1.2 million barrels of oil a day by 2020 - equivalent to the amount we currently import from Saudi Arabia each day and twice as effective as the weak, industry bill.

Even more galling, the Hill-Terry bill actually puts a cap on fuel economy at 35 mpg, effectively stamping out the idea of continuous improvement.

Based on this comparison, it's obvious where the Big Auto - and that includes Toyota - interests lie: Fighting against policy that would seriously cut oil dependence and global warming pollution.

Look at this great quote from GM's Bob Lutz, talking about fuel economy with reporter David Pogue:

DP: But you understand why people are skeptical. I mean, you're still lobbying to keep the Federal mileage requirements from going up, and so on.

BL: Well, we and Toyota!...You know, the media likes to say, "The Detroit Big Three are fighting the fuel economic (sic) proposals." No, no, no--the whole automotive industry is fighting! Why? Because they're impossible.

It's shameful that Toyota and GM are joined at the hip on this issue, especially at a time when even the National Petroleum Council (NPC) highlighted the fact that, "a doubling of fuel economy of new cars and light-trucks by 2030 is possible through the use of existing and anticipated technologies," and recommended increases in fuel economy standards. The NPC also agreed with a 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences and the Consumer Federation of America's own analysis that concluded increases to fuel economy of cars and trucks is technologically feasible and economic beneficial to consumers.

Also, oil hit $84 a barrel today. Still think it's not in our best interest to back the best, most effective policy on fuel economy, Toyota?

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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