Laura BlissApr 5, 2018
Dodge Ram pickup trucks lined up for sale. Charles Krupa/AP The industry may cultivate an eco-minded image, but its lobbying efforts can tell a different story. Where should citizens place their outrage?
This week, as Donald Trump hammered on Amazon for taking advantage of discounted shipping rates from the U.S. Postal Service, some progressive-minded readers felt a certain cognitive dissonance. When a tetchy president takes on a voracious mega-retailer and its owner (the world’s richest man), who were they supposed to root for, again?
Not taking sides does not appear to be an option. This is a strange era, when policy disagreements have become personal and vindictive, with even huge corporations seeming to turn into anthropomorphized characters in a struggle for moral righteousness. With a profoundly divisive leader in office, it might be tempting to think of Apple and Starbucks and Amazon as allies in the Resistance when they become targets of the president’s frequent attacks on private businesses and respond in self-defense (or, in Amazon’s case, keep mum).
But this way lies madness. By definition, corporations serve shareholders, not citizens.
This distinction is especially important in the automotive sector, where the stakes are only as high as the fate of the planet. Transportation is now the number-one source of carbon emissions in the U.S. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will revise federal fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards. The CAFE (for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards that President Obama set in 2012 were ambitious: They mandated automakers to double fuel economy for cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Now those requirements are “not appropriate,” according to an EPA press release, which also announced the start of the process to develop replacement figures.
Environmentally conscious people are duly outraged. But the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers—a group of twelve automakers that, in a 2017 letter to the EPA, called the Obama-era regulation “the product of egregious procedural and substantive defects”—is not. The Alliance (Ford, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America, and Volvo Car USA) called the EPA’s determination “the right decision.”