Well, from time-to-time, Thomas Friedman just gets something right and he can turn a good phrase on occasion.
When it comes to the automakers, Friedman is noting that they are following empty-barrel politics, conniving to have
Michigan lawmakers year after year shielding Detroit from pressure to innovate on higher mileage standards, even though Detroit’s failure to sell more energy-efficient vehicles has clearly contributed to its brush with bankruptcy, its loss of market share to Toyota and Honda — whose fleets beat all U.S. automakers in fuel economy in 2007 — and its loss of jobs.
And well, as noted in Astroturfing to fight mileage standards, the auto firms are working hard to give these politicians coverage.
What is too rarely acknowledged or realized is that this is not just the Big Three. In fact, Toyota is complicit (even leading) in this effort. As discussed in Astroturfing to fight mileage standards, Toyota is fighting alongside Detroit to keep down increases in mileage standards.
“Toyota wants to keep its green halo and beat G.M. in the big trucks, too,” said Deron Lovaas, vehicles expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As the world’s largest automaker and inventor of the best-selling hybrid car, Toyota has a responsibility to lead, follow or get out of the way as Congress debates the first substantial fuel-economy boost in decades. Shamefully, Toyota has joined forces with older automakers that are getting their lunch handed to them in the marketplace, in part because they’ve consistently shunned fuel efficiency.”
Toyota is using its Prius as coverage for huge trucks, aiming to own the full range of America’s bulging car market.
Have to say that I agree with Friedman
Sad. If Toyota were to take the lead on this front, it could enhance its own reputation and spur the whole U.S. auto industry to become more globally competitive. Hey, Toyota, if you are going to become the biggest U.S. automaker, could you at least bring to America your best practices — the ones that made you the world leader — instead of prolonging our worst practices? We have enough people helping us commit suicide.
But was Friedman off target?
Toyota didn’t take kindly to Friedman’s OPED and, well, the storm of discussion surrounding it. Energy Soapbox posted the response that Toyota sent out which included this telling line:
We are sorry you heard of the inaccurate assertion that we are actively lobbying against increased fuel economy standards, and we want you to be aware of our company’s position supporting increased fuel economy.
There are various bills before Congress that would mandate a new target of 35 mpg by 2020 and require both cars and trucks to meet that standard. Our engineers tell us the requirements specified by these proposed measures are beyond what is possible. Toyota spends $23 million every day on research and development but, at this point, the technology to meet such stringent standards by 2020 does not exist.
Okay, now I am reassured: $23 million every day is a lot of money and that much dough would seem to speak with real authority. And, well, not sure about you, but the following reassured me:
Toyota has long supported an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards. Moreover, Toyota has always exceeded federal fuel economy requirements. We are continuously striving to improve our fuel economy, regardless of federal mandates.
They support CAFE. They exceed CAFE. They work to improve fuel economy, no matter the law’s status. And, well, Toyota tells us that
new target of 35 mpg by 2020 … beyond what is possible
Well, forget the Prius, in the next 13 years, that 35 mpg fleet CAFE standard is “beyond what is possible …”
Or, is it? Even today?
From Congressman Markey, Toyota Meeting “Impossible Dream” of Higher U.S. Fuel Economy. . .In Japan
“Apparently the only thing that separates Toyota from the ‘impossible dream’ of 35 miles per gallon here in the U.S., is a flight across the Pacific Ocean,” said Chairman Edward J. Markey of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “The International Date Line is an invisible barrier for fuel efficiency that Toyota is unwilling to cross.”
More from Markey’s press release:
Toyota claims that Japan does not have mandatory fleet standards comparable to the United States. This is not true. In Japan, the government first imposed weight-based fuel economy standards in 1999 and revised them in 2006 “because the majority of vehicles sold in Japan in 2002 already met or exceeded the 2010 standards,” according to a July 2007 report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The same report says Japan’s fuel economy is currently at 41 mpg, and will have a fleetwide fuel economy of about 47 mpg in 2015 – 5 years before the 35 mile per gallon energy bill requirement is due to be met in the United States. A chart from the report on fuel economy levels around the world is [above]
Hmmm … For some reason Toyota’s credibility seems to be in tatters, no?
And, well, we return to Empty Barrel Politics.
And, well, we are the point where we can take ACTION.
The National Resource Defense Council is working to get Toyota to follow the Prius Promise of a better future, rather than working to help Melt the tundra with the Toyota Tundra (13 new models).
Why is Toyota, a company that can make a car that gets 55 miles per gallon today, fighting a 35 mpg standard? If Toyota’s “Moving Forward” motto is more than just empty words, the company must support a sensible increase in fuel economy to 35 mpg by 2020. It’s time for Prius and other hybrid owners — and for all of us who care about oil independence, global warming and air pollution — to tell Toyota to stop trying to shift America’s efforts to break its oil dependency into reverse.