Lest readers think that our earlier coverage of the auto industry's congressional lobbying was an isolated pattern, its important to be clear that this is definitely part of a broader effort. Last Thursday's Detroit News, in fact, set the tone for this week's events:
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group that represents Detroit's Big Three, Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG and five other automakers, is trying to convince states not to adopt California's emissions rules, which are stricter than federal regulations and would require a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions by 2016. That would force automakers to build cars that average 43.7 miles per gallon and light trucks that average 27 mpg.
At least 20 states have already adopted California's standards or are considering doing so. Since the beginning of the year, Dave McCurdy, CEO of the auto alliance and a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma, has met with the governors of Utah, Wyoming, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Montana, as well as numerous state legislators.
McCurdy's personalized touch contrasts the outsourcing to the ethanol lobby that has halted the march toward the CA rules in Minnesota. And according to the News, it has had some initial success while moving toward a broader strategic aim:
In November, a panel created by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer proposed that the state adopt California's standards. But after McCurdy met with Schweitzer on March 18, the governor expressed support for national standards.
"It would be preferable to have national action," said Schweitzer's natural resources policy director, Mike Volesky. "Automakers aren't going to manufacturer cars to meet the standards for our tiny market of 900,000 residents."
Many western states have joined the Western Climate Initiative, which may decide to implement the California standards as a group.
That's one of the reasons McCurdy met with Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, chair of the Western Governors Association.
A different bipartisan group of governors, representing both states that have stood up to the industry's lobbying and states that are looking into action, will be gathering at Yale University from April 16-18 to outline their own thoughts and sketch out the vital role that states can ultimately play in tackling global warming. The conference marks the 100th anniversary of the gubernatorial summit convened by President Theodoore Roosevelt to usher in the 20th Century's conservation movement, and will be keynoted by IPCC Chairman and Nobel laureate R.K. Pachauri. It may well prove a stirring counterpoint to the industry's ongoing lobbying blitz.