American carmakers have their hands out for another giant multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailout. But what are these corporations doing in the Sunshine State? They're spending big bucks on Tallahassee lobbyists who are doing their best to fight Gov. Charlie Crist's wise move to make cleaner cars.
Automobile industry lobbyists are insisting that Florida simply can't adopt Gov. Crist's proposal for cleaner cars without certain catastrophe.
"This is the wrong year to address this issue," Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbyist Wade Hopping told a legislative committee last month.
How many times does the public have to gasp in disbelief at the American automobile industry? First, they show up in their private corporate jets demanding multibillion-dollar handouts from Washington. Then, when they get bailout money, they hire expensive lobbyists to fight for more fleets of gas-guzzler cars? That wasn't what the bailout money was for.
A February poll shows that 71 percent of Floridians believe the state should require carmakers to sell cleaner cars and trucks that spew fewer global-warming gases. The poll was taken of a random sample of 500 Democrat and Republican voters on behalf of Audubon of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Also, when asked if "the State of Florida should regulate greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, the same way they do other air pollutants," 70 percent of voters agreed.
Since pollution coming from car tailpipes causes global warming, and Floridians are more vulnerable to rising sea levels and more powerful hurricanes, it makes sense to address this problem quickly.
Forty percent of Florida's carbon dioxide emissions come from cars and light trucks, so working to cut tailpipe emissions is the place to start.
Gov. Crist's proposal creates incentives for more efficient cars, requiring a 23 percent cut in heat-trapping emissions from new cars by 2012 and a 30 percent cut by 2016.
Individual vehicles wouldn't have to meet the standard. Instead, the standard is an average of all cars sold in the state. Some vehicles would be exempt.
The people clearly support Gov. Crist's clean cars proposal. But will that matter in the Legislature? Florida's tiny group of environmental lobbyists is outgunned by the legion of high-priced auto industry lobbyists who buy the ears of Florida legislators year in and year out.
From here, it looks like the automakers are using their billions in bailout money to fight for more fleets of gas guzzlers. That's what got them to the brink of bankruptcy in the first place and we should put a halt to it here and now.
- David Guest