Don’t Let Politics Kill American Innovation

The huge gulf between environmentalists and the auto industry is shrinking. The relationship between these two interests has evolved to where we are finding a way to agree, and not just reflexively oppose everything the other side has to say.

 Last summer, automakers and environmentalist joined together to support the historic new clean car agreement between the Obama administration, California, and major carmakers, crafting a grand bargain that will double the average fuel economy for cars on the road today by 2025, equivalent to 54.5 mpg.

The additional technology to meet this target will result in $300 billion in additional revenue for the U.S. auto industry and ensure it will be a global leader in advanced vehicle innovation. Stopping $350 billion from being sent overseas for oil will strengthen our economy, make us less vulnerable to oil price shocks, and create hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs. And curbing emissions of carbon pollution will help protect our economy against the costly impacts of global climate change. Last January many automakers also joined with environmentalists to support California’s strengthening of its Zero Emission Vehicle standard, which will result in about 1.5 million electric-drive vehicles on the road by 2025.

Unfortunately, ideologues in the media and in Washington have joined forces with auto dealers to try to preserve the status quo and scuttle the historic auto accord. More recently, they have turned their attention to the Chevy Volt and government support for clean energy manufacturing.

Automakers and environmentalists need to work together.

That’s why the head of NRDC, Frances Beinecke, and the former VP of GM, Bob Lutz, joined together in a joint op-ed that called for the end of the ‘petty politics’ that threatens to kill the electric cars and the American innovative spirit.

Moving forward with clean cars offers our country a choice: gridlock or progress. This is a time when automakers, regulators, and environmentalist need to come together, in partnership, to build markets for clean cars, cut our dangerous dependence on oil, and re-invest in American manufacturing leadership.


Roland Hwang is Transportation Program Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council