Ford Called Out for Undermining Fuel Standards While Promoting Sustainability

Ford, automakers, fuel efficiency, CAFE standards, EPA, Leon Kaye, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, fuel economy
The Ford booth at the 2018 CES show in Las Vegas

Yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, activists from Public Citizen and Greenpeace attempted to give Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett a “2018 Hypocrisy Award.” Both NGOs complain that although Ford promotes a positive message when it comes to environmental sustainability, its membership in the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and “working with the Trump administration to undermine fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards” demonstrate otherwise.

Public Citizen and Greenpeace have been critical of reports that the Alliance and other automobile trade groups had pushed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks manufactured between 2022 and 2025.

“Despite how much Ford tries, there’s no disguising its backward push to stymie innovation and bring consumers pollution-belching, pocketbook-draining guzzlers,” said Madeline Page, campaign coordinator with Public Citizen. “In September, we called on Ford to back up its sustainability claims with action by no longer participating in efforts by the Alliance to undo the clean car standards. But since then, Ford’s lobbyists have met with the Trump administration and even testified before Congress to roll back the safeguards.”

Public Citizen said photos of the attempt to give Hackett the back-handed award will be posted online, though as of press time the only image publicly available is a low-resolution graphic explaining what the award means.

When TriplePundit asked Ford to comment, the company either refused to take the bait or skirted the issue, depending on one’s perspective. Ford also highlighted the work it is doing to develop technologies to make progress on both road safety and the environment.

“We believe global climate change is real, and we are committed to reducing emissions from our vehicles and our factories. There is also an important opportunity to further reduce CO2 emissions as we move into a world of smart vehicles and smart environments,” said a Ford spokesperson. “These new mobility solutions will make a significant positive impact on the environment by taking vehicles off of roads while helping people move more safely, confidently and freely. We remain focused on continued progress for the environment.”

Another Ford representative expressed surprise to 3p that Ford was being singled out, when every automobile company with manufacturing operations in the U.S. is represented equally by the Alliance.

In a series of public statements, the Alliance says its emphasis is on harmonizing fuel economy regulations issued by both the EPA and National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA).

“Automakers could comply with requirements under the EPA program and still face fines from NHTSA for the same product portfolio because of the different structure of the CAFE [corporate average fuel economy] program,” the Alliance said in an October 2017 public statement.

The trade group in recent months has been vocal in its support of electric vehicle and fuel cell tax credits; it has also pushed for a regulatory environment that will be more conducive for further research and testing of autonomous vehicles.

But Greenpeace and Public Citizen see the Alliance and its member companies not as innovators, but as lobbyists trying to undo climate efforts.

“At this critical moment for the climate, we need companies like Ford to do a whole lot more than pay lip-service to the public – we need them to lead,” said Natalie Nava, a project leader at Greenpeace USA.

Image credit: Ford

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Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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