Photo on MoveOn.org: Toyota, Stop Opposing Clean EnergyEnlarge Photo
Here at GreenCarReports.com, sometimes we get e-mails that make us scratch our heads.
For instance, why would advocacy group Plug In America target Toyota, which offers the popular 2010 Prius? Why would it slam the world's undisputed leader in hybrid-car development, the company that made two-thirds of the 2 million hybrids on the roads today?
Granted, Toyota has proceeded more slowly than other carmakers on plug-in vehicles. But it formally launched its Prius plug-in hybrid last month, and plans to release small volumes of that car to fleets before the end of the year. So what's the problem?
2010 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid ConceptEnlarge Photo
Initial testing of Toyota’s plug-in hybrid system installed in the second-gen Prius has returned fuel-economy figures of 65mpgEnlarge Photo
Toyota Prius plug-in hybridEnlarge Photo
2008 Prius Plug-in Hybrid prototypeEnlarge Photo
Chamber of Commerce vs climate change
Turns out that it's not really about hybrids. It's about efforts to address climate change, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes rather vigorously.
The Chamber recently commented on draft legislation on the issue in the Senate, saying it would drive up business costs, and it opposes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency efforts to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
Total destruction of the US? Really?
In fact, says the Chamber, greenhouse-gas regulations would be such "a job killer" that they would "completely shut the country down" and "virtually destroy the United States".
Gracious! It's that old end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it problem, again.
Exodus gathers steam
This might not all be so surprising except that a number of prominent global companies, including such global industrial stalwarts as General Electric, are vociferously and publicly protesting the Chamber's stance.
They say, in essence, that the science behind climate change is now accepted. They feel efforts to stall legislation only delay progress and add to their uncertainty in planning for a future in which lowering carbon emissions is just part of standard business activity.
Two large California utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric and Exelon, resigned their Chamber memberships entirely. So did Nike. Apple followed earlier this month.
Toyota owners, unite!
Plug In America is particularly irked at the Chamber's latest efforts, which it calls "a $100-million campaign to pour millions into killing clean energy via its lobbying efforts" that target both the Administration's energy bill and its health-care reform efforts.
The group has asked plug-in hybrid supporters--especially those who own Toyotas--to join an action staged by advocacy group MoveOn.org that urges the company to resign its Chamber of Commerce membership as a protest of these efforts.
Phase I: Owner, sign, make & model photo
The action page on MoveOn.org offers a sign template that Toyota owners can print out, saying, "Toyota: Stop Opposing Clean Energy". It includes a space for the owner's name and the year and model of the Toyota they own.
More than 800 photos of owners who've made signs and photographed themselves can be found on MoveOn's Flickr page.
Phase II: Letters to the editor
Now, Plug In America has moved into a second phase. It has joined MoveOn's latest action, asking supporters to send letters to their local newspapers that urge Toyota to resign from the Chamber.
And, adds the plug-in group, writers should also demand that Toyota "stop stalling" on plug-in vehicles and "immediately commit" to putting a plug-in hybrid on sale to retail consumers.
Chamber remains intransigent
The Chamber of Commerce, however, is hardly backing away from its stance. In a confrontational letter last week, COO David Chavern attributed the actions by PG&E, Nike, Apple and others to organizing by "our normal adversaries", including green groups.
The letter said the Chamber will continue to fight efforts to "force us to do things against the best interests of the business community," and cited its more than 3 million members among businesses large and small.
So on one side, we have the Chamber of Commerce digging in its heels. On the other, we have grassroots plug-in hybrid advocates allying with some strange bedfellows, including global multinational corporations--albeit perhaps the more progressive members of that group.
Fasten your seat belts. This could be a bumpy ride.