Roland Hwang: It's time for activists to stop being shrill.
A TV commercial produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council avoids simple altruism. Instead, it pitches a business case for the gasoline-saving vehicles.
"Do it for jobs lead the industry put American know-how to work," the commercial says. It was shown on local cable TV in the Detroit area during the North American International Auto Show in January.
Roland Hwang, the council's vehicles policy director, says it is time for activists to stop being shrill. So the council is asking Congress to grant tax credits to Detroit automakers who convert obsolete factories to build hybrids.
The liberal lobbying group is even meeting with right-wing groups who want to increase national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. The strange bedfellows can gain by pooling their resources for the common goal of fuel economy.
"This is not just coming from the left," Hwang says.
Hwang still can't resist a jab at the automakers. "I will praise Toyota for its hybrid technology," he says. "But it is using it in a way that enhances performance at the expense of fuel savings. It calls into question whether they are really walking the walk."
The company is marketing the Lexus RX 400h hybrid SUV more for its 7.3-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration than for its 30-mpg efficiency.
Counters Dave Hermance, an environmental engineer for Toyota Technical Center U.S.A.: "You put hybrids on everything for maximum fuel efficiency and you'll put yourself out of business. We want to do a number of different flavors of hybrids. Then there's more chance to be accepted by the American consumer."
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