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E-M:/ RE: / RE: Big Gulp

Enviro-Mich message from "Steven Wilcoxen" <sewil@med.umich.edu>

While you both bring up good points about life cycle analysis and the
community ethics of corporations, the topic seems to be unnecessarily
framed around automobiles.  The long term answer to our transportation
problems depends on weening our society from private auto use.  While we
can't do away with all large vehicles, most of our needs could be filled
by human powered or public transportation.  This will take a paradigm
shift in how we value mobility and land use.  Humans and the planet will
be healthier for the change.

Steven Wilcoxen
Research Associate
Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care
University of Michigan

>>> "Link, Terry" <link@mail.lib.msu.edu> 10/30/03 07:37AM >>>
Bill, and others  ,
I'm mostly a lurker and a poster of announcements and rarely enter the
fray around some of the issues that get aired here. Let me dare to
venture forth into this one.
I confess to a limited knowledge of the complexities of the issues. I
would argue that along with the environmental criteria Bill is
suggesting that be considered in a true life-cycle assessment of the
production of the autos in question, there also be a major social
component added. Whose employees are better cared for - salaries,
benefits, opportunities for advancement, ratio between salaries of
managers versus laborers, etc; How do these companies treat their
communities - investments, pollution, taxes, longevity, etc.; And how
much transportation is involved in the bringing of parts back and forth
across the planet. I don't know, but these are questions I feel should
be part of the sustainability equation.
What troubles me about the excuse from most of the auto companies (my
dad worked for Ford and Chrysler for a combined 35 years) about reacting
to the demand by consumers is they spend millions creating the demand.
When the first minivan was created, Chrysler spent a fortune marketing
the hell out of it. The same is true of the SUV, and the Pontiac
Transam, yada, yada, yada. The Toyota folks put almost nothing into
marketing the Prius. I see Ford is all of a sudden marketing the Focus.
They must need to bring up the fleet average fuel economy at the end of
the year. This is how my young family would buy the old Ford Escorts.
The lack of marketing is a major reason for the lack of consumer demand
for these types of vehicles. Until a company feels it has developed a
product and is willing to invest heavily in a marketing approach, they
will remain a small part of the market.
Doesn't anyone on this list think there is a market of a "green car"?
Now I know that begs the question of whether we should rely on either
non-fossil fueled vehicles, or mass transit, or other choices than
single-occupant vehicles. And if we have "greener cars" would we then
feel better about driving and thus negate the gains by driving more? You
see I have more questions than answers....
Terry Link, Director
Office of Campus Sustainability
525 S. Kedzie
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
-----Original Message-----
From: William Tobler [mailto:WilliamTobler@CrittersWoods.org] 
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 8:16 PM
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net 
Subject: E-M:/ RE: Big Gulp
As a Ford employee and an environmentalist (I hope this is not an
oxymoron), I do everything I can to influence the interests of higher
fuel economy within the scope of both my job and my personal life.  And
I get very frustrated about this.  And NO, I have no influence on
decisions to build this or that.  However, the grim reality is that Ford
is in business, first to survive, and also hopefully to make some profit
again some day.  You may have read about the struggling to meet the
first objective, and of the many thousands and thousands of jobs lost to
valued employees.  The other reality is the Toyota's Prius sold only
about 15,000 units in the entire United States last year, and I believe
this was with substantial tax incentives to help Toyota sell these cars.
 Given that there was essentially no competition, this is not a
resounding marketplace endorsement.  I have read about the hoopla of the
Prius II, and IF the numbers are true, then Toyota is to be
congratulated on their technical achievement.  However, I have yet to
find anything but technical pap regarding the means used to achieve the
It is much to early to see if the American marketplace will make this a
financial success as well.  Success in the Tokyo market doesn't really
mean much.
I wonder if anyone has had the chance to do the entire environmental
assessment from cradle to grave?  I truly have not seen one.  This not
only includes energy consumption from cradle to grave including
manufacturing and disposal, but also the reality that batteries and
electronics are not exactly environmentally clean on the manufacturing
and disposal ends of the process.  Another issue is repair and
environmental costs involving battery pack replacement.  Without a
strong battery pack, the Prius concept doesn't work.  I believe an
average car today lasts substantially longer than any existing battery
technology.  Battery replacement, you know, is a little bit more than a
couple of EverReadies.  Will old Priuses go to the junkyard early?  At
what total environmental cost?  I haven't seen these assessments; but I
also expect that it won't come out too pretty from an environmental
The bottom line is that Ford as a manufacturer will go where they
perceive and find profitability. Profitability comes from consumer
demand.  You may have noticed that Toyota is getting into the big car,
big SUV, big truck market more and more.  Why?  Where is your criticism
of that move?
I would suggest that instead of beating up on only Ford, that you beat
up on Toyota for moving to larger vehicles, and you beat up on GM for
making Hummers, and you beat up on Daimler Chrysler for making 1000 HP
cars.  And most of all, you should beat up on the American consumer for
his/her preference for these behemoths.  How about an educational
campaign to bring about a substantial consumer demand for a fuel
efficient but well built car?  Genuine demand that will support pricing
so that any company can actually afford to make them without taxpayer
Ford is not without blame, but it is not nearly as lopsided as you
present.  Yeah, I know. We're in league with the oil companies
surpressing the 60mpg carburetor.

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