Lying Car Companies Would Rather Poison You With Emissions Than Build Cleaner Cars

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CleanTechnica often uses information from the Union of Concerned Scientists as the basis of our stories. That’s no surprise, since we both share a common goal — avoiding the looming existential crisis associated with climate change and a warmer planet. A few days ago, Seth Michaels, a communications officer for UCS, alerted us to a report filed with NHTSA and USDOT by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. That report offers reasons why the federal government should weaken fuel economy and tailpipe emissions standards put in place by the Obama administration.

auto emissions

Dave Cooke, senior vehicles analyst for the UCS, has written a blog post blasting the Alliance for hiring people to write their report who are known to be paid shills for the fossil fuel industry and the Koch Brothers. The message the Association seeks to convey is the tired old refrain that climate change isn’t real. If it is, it’s not up to the auto industry to do anything about it. And finally, emissions rules and gas mileage regulations are just (pick your favorite Republican talking point) job killers/designed to pick winners and losers/a threat to national security/forbidden by the Second Amendment/other.

Cooke makes specific reference to The Disinformation Playbook: How Business Interests Deceive, Misinform, and Buy Influence at the Expense of Public Health and Safety. We have tried many times and in many ways to describe exactly how the anti-science wind machine works but have never been able to do it as well as this. It should be required reading in every school in the nation. If you are not familiar with it, take a moment to bookmark it and read it at your leisure. It is part of the tool kit every clean tech advocate should have when confronting naysayers.

The alleged researchers have built a career out of shilling for the Heartland Institute, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Coal Council, the US Chamber of Commerce, Monsanto, and the American Enterprise Institute, according to Cooke. He lists all the times the automakers have dug in their heels to resist government regulations — seat belts, air bags, crash test standards, and pollution controls. It’s always the same story — they cost too much, consumers don’t want them, they cause loss of manufacturing jobs. The attitude of the automotive industry can be summed up by an op-ed for the Washington Post by Robert Eaton in the 1990s when he was CEO of Chrysler. His diatribe opposed ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, claiming action on climate was “unwise and unnecessary.”

I am not going to reprise Cooke’s blog post. It is linked to above and well worth your time to read it in full. What I am going to do is call out, once more, the heads of the companies that are members of the Alliance. Virtually all of them are uttering pious mouthings about building more efficient cars with lower emissions. At the same time, they are running up the back stairs to beg for leniency on the very policies that would make greener cars a reality. What do you call people who talk out of both sides of their mouth at the same time? Two-faced lying bastards is one phrase that comes to mind. You may have other names for them.

What is crystal clear is that the car companies are more than happy to poison you, your family, your grandchildren, the Earth, the oceans, and the skies above if it will put one more dollar in their pockets and keep their share price high enough to justify the outrageous compensation packages of top executives. Once again, what do you call people like that? I suggested a word I thought was appropriate a few days ago and was criticized by many for using it. To which I say, “Extremism in defense of the planet is no vice.”

So, who are the member of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers? According to Wikipedia, this is the complete membership list as of January, 2017.

Is it a coincidence that almost all of them hold themselves out as leading the way toward a cleaner, greener world? But actions speak louder than words, my friends, and the actions of these companies — lending their names and reputations to a compilation of lies, innuendos, and false statements — makes it hard to believe they are doing anything more than blowing sunshine up our skirts when they preach about corporate responsibility.

What can you do about it? Some will throw up their hands and say “You can’t fight city hall.” But there actually are actually some things you can do. You can bombard these charlatans with demands they face up to their responsibilities to the human community. To help with that, we have provided a Twitter handle for each of these corporations who use weasel words to buy your trust while they stab you in the back.

Send them tweets. Post on their Facebook pages. Write letters to your local newspaper editors. Or better yet, visit local dealers and tell them you refuse to buy a car from them as long as the manufacturer of the cars they sell is a member of the Association. Can you imagine the panic in the C Suites if local dealers started calling to say they are losing customers? Here’s another strategy you could try. Send a letter like this one to car dealers in your area:


I am interested in purchasing a new car but refuse to buy a car built by any company that is a member of the Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Once the company that makes the cars you sell has withdrawn its membership in this group, please let me know so I can schedule an appointment for a test drive. 

Thank you,

A concerned new car shopper.

That ought to get someone’s attention! The point is, it is one thing to read polemics like this one and “tut tut” about how awful things are over your oatmeal in the morning. But you need to do something if you want to stop being slapped around by these giant corporations. It’s time to let the industry know we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more. Onward, clean techies! Give ’em hell!

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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