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DETROIT, Jan. 17, 2019 – As the international auto industry descended on Detroit to take in the latest automobile offerings, consumer, environmental, health and faith organizations – including Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Safe Climate Campaign, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Auto Safety and Michigan Interfaith Power & Light – gathered in Ford’s hometown to highlight the company’s work with the Trump administration to roll back environmental protections.
On display to make the case were dinosaurs, including a 10-foot-tall inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex and activists in costume. The prehistoric reptiles were impossible to miss outside the convention center entrance and were meant to illustrate Ford’s outsized pollution: The annual climate pollution emitted from the company’s Expedition SUV (9 tons) is the equivalent of the weight of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
In addition to announcing the company’s plans to shut down sedan sales in the U.S., Ford and its trade association have engaged in a costly multi-year lobbying effort with President Donald Trump to roll back vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards, known as the clean car standards. In August, the Trump administration delivered rollbacks for the industry, proposing to freeze the clean car standards at 2020 levels and revoke the California waiver, which allows that state and 12 others to protect their citizens from harmful tailpipe pollution.
Experts have warned that the administration’s proposal would lead to an additional 2.2 billion metric tons of global warming emissions and hundreds of billions extra spent by consumers at the gas pump.
“The dinosaur in the room at the Detroit auto show? Ford’s monstrous misdeeds,” said Madeline Page, clean cars campaign coordinator with Public Citizen. “As the company projects an image of innovation and sustainability, its lobbyists are dismantling our country’s most effective program to combat climate change. Ford and the auto industry are attempting to pull off a bamboozling of behemoth proportions, but we’re here to hold them accountable.”
Last October, the public comment period ended for the rollback rule the administration proposed in August. More than 350,000 Americans submitted comments in strong support of the existing rules and spoke in favor of them at public hearings held in California, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“The clean car standards benefit every part of our communities, from protecting our clean air and health to boosting our economy, and they must be protected,” said Gail Philbin, director of the Michigan Sierra Club. “In Michigan alone, we have more than 200 facilities that build parts that improve our fuel efficiency. It’s time we put the clean car standards in the fast lane rather than allowing the Trump administration to pump the brakes on them.”
Instead of changing course, Ford used the public comment period as an opportunity to double down on its support of the rollback. In its comment (PDF) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Ford touted a dubious study sponsored by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The study repeats flawed and much criticized assumptions made in the administration’s analysis of costs, benefits and the impact of a rollback on consumers. Ford asked for expanded “flexibilities” – code for loopholes – and indicated support for a range of alternative standards suggested by the administration, all of which would increase pollution and cost consumers more at the gas pump.
“Today, while forward-thinking manufacturers roll out efficient, advanced technology vehicles, Ford continues to produce gas guzzlers like the Expedition, each of which spews 9 tons of global warming pollution a year,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, home of the Safe Climate Campaign. “Ford hypocritically claims to care about the environment, but its polluting vehicles and prehistoric thinking pose a danger to our air and our children’s health, and could even lead to Ford’s extinction.”
Added Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, “We see right through Ford Motor Company’s pink smokescreen to the truth, which is that the cancer-causing exhaust spewing out of its vehicles’ tailpipes actually drives up the risk of breast cancer. If Ford really cared about people living with and dying from breast cancer, it would go to a zero-emission fleet and stop making vehicles that produce cancer-causing exhaust.”
Earlier in the day, Breast Cancer Action delivered 45,000 petitions to Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., calling on the company to transition to pollution-free vehicles.
“We have a religious responsibility to protect every human life and all creation itself from human destruction,” said Rabbi Moshe Givental of West Bloomfield on behalf of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light. “In a time of increasing devastation caused by human-driven climate change, we call on Ford to end its lobbying to undermine our clean car standards and instead become a leader in a green transformation of the car industry, today.”
The groups plan to take the Tyrannosaurus rex to more auto shows across the country this winter and spring.