Sunday, July 02, 2006
Operation Head-in-Sand Picks up the Pace
California's auto attack is bad for all industries
Court should reject request to regulate carbon dioxide
The Detroit News
California's crusade against the car companies has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and other industries and consumers could be hurt if a ruling goes the wrong way.
The auto companies are the direct target of unyielding environmentalists, who want zero emissions and cheap vehicles. But industries including energy and other manufacturers are in trouble if the case is decided against the carmakers.
A lawsuit from California, 11 other states and 13 environmental groups asks the court to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. It's a roundabout way to regulate fuel economy standards, which are inextricably tied to emissions, and secondarily a backdoor attempt to force the government to implement the Kyoto Protocol on global warming without the OK from Congress or the president.
If California succeeds, the price of cars and trucks will increase by as much as $3,000 per vehicle, according to one survey, to recover the costs of meeting the regulations. Consumers also will see higher prices for electricity and gas as those plants account for as much as 40 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the air. The EPA would be hard-pressed not to apply the standards universally.
The lawsuit has little to do with health and more to do with wringing more mileage out of cars and trucks, which ultimately is what California and other overly populated and heavily polluted states want. California has repeatedly tried to implement higher fuel economy standards unique to its market, and this is another attempt to do so. Fuel economy, however, is set at the federal level, and that's where it should stay.
Though activist environmentalists say carbon dioxide emissions from autos are decimating the Earth's atmosphere, their claims are overblown. Carbon dioxide isn't designated as a pollutant and, in fact, is produced and absorbed naturally.
Activists also unfairly characterize the auto industry as negligent in their commitment to the environment.
In reality, the Big Three and their Asian counterparts have responded to market demands for cleaner, safer cars in spite of the intrusion by environmentalists. Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG build vehicles that regularly exceed federal safety and pollution regulations. All have pledged to spend billions of dollars researching and developing alternative fuel engines. The rate of carbon emissions from vehicles has declined and will continue to do so with the increased production of gasoline-electric hybrids, and the advancement of other technologies such as fuel-cells and flex-fuel vehicles.
But those efforts will be stalled, if not abandoned, if the Supreme Court forces automakers to shift their research and development money to meeting unnecessary carbon dioxide rules.
No manufacturing industry can survive if it is forced to make a different product for each state. The court must reaffirm that the federal government has the sole authority to regulate mileage and emissions.