Earlier this month the Washington Post reported
on some suspect lobbying by the American auto industry. After pledging
to Congress to improve fuel efficiency standards as justification for
receiving billions in bailout funds, the Post noted that
these same car companies ...
Earlier this month the Washington Post reported on some suspect lobbying by the American auto industry. After pledging to Congress to improve fuel efficiency standards as justification for receiving billions in bailout funds, the Post noted that these same car companies have spent millions lobbying against "a sweeping list of legislative and regulatory issues, including vehicle emissions standards, air bag systems, hydrogen fuel safety and climate change."
Here in Illinois, those lobbying efforts are directed at the Clean Car Act -- which came within striking distance of passing last year. Whether it will pay off is yet to be seen. Both the House (HB 422) and Senate (SB 1941) versions of the measure are currently stuck in committee. Environment Illinois' director Max Muller tells us that their failure to advance is the direct result of fierce resistance by the auto industry. An April 3 deadline has been set for passing the Senate version out of the Energy Committee. Muller says that failure to act by then will likely kill the proposal, for this year at least.
The auto industry's case for killing the legislation -- which could curb the state's vehicle emissions by 30 percent in less than a decade -- is the same old argument: Clean cars are more expensive to build so the stricter environmental regulations would raise the price of cars, making it even harder to move them off the lot. What they fail to mention, Muller says, is that consumers "actually save money," anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000 a year, "because of how much you're saving in gas." That would add up to an estimated extra $3 billion in 2020 and $6 billion in 2030 that could be pumped into the Illinois economy, rather than gas tanks.
To learn more about the bill, watch this interview with Environment Law and Policy Center senior policy advocate Joe Schacter:
It's worth noting that the auto industry lobby gave $602,198 worth of campaign contributions to Illinois state lawmakers during the 2008 cycle, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Meanwhile, 14 other states have managed adopt stricter fuel efficiency standards despite such lobbying. And with a new powerful ally in the White House ready to back state-level emission standards and a new leadership line-up in Springfield, environmentalists say that the General Assembly has no excuse not to take the lead in the Midwest by passing the Clean Car Act this year.
Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user Flipped Out.