Phil lashes out at the anti-SUV movement

ATLANTA – As economists and the government attempt to solve America’s unemployment woes, the rest of us should be aware that there is an environmental movement that threatens thousands of American jobs – the anti-SUV movement.

The auto industry is responsible for creating and/or maintaining roughly 6.6 million jobs nationwide, more than 5 percent of all private sector jobs in the United States today. And, unless you haven’t parked at your local grocery store or driven on the highway in the last 10 years, you will not be surprised to find that light trucks (pickups, vans and SUVs) are one of the fastest-growing segments of that industry. They account for hundreds of thousands of direct manufacturing jobs in the United States, not to mention the thousands of supporting jobs.
Similarly, sales growth of this category has far surpassed that of passenger cars – today accounting for more than 25 percent of total new-vehicle sales. From kids and groceries to equipment and tools, Americans have chosen light trucks because they make transportation and transporting easier. With such remarkable growth, it’s easy, then, to recognize that SUVs, vans and pickups contribute a great deal to the U.S. economy.

Yet American-made auto manufacturers and their customers find themselves under attack. Environmentalists relentlessly label them terrorists and un-American.

These attacks are doing little to preserve or improve the environment. Rather, they will put hard-working, middle-income men and women on the unemployment line and create new jobs and economic growth overseas.

Despite a 75 percent increase in fuel efficiency of SUVs, vans and pickups over the past 10 years, environmental groups continue to try to remove these vehicles from the road. Interestingly, according to Air Improvement Resource Inc., removing SUVs from the road would do very little to improve the environment. In fact, if not one single SUV were sold in America over the next 10 years, emissions would drop only 0.2 percent.

So why has this become the cause célèbre in Hollywood and among environmentalists? Good question. But the more important question should be if there is little environmental benefit, who stands to gain from removing American-made SUVs from the road?

Detroit’s competitors are the likely suspects behind this thinly veiled “environmental” movement. Today, campaigns target the “Big Three” and their American work force – despite similar fuel economy and emissions from Detroit’s foreign competitors. In fact, it seems like every time you pick up the paper these days, environmentalists are attacking American-made vehicles while pitching foreign hybrid alternatives.

Detroit has always been a powerful engine for our economy and a dependable provider of jobs for tens of thousands of Americans. At a time when jobs can be hard to come by, environmentalists are making it their life’s work to help our foreign auto competitors at the expense of U.S. autoworkers. That’s not pro-environment; it’s just downright un-American.

Phil Kent is the author of The Dark Side of Liberalism: Unchaining the Truth (Harbor House, 2003)