Hostile Green Takeover: The Auto Industry Faces Environmental Thuggery

Senate Floor Speech - November 20, 2008

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) – Ranking Member, Environment and Public Works Committee:

  

Mr. President, Americans are once again being asked to foot the bill for yet another “urgent” bailout.  In October, Congress voted for an unprecedented $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, and now much of the same alarmist rhetoric is being employed to pressure members to act quickly. 

  

The latest bailout demand making the rounds in Washington is for the Big Three auto industry. Democrats would have you believe the proposed bailout is all about saving jobs, but, having been in Washington long enough, my instincts led me to dig deeper where I unearthed green roots hiding beneath the bailout rhetoric.

   

It now appears that much of what you have heard in the media about the auto bailout being about “jobs” has been misleading.  In fact, there are “usual suspects” working behind the scenes to subvert the auto bailout and ultimately betray auto workers.  

 

The facts are these:  

 

The proposed $25 billion bailout of Detroit now appears to have been hijacked by the powerful environmental lobby.  

 

The November 19 Wall Street Journal asks:  

 

“When is $25 billion in taxpayer cash insufficient to bail out Detroit's auto makers?” Answer: “When the money is a tool of Congressional industrial policy to turn GM, Ford and Chrysler into agents of the Sierra Club and other green lobbies.” 

 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the auto bailout has degenerated into a tool to “make Detroit a subsidiary of the Sierra Club.”  

 

We hear proponents of the auto bailout endlessly say it’s about jobs.  

 

But the truth is, this bailout appears to be about environmental lobbies taking over the U.S. auto industry.  

 

The Wall Street Journal explains:  

 

“In their public statements, proponents describe the bailout as an attempt to save jobs, American manufacturing and the middle-class way of life. But look closely and you can see that what's really going on is an attempt to use taxpayer money to remake Detroit in the image of the modern environmental movement. Given a choice between greens and blue-collar workers, Congress puts the greens first.”  

 

And just how did this attempt at a green takeover of Detroit come about?  

 

Congress approved $25 billion for Detroit earlier this year for “green retooling.” President Bush proposed to revise that $25 billion and allow it be used for Detroit’s general purposes by eliminating the green conditions.  

 

But the Wall Street Journal reported, “Democratic leaders refused. They are insisting instead that the Bush Administration give Detroit another $25 billion in cash.”

 

"The Bush Administration's proposal is unacceptable," declared my colleague Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. 

 

The Wall Street Journal asked, “If the problem is so urgent, why keep the green chains on that first $25 billion? GM in particular is saying that it may have to declare bankruptcy by the end of the year without a taxpayer capital injection. Aren't jobs at stake?”  

 

But jobs do not appear to be the overriding concern when it comes to the proposed auto bailout.  

 

A November 13 commentary in the Chicago Sun-Times bluntly declared that Congress should “attach environmental strings to the Big Three bailout.”  

 

“The auto industry occupies a critical position, not just in the U.S. economy, but also in the struggle to cope with climate change and the energy crisis. The government has immense leverage right now to force the Big Three to make progress on multiple fronts and should not be afraid to use it,” Andrew Leonard wrote in the Sun-Times

“President-elect Barack Obama has spoken many times of his ambitious plans to steer the U.S. toward a future where Americans are driving fuel-efficient cars that run on renewable energy. If the government is going to bail out the auto industry, it should do so only with the explicit requirement that the Big Three accelerate down that road as fast as they can,” Leonard demanded.

 

One of the key “green strings” that the environmental lobby wants to impose on Detroit is making the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards more draconian.   

 

My colleague, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, wants conditions on the auto bailout that would mandate auto companies increase their average fuel economy to 40 miles per gallon in 10 years and then 50 miles per gallon a mere two years later in 2020. Nelson also reportedly wants requirements for an “increased production of hybrids, flex-fuel and electric vehicles,” according to Congress Daily.  

 

My colleague, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, has also tied auto bailout money to increased CAFE standards. “Congress should require that the automakers shift to a new business model that focuses on hybrid, electric, and other next generation vehicle technologies,” Senator Feinstein wrote on November 14.  

 

Senator Feinstein even expands the mandates to include costly global warming concerns by “requiring NHTSA to use the Energy Information Administration (EIA)'s most accurate gasoline price projection and consider global benefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions when setting CAFE standards.”  

 

The Wall Street Journal countered with a common sense alternative to increasing CAFE standards.  

 

“If Congress wants to ease the immediate burden on Detroit, it could also ease the onerous fleet-mileage standards (CAFE rules) that force the companies to make cars domestically that are unprofitable. A mere tweak would help a lot -- for example, simply allow Detroit to meet CAFE standards by counting the cars it makes at home and abroad. This alone might save Chrysler from bankruptcy. But Congress won't budge on that simple change.”  

 

This latest bout of environmental thuggery is not an isolated incident. The legislative goals of Democrats and their environmental allies reveal that saving jobs is not their highest priority.   

 

President-elect Obama has pledged to grant California a global warming motivated waiver to allow the state to demand its own standards of emission reductions from new autos. This would essentially allow a state by state approach, thus creating a patchwork of regulatory compliance regimes in addition to the federal standard that would be even more costly for automobile manufacturers.  

 

The Wall Street Journal summed up this attempted hostile green takeover and the efforts to create an “Environmental Motor Company” this way:   

 

“All of this shows that Democrats don't merely want to save jobs. They want an entirely different American auto industry that serves goals other than selling cars to consumers. The green lobbies have disliked Detroit for decades -- for resisting fleet mileage standards and having the audacity to make SUVs, trucks and other vehicles that people have wanted to buy but that violate modern environmental pieties. For the greens, the bailout is their main chance to remake Detroit according to their dictates.”  

 

The Journal continued:  

 

“The more realistic alternative to this utopian green vision is to let GM or Chrysler file for Chapter 11 like any other company that can't pay its bills. The immediate costs would be severe, but at least bankruptcy would provide the political and legal means for them to evolve into smaller, more competitive companies. Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to finance a green industrial policy promoted by lobbyists and Congressmen who know nothing about what it takes to make a car -- much less make a profit.”  

 

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