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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rep. Ed Markey vs. Toyota On New Fuel Economy Standards

The supposedly "green" automaker, Toyota, is fighting tougher fuel economy legislation that would save American consumers billions of dollars and put a major dent in the United States' oil addiction.

Some of you may have missed the buzz kicked up recently by a nationwide campaign to put the heat on Toyota for lobbying against tougher fuel economy standards. The campaign, coordinated by NRDC , the National Environmental Trust, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others is focused on calling out the fact that Toyota, maker of the 46-mpg hybrid Prius, is joining with the Big Three Detroit automakers to lobby hard against a proposed increase in fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2020.

The Senate passed an energy bill including a 35 mpg by 2020 standard and the House is currently considering similar legislation (in the form of the Markey-Platts bill). Toyota, who often touts their fuel-efficient hybrid Pruis, Camry and Highlander models and markets itself as a "green" car company, is lobbying hard against the 35 mpg by 2020 standard and supporting the significantly more industry-friendly Hill-Terry bill (HR 2927) as part of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (which also includes General Motors, Ford and Chrysler).

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman helped spread the word about Toyota and Detroit's shenanigans in a column last week and media and grassroots events across the country continue to put pressure on Toyota for fighting increased fuel economy standards.

In response to the pressure, Toyota issued this statement:

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.

Toyota has long supported an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Moreover, Toyota has always exceeded federal fuel economy requirements. We are continuously striving to improve our fuel economy, regardless of federal mandates. [emphasis added]

Representative Edward Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and sponsor of the House 35x2020 proposal has personally challenged Toyota's claims that meeting the 35 mpg by 2020 fuel economy standards in the Senate Energy Bill would be "impossible."

In a press release last week, Rep. Markey said:
Toyota, intent on keeping its image as a “green” company, has responded to calls of fuel economy obstructionism by telling their customers that higher fuel economy standards being considered in an energy bill before Congress are “impossible.” Yet a thorough analysis of international fuel economy standards clearly shows that Toyota is already meeting—and exceeding—the 35 mile per gallon standard in the energy bill. 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.”

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 included below (click to enlarge).
The graphic also reveals the lie in GM, Ford and Chrysler's assertions that building vehicle efficient enough to meet the 35 mpg standard is impossible. All three companies already sell thousands of vehicles every year in Canada, Australia and China where fuel economy standards far exceed those in the U.S. and all three operate in Europe where standards are already higher than the 35 mpg standard the automakers are fighting so hard.

So why are Toyota and Detroit fighting so hard against standards that will require them to achieve average fuel economy levels 13 years from now that they are already achieving today in Europe and Japan and will and will need to meet in just a few years in China, Australia and Canada?

Why do these automakers insist on blocking the biggest step towards energy independence and increased energy security Congress has taken in decades?

If you want to tell Toyota it's time to do as their slogan says, and truly get "moving forward," head over to the NRDC's site here.

And click here to tell your representatives that you want to see the strongest elements of both the House and Senate energy packages make it into the final energy bill and onto the President's desk!

[A hat tip to Hill Heat's the Cunctator]

1 comment:

Jenny Bedell-Stiles said...

One theory for why Toyota is lobbying with the Big Three is that they wish to retain their advantage in the hybrid market. If the American companies aren't required to increase fuel economy standards, then it is unlikely they'll enter the hybrid market in a competitive fashion. Another theory, which I find more plausible, is that Toyota has tasted the fruits of selling large vehicles such as the Tundra to Americans and seeks to play both sides of the field, beating the American autos at their own game of selling trucks and SUVs, while casting a "green halo" over their entire fleet by using their hybrids to tout the company's environmental ethic.

I recently got back from a successful press conference putting the pressure on Toyota to back off their lobbying efforts. We had 14 Priuses drive up to a NE Portland dealership to hold a short event with speakers and to deliver a letter and were met by a Toyota representative who'd caught wind of the event. He introduced himself as a company rep who wanted to get the story straight from Toyota's perspective. His business card, however, said he was from a Northern California PR firm.

Toyota is shaken by this recent attention to its lobbying efforts. They are alienating current and future hybrid owners and are frightened that their image is becoming tarnished. Let's keep the pressure on, and my guess is we'll see them retract their lobbying position!