This op-ed originally published on The Hill:
I try to teach my kids to stand up for what’s right. It’s only fair to hold American automakers to the same standard. That’s why I’m calling on GM, Ford, and Chrysler to stand up for America’s clean cars standards, and reject attacks on these commonsense protections.
GM, Ford, and Chrysler, together with their trade association the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, agreed to and supported these standards just a few years ago. Yet now, these safeguards are under threat of serious rollbacks. I would expect these American automakers to lead the defense of standards they helped craft.
Instead, acting through their trade association, they’re using shady science to justify weakening them, sowing doubt about the well-established and fairly basic scientific fact that air pollution is bad for your health. They’ve also cherry-picked from climate studies to cast doubt on the fact that climate change is real, and that burning less gasoline can help curb its worst effects.
The truth is that the science is unambiguous, on both fronts. Decades of scientific research have established that climate change is happening and is caused by people, and car pollution is a major contributor to this problem.
We also know that soot worsens respiratory and heart conditions, and increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Bad air can trigger asthma attacks and interfere with normal lung development. Children and the elderly are at particular risk. To claim otherwise is like saying that smoking cigarettes may not actually cause cancer.
Tailpipe pollution is a major contributor to harmful air pollution. So it’s especially egregious that GM, Ford, Chrysler, and other automakers are pushing a compilation of “research” that tries to deny the link between air pollution and its health impacts, and that they are quietly submitting this fringe science to government offices in an effort to loosen the rules keeping auto emissions in check.
Strong national clean car standards increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution. These standards are working, and they help families like mine save money at the pump. They protect my children’s lungs in the short term, and our planet’s climate in the long term. Controlling air pollution saves lives and helps address climate change. Major automakers should be capable of understanding that, too.
GM, Ford, and Chrysler go to great lengths to sell the public on their commitment to sustainability in their commercials. They say they recognize the threat posed by climate change. But their trade association doesn’t appear to be playing the same tune.
These car companies cannot hide behind the trade association they control. It is inexcusable to see any automaker endorse any claims — directly or indirectly — that suggest harmful air pollutants are not dangerous to American families, or to suggest that these claims — which lie far outside the scientific mainstream — should be the basis for national policy.
We moms spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Just as we depend on our family cars when we drive our kids to school, sports and activities, we want to be able to depend on American carmakers to have our backs in terms of children’s health and the environment. It’s time they stand up for clean car protections that improve gas mileage, address dangerous climate change, and contribute to better air quality — and make American moms proud.