cars don't cause pollution, toasters do.
- http://tinyurl.com/2bkca (Link is to the NYT)
DETROIT, June 24 - A new series of whimsical public
service announcements from the Environmental
Protection Agency are lampooning the notion that cars
can be made more energy efficient while the ads
encourage conservation at home.
A top E.P.A. official said the $1 million campaign was
developed by a branch of the agency that specializes
in energy-saving home appliances and was not intended
to send a message about cars. But it comes at a time
of heightened awareness of oil consumption and energy
security, and despite the fact that many analysts say
consumers can make their greatest single contribution
to air quality when choosing a car.
It also comes less than two months after an E.P.A.
report emphasized how much more fuel efficient new
cars and trucks were in the mid-1980's. The E.P.A.'s
transportation division was not consulted for the new
public service announcements, the E.P.A. official,
Brian McLean, said, despite the fact that a car plays
a starring role.
In a 60-second version of the public service
announcement, a woman named Suzanne says she is
concerned about pollution and global warming, but
laments the homegrown efforts of her husband, Mark, to
cut emissions from the family car. Mark - nerdy,
pudgy, harried - is shown rigging up their car, first
with a sail, then a microwave contraption using huge
satellite dishes, and finally a helium tank with a
"The E.P.A. says the energy we use in our home can
cause twice the greenhouse gases of a car," Suzanne
says, adding that she has started buying energy-saving
Buying a cleaner car, or say, a smaller sport utility
vehicle, does not appear to be a viable alternative
for reducing emissions. The ad ends with a shot of
Mark pushing the car down a hill and Suzanne saying,
"He still marches to the beat of a different drum." At
one point, the car fills with helium, Mark starts
talking like Mickey Mouse and two men in the backseat
shake their heads and say "Genius!"
Indeed, as the E.P.A. says, energy use at home can
cause twice the emissions of a single car. But most
families have more than one car and emit roughly the
same amount of global warming gases in their vehicles
as in their homes, said David Friedman, senior policy
analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an
environmental research and advocacy group.
"With a car, you can cut your fuel use in half by
using a hybrid," he said. "You're not likely to cut
your electricity use in half by using more efficient
Mr. McLean, the E.P.A.'s director of the Office of
Atmospheric Programs, said, "We were just trying to
give people a benchmark."
"If you have two cars," he added, "they would be
The ads were made by the New York office of Foote,
Cone & Belding, part of the Interpublic Group of
Companies. They promote the 12-year-old Energy Star
program, which allows manufacturers to earn a special
label if their products meet stringent emissions
Mr. Friedman and other environmentalists praise the
program, which is part of Mr. McLean's office. But
they wonder why new public service announcements set
up saving energy at home in opposition to saving
energy on the road.
"The practical way to stop pollution is for the Bush
administration to advance energy savings for homes
without pushing the auto and oil industry's line that
we can't improve pollution from cars," said Daniel
Becker, director for the global-warming and energy
program at the Sierra Club.
Mr. McLean said "many people are not aware that the
things they do in their homes could have an effect on
"Its intent was to say, 'Did you know this?' " he
He said that the campaign was reviewed by various
officials at E.P.A., but added: "There wasn't a lot of
consultation with transportation on it. They don't
consult with us about how to promote homes."
In a shorter version of the ad, Mark's car sails down
the road - literally - while a narrator says, "there
is a practical way to reduce air pollution." Viewers
are then directed to a Web site that lists energy-
efficient furnaces, computers and dishwashers - in
fact, just about everything but cars.
The government does provide detailed information on
emissions that come from the tailpipes of specific
vehicle models, at the Web site www.fueleconomy.gov.
For instance, most versions of the Ford Expedition
emit more than 12 tons of global warming gases each
year, in average driving conditions, according to the
site. By contrast, the smaller Ford Escape S.U.V.
In late April, the latest version of the E.P.A.'s
annual fuel economy trends report showed that it would
not take innovative technology - not to mention sails
or microwaves - to improve vehicle efficiency. In
fact, new cars and trucks would be 20 percent more
fuel efficient if they simply had not become so much
heavier and faster since the mid-1980's, the report's
executive summary stated.
The ads underscore how far Washington has diverged
from California and Canada on auto regulations. Last
week, California released an initial draft of a plan
to cut automotive emissions of global warming gases by
nearly 30 percent, a strategy sharply different from
that of the Bush administration, which has withdrawn
from a global accord on curbing such emissions.
California, which has long battled smog, has the
unique authority to set its own air quality rules, and
other states are permitted to follow its air
Canada also appears poised for tougher auto
regulations. This week, ahead of national elections
next week, the Conservative Party joined a call by
other parties for a 25 percent increase in Canada's
fuel economy standards, which now mirror those of the
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