Skip to main content

The State of California filed suit yesterday against General Motors, Ford, the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler, Toyota Motor, Honda Motor, and Nissan Motor.  The contention of the complaint is that under federal and state common law the automakers have created a public nuisance by producing millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer pegged current damages at ``tens of millions of dollars.'' He said the amount could grow as the lawsuit fight continues over time.

This is now the second legal battle between California and automakers.  There is currently a suit filed by automakers in the U.S. District Court in Fresno to block implementation of California's new law regulating greenhouse gas emissions, on the grounds that California lacks the jurisdiction to regulate interstate commerce.  There is also a case pending for the Supreme Court, between Massachusets and the EPA over whether the Federal government should be required to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.  That case will be heard this coming session.

``Money is being spent in our regulatory system preparing for small disruptions in the water supply due to the smaller snow pack, saltwater intrusion of the water supply, beach erosion,'' Lockyer said in an interview Wednesday. ``There is a lot of spending that is already ongoing that we are claiming. The point is, taxpayers shouldn't pay for those damages, the industry should.''

So, the questions are, is it the cars which cause global warming, or the people who drive them, and can the automakers even be reasonably blamed for the effects of the proper, legal use of their product to begin with?

According to Lockyer, automobiles account for 30% of carbon dioxide emissions in the air in California, while nationwide, they account for 20%.  But that other 70% becomes very tricky.  An average cow produces half of the carbon dioxide emissions of the average car.  Are meat and dairy consumers or farmers contributing to the "public nuisance" of global warming?  What about population?  In one year, the average person produces 5% of the carbon dioxide emissions of an automobile.  Since surely people themselves are not a public nuisance, does this justify the state placing legal limits on reproduction?

And of course, this ought to go without saying, but what about the consumers of these automobiles?  Aren't they responsible for using a product that contributes to the detriment of the entire community?  Is it fair to blame GM and not consumers when GM marketed an electric car in California, only to see it not sell?  Is it fair to blame Ford when millions of residents of Los Angeles have access to mass transit yet choose to sit on the 405?

I'm on record here as being opposed to an increase in the gasoline tax.  But I'd support that long before I supported this.  Can anyone explain to me how this isn't the most frivolous lawsuit imaginable?

Originally posted to Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 10:49 AM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for reading (11+ / 0-)

    And one more question: how long before Congress enacts legislation protecting automobile manufacturers from lawsuits of this type?

    I put the over/under at nine months.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 10:50:10 AM PDT

  •  Could they really be able to do this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gator Keyfitz, Jay Elias

    if they knowingly allowed car dealorships as businesses in their state, built a gazillion roads and highways and registered cars to people in California knowing those cars were producing massive quantities of carbon dioxide?

    I'd think they'd have to sue themselves for being part of the problem.

    Home is where the cat is

    by HK on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 10:54:52 AM PDT

  •  Would Big Tobacco be analogous (0+ / 0-)

    People sueing Phillip-Morris because 50 years later they have cancer or other lung diseases?

    •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

      ...Phillip Morris lied, under oath, and intentionally, as internal documents revealed.  While I still don't really agree with the findings in those lawsuits, I don't think there was any similar attempt to conceal that cars emit carbon dioxide.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 10:57:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe guns then (0+ / 0-)

        There have been some lawsuits against gun manufacturers, who as far as I know haven't lied and said their guns can't shoot anybody.

      •  But they've fought efforts to produce (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elwood Dowd, esquimaux

        enviro-friendly vehicles. Lots of SUV's built and sold since Global Warming came on the radar.

        "Mr. President, Stay the Course is a not a strategy, it's a slogan..." Nancy Pelosi - David Letterman 8/22/06

        by PatsBard on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:03:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe not (2+ / 0-)

        But there has been an active campaign to minimize the risks associated with CO2 emmissions.

        Also, two of your questions require affirmative answers:

        Is it fair to blame GM and not consumers when GM marketed an electric car in California, only to see it not sell?

        Yes, you need to watch "Who Killed the Electric Car" to understand this fully, but GM did everything possible to fight the ZEV mandate, and when they finally killed it, they promptly recalled and destroyed every EV1.

        Is it fair to blame Ford when millions of residents of Los Angeles have access to mass transit yet choose to sit on the 405?

        I assume you have heard the (possibly apocryphal) story of how GM and Standard Oil colluded to buy up the electric rail lines in LA and convert them to buses?

        Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some... farcical aquatic ceremony!

        by imatlas on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:08:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do know that story.. (0+ / 0-)

          ....and it isn't just in LA, but throughout the nation.

          That being said, that was in concert with local and state governments, and before anyone had even imagined global warming.  This isn't like knowingly selling a carcinogen, like with tobacco.

          The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

          by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:09:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I dont understand the interstate commerce (0+ / 0-)

    regulation part of it.  If a state can prohibit the sale of, say, absinthe or wine by mail, or cigarettes to minors or a myriad of other things, why cant the state prohibit the sale of engines that emit a given amount of carbon dioxide above a certain limit?

    Republicans are jokes, wrapped in lies inside a cloud of obfuscation.

    by calipygian on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:01:24 AM PDT

    •  Because motor vehicles are used... (0+ / 0-)

      ...to transport goods over state lines.  So California would in effect be saying that all transportation of goods in and out of the state has to meet California's emissions standards, rather than the current situation, which is that vehicles need to pass emissions tests in their state of registration and full faith and credit applies thereafter.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:03:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My initial reaction is this is extortion. (0+ / 0-)

    but maybe there's an upside? let's see:  the auto co.'s law firms will make millions in fees defending this suit, not to set a precedent, which is key.  So more rich lawyers! that's a plus; not enough of those ;)

    Oh, even if auto cos. win, the fees will be passed on to the consumers -- increasing taxes somehow, so that's a plus for the state, maybe?

    And, who's left, --- ah, maybe auto workers who lose their jobs as more auto cos. off-shore to avoid future liability? they'll feel warm and fuzzy for helping foreign workers.

    And, of course, if the State of CA wins, auto cos. may think twice before in-source their plants here.

    Did I miss anything? ;)

    'If Kos hadn't changed the rating protocol, I'd "3" you upside the head -- old school.' PBJ Diddy

    by PhillyGal on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:04:56 AM PDT

  •  cows produce methane (2+ / 0-)
    not Co2. no?

    about a half a pound of methan per pound of beef.

  •  Here is the political play (6+ / 0-)

    on all of this.  The timing is deliberate.  Arnold is set to have an ellaborate signing ceremony for the global warming bill in the next few days.  Lockyer totally undercut him with this annoucement.  It was a smart move and one I haven't seen out of the CA Dems in a while.

  •  I sort of agree (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HK, Jay Elias, GeoGrl

    Legislation is the best way to handle this sort of thing, rather than the legal avenue.  It just makes California seem like some sort of giant protection racket.  "Yeah, we built them freeways.  What of it?  You sold cars for people to drive around on them: now pay up!"  This sort of attitude to industries based outside the state also invites obvious retaliation against California produce (spinach anyone?) and movies, so it might even be self-defeating in the end.

    But, of course, if they actually passed a law interfering with people driving what they want, the legislature would be voted out in a heartbeat.

    I'm pretty much an environmental voter, but I still think suing car companies state by state is rank opprtunism and way ineffective.  

    No one likes armed missionaries. -- Robespierre.

    by Gator Keyfitz on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:07:59 AM PDT

    •  they already have passed (0+ / 0-)

      laws in CA regarding what people drive.  My car would not pass their emissions test.  Actually I think they said any car older than a certain year would not be allowed and they wanted to have them all junked, excepting of course strictly show cars.  I wonder if that passed...

      Home is where the cat is

      by HK on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:13:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I lived in CA (0+ / 0-)

        You just had to pay some penalty if you had a car that wouldn't pass.  The car I briefly had when I lived there was a 1968 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, like 22 feet long, that had been used to tow trailers by a farmer.  No way it was gonna pass.  IIRC, this was, like, 1991, my choice was to pay the penalty or not register the car (I decided instead to sell it to a guy who drove it in a demolition derby as "The Saddam DeVille!").  Perhaps the law is stricter now?  

        No one likes armed missionaries. -- Robespierre.

        by Gator Keyfitz on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:25:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  We did try legislation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gator Keyfitz

      California passed a law in 2002 to regulate CO2 emissions, and the automakers sued to block it. That case is about heard in the next session, so the timing of this looks like a countersuit to pressure the automakers to settle before it goes to trial.

  •  Electric cars (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eugene, Jay Elias, esquimaux

    Is it fair to blame GM and not consumers when GM marketed an electric car in California, only to see it not sell?

    Not an accurate rendering of what happened.  It was nearly impossible to get one of these cars - they didn't "not sell."  GM did all it could to make these NOT sell.  (In fact, you could only lease them, you couldn't buy them anyway.)

    Link

    General Motors is pulling the plug on its electric car. The company never sold it, it only leased the car and is now demanding every EV1 be returned.

    •  Thanks.. (0+ / 0-)

      ...I was unfamiliar with that story, being a non-driver myself.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:12:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Should also add (0+ / 0-)

        From Wikipedia on the EV1:

        Despite unfulfilled waiting lists and positive feedback from the lessees, GM stated that it could not sell enough of the cars to make the EV1 profitable.

        I knew people who got on the list to get one.  The list was something like 2 years long.  GM claimed no one wanted them but they were nearly impossible to come by.

  •  cows and cars (0+ / 0-)

    I guess the difference is that cows have to breathe; I don't think you could breed a cow to have smaller lungs so it exhales less CO2 (mebbe there's a way to get them to fart less methane though!) without the cow getting dizzy and fainting on the way to the milking machine.
    Cars though can be made to run efficiently or inefficiently. So maybe Lockyer could sue over the difference in emissions between what we could have with existing technology (less) and what we actually get (more).

    I'm guessing it's all just for show though.
    Which office is Lockyer going to run for in 2008?
    After that we can go after farmers who don't inoculate their cattle with bacteria that digest methane to hydrogen ...

  •  This seems analagous (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eugene

    to suing a car company that knowingly built and marketed a line of cars with safety flaws.

    The arguments being made here could be made in that situation, too.

    •  Except... (0+ / 0-)

      ...you'll find that nowhere in the cause of action is there any argument that they knowingly marketed any vehicle with a safety flaw, or attempted to conceal the emissions of their product from the public.

      If I sold you a fake car seat, and told you explicitly that it is not a real car seat, and then you used it as a car seat and it failed, then I cannot be sued for selling you a defective item.  A safety flaw is a defective item.  These worked as they should.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:19:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not the argument (3+ / 0-)

        The car companies have been dragging their feet for decades on producing cars that emit less pollution per passenger mile. They have lobbied Congress to keep the COLA standards limited and out-of-date, and to use the tax code to incent purchase of SUVs rather than smaller cars.

        By design choices, technology choices, and political weight they have ensured that our alternatives in the market are more limited than they would be in a truly competitive industry. And one result is higher pollution that kills a lot of Californians every year.

        •  Well.. (0+ / 0-)

          ...they have a right to lobby, as does Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.  Moreover, there are cars that well exceed the COLA standards on the market.  

          I agree utterly on the incentives for SUV purchases, but I think it is sure swell that the government gets to take their lobbying dollars, pass the shit law the automakers want, and then turn around and sue the guys who were bribing them.

          The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

          by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:36:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I know libertarians (0+ / 0-)

            think of "the government" as one big monstrous entity, but the people taking the lobbying dollars are federal officials, and the people suing are state officials, who didn't get that money.

            •  State officials get lobbied too... (0+ / 0-)

              ...and since states set their emissions standards for registrations, I think that is a significant area of lobbying for these interests.

              The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

              by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:41:43 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  is it fair to blame "consumers" ie: drivers (3+ / 0-)

    when the democratic concensus of infrastructure and city development over the past 50+ years has been around the privately driven automobile?

    how much choice do people really have? a very small percentage of people live in a location where they can take care of their daily needs without a car. this is due to transportation decisions and spending made at the national level throughout the century. the largest public works project ever in this country; the national US defense highway system, is just the largest example, but there are many others.

    we are only now starting to reconsider these ideas.

    •  if the *democratic* (0+ / 0-)

      consensus is in favor of the automobile, then it is certainly fair (indeed, necessary) to blame consumers/drivers/citizens. Only when cars are forced down the throat of the public can one blame anyone else.

  •  BTW I have never (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhillyGal, CarmenC

    consumed an automobile.  I have purchased and operated one, but after watching the episode of MASH where Klinger tried to get a Section 8 by eating a jeep, I was convinced that they are not appetizing.

    Good diary, I figure Lockyer is trying to become the next Spitzer.

    The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

    by deathsinger on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:26:08 AM PDT

  •  Jay, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eugene, Floja Roja

    I don't think it's frivolous at all. I think it's absolutely the right of the State of California to sue them for that. As far as the consumer of the automobiles is concerned...who is to say that if the auto industry offered a Hummer that got 40 miles to the gallon, the consumer wouldn't buy that over the Hummer that gets 8 mpg...

    See An Inconvenient Truth and you'll see the chart that shows that EVERY other country that manufactures cars in the world has CAFE standards higher than ours. Ford and GM wonder why they're losing money? They're the ONLY car manufacturers that can't export the cars they make here because the cars don't meet the standards of other countries.

    Frankly, I think Big Oil and the Auto industry are in bed together. I think they have been for quite some time. I simply can't see another reason why the auto industry would ignore the market's request for automobiles that get better mileage.

    I wish Illinois could sue too...they clearly aren't going to make the changes on their own...why shouldn't we be able to force them to. Their choices are ruining the environment and placing the American people in danger...the government (state or federal) has a right to protect its infrastructure and citizens.

    •  Wait a second.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elise

      ...you're telling me that if the states and the Federal government won't pass higher CAFE standards, that somehow this is the automakers fault?

      Because, of course, we can force them to.  We have state and federal legislatures.  Moreover, we also choose to live this way.  No one holds a gun to anyone's head and forces them to buy a Hummer, Elise.  People have to want one.  Quite a bit, if you check out the price tag.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:33:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes (0+ / 0-)

        if the states and the Federal government won't pass higher CAFE standards, that somehow this is the automakers fault?

        Yes, because they invest huge sums lobbying to keep the government from changing the standards.

        IIRC, the federal govt won't let the states pass their own CAFE standards. The existing CA law is about emissions.

        The Four Horsemen of Bushism: War, Corruption, Hypocrisy and Greed

        by esquimaux on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:49:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Okay... (0+ / 0-)

          ...so if they lobby legally, and achieve their desired result, this is actionable civilly?

          That doesn't add up somehow.  Either they broke a law in how they lobbied, or their lobbying was not improper and therefore not actionable.

          The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

          by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:51:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  But the point here was that California (0+ / 0-)

        did raise their CAFE standards...and the automakers sued because they didn't want to comply with those standards. This lawsuit was filed by the State of California as a response to the lawsuit filed against them by the automakers...

        so in this case the automakers are actually at fault for refusing to comply. I think THIS lawsuit was filed to show the automakers that California isn't giving up and that they'll take the initial case regarding CAFE standards all the way to the Supreme Court and if they can't get court approval to require automakers to change standards, then they're proving their willingness to sue for damages instead.

        The message, I think, was: "You'll pay either way, so you may as well do the right thing."

        I agree with you on your point...if the legislature hadn't passed increased CAFE standards I would think this lawsuit a bit more frivolous...but because they DID and autos sued...I think they're perfectly right to send a message this way.

        Then again, this does seem like a "mafia-style" threat...but I'm from Chicago...so perhaps that's in my nature.

        •  Sure... (0+ / 0-)

          ...but as strong of a proponent of states' rights as I am, this is clearly an interstate commerce issue.  If I can drive my truck in 47 other continental American states, but not California, then that's a Federal issue.

          I'm not in love with the automakers, Elise.  I don't even drive.  But that's a long way from supporting this sort of state legal action, being funded by the taxpayers, naturally.

          The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

          by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 02:33:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, I see your point... (0+ / 0-)

            I wonder though...how many states would have to jump to adopt Cali's CAFE standards before you'd be willing to say that they have the right to sue?

            I mean...what if 5 states wanted the same standards?
            or 10? or 20? At what point does it become okay?

            Consider my other point (which I think I made below in response to someone else...would it be okay for California to refuse to sell American made automobiles in their state entirely? If they want only cars with high CAFE standards from this day forward, could they kick automakers out who refuse to comply and then simply import cars from other countries that share their CAFE standards?

            •  Sorry I didn't see this earlier... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Elise

              ...I went to a concert last night, and now I'm getting ready to leave town for a few days.

              I doubt it.  I think it would still be interstate commerce to prohibit the sale of cars in California which can legally be sold in the other states.  I'm not sure, but that would be my instict.  Also, I don't see how California could prevent cars bought in other states from being brought into California, and so on.

              The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

              by Jay Elias on Fri Sep 22, 2006 at 10:10:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Shaky ground (0+ / 0-)

      I think that the State is on shaky legal ground and going to end up losing this fight very badly.  CAFE standards are mandated by the federal gov't, not the auto industry or the marketers.  Auto manufacturers have complied with existing regulations.  While they have used the courts to fight some regulation and have lobbied for favorable legislation, that is their right, just like any other group.  I just don't see where they have broken an existing law.

      Yes, the current car culture sucks and we need better, more efficient means of transportation.  Yes, it is a political problem, not a scientific problem.  But the auto industry isn't forcing you or I to buy that gas guzzling SUV and lead a highly consumptive lifestyle. Yes, the auto industry cares more about $$ than the environment and so do many other industries.

      I'm not in love with the auto industry, but I also think this is a poor choice for the State of CA to pursue.

      •  But don't states have the right to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Floja Roja

        legislate their own CAFE standards if they want to? Especially since California is the size that it is...with as many people as it has...

        I think the state has every right to legislate higher CAFE standards than the Feds...if the auto industry doesn't want to meet the standards...then they don't need to sell cars in California. California can simply import cars with the appropriate CAFE standards from other countries...afterall, EVERY other country has higher CAFE standards than we do.

        •  Nope (0+ / 0-)

          That authority currently rests solely with the feds.

          But, again, the auto industry is in compliance with the current standards.  Yes, our CAFE standards suck, but suing the manufacturers isn't the way to improve them.  Congress has to improve those standards.

          •  fyi (0+ / 0-)

            from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report to Congress, May 9, 2006:

            Under the Clean Air Act, California is permitted to establish its own pollutant emissions standards for automobiles, as long as those standards are at least as stringent as the federal standard. However, there is no current federal standard for greenhouse gas emissions; federal standards focus on pollutants with direct effects on air quality and health, including ground-levelozone (smog)and carbon monoxide. Critics challenge that greenhouse gases are not pollutants, and that the greenhouse gas standard is a de facto fuel economy standard, since reducing emissions of carbon dioxide — the key greenhouse gas — requires reductions in fuel consumption.

            Under CAFE, states do not have the authority to set their own standards; authority remains solely with the federal government. California has countered that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and that there are considerable health effects from global warming.

            Several auto manufacturers and dealers have challenged the California auto greenhouse gas standard in court. The plaintiffs argue that California lacks the authority to set a fuel economy standard under CAFE, and that greenhouse gases are not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. California officials maintain that they have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

  •  Some Responses (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jay Elias

    o, the questions are, is it the cars which cause global warming, or the people who drive them, and can the automakers even be reasonably blamed for the effects of the proper, legal use of their product to begin with?

    Cars or people? --both.

    Automakers blamed? --Certainly in part, because they've long politicked against environmental and efficiency regulations.

    "Legal use?" IANAL. But I think as with tobacco, that if a maker knows that a legal product is creating harm and hides the information or actively lobbies against regulatory legislation, they could be liable for damages to some extent.

    And of course, this ought to go without saying, but what about the consumers of these automobiles?  Aren't they responsible for using a product that contributes to the detriment of the entire community?

    Yes, in part, to the extent they have free choice for better alternatives. But the auto makers and suppliers conspired to help dismantle mass transit alternatives generations ago, across the country. So the consumers' choices are limited.

    Consumers don't own the economy any more, as they did when our frontier-oriented system of government was devised. Consumers now have no ability to create mainstream product or service alternatives.

    Can anyone explain to me how this isn't the most frivolous lawsuit imaginable?

    Sure.

    Lyndon LaRouche wants to legislate orchestral concert pitch down below A=440 Hz as a matter of law. I'm imagining that if he were to file a lawsuit over this issue, it would be far more frivolous than California's suit against the auto companies.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:35:07 AM PDT

  •  May Be a Legitimate Suit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eugene

    GM and Ford have been alleged to have conspired to mislead people about the reality of global warming.  Should that action or other similar actions be proven to be the case, they would have moved from innocent party to a shared problem (your assumption in this diary) to beneficiaries of ill-gotten gain.

    Such activity would be more than grounds for a class action lawsuit.  Not enough known at this point to assume either way.

    •  That's interesting.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elise

      ...I find the premise of this sort of direct funding of the CEI somewhat doubtful (since there isn't any reason to doubt that the CEI would be into this anyways, and there is no prohibition of funding projects by people you know are sympathetic to you), but if they could be shown to have knowingly concealed facts, that would be a far different lawsuit.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:40:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh don't even go there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eugene, Floja Roja

    And of course, this ought to go without saying, but what about the consumers of these automobiles?  Aren't they responsible for using a product that contributes to the detriment of the entire community?  Is it fair to blame GM and not consumers when GM marketed an electric car in California, only to see it not sell?  Is it fair to blame Ford when millions of residents of Los Angeles have access to mass transit yet choose to sit on the 405?

    The people who sit on the 405 do not have access to efficient mass transit.  And while I'm fine with these busses as a temporary stop gap measure, the people of Los Angeles and those residing in Southern California deserve a high quality, clean, efficient, and affordable rail transportation network.  And as for the busses, the nice new Metro Rapid and Metro Local busses are great but the old clanky busses...no wants to ride them.  If California wants to sue the car companies, they should go ahead, provided they have a real case and aren't out throwing darts and seeing what will stick.  

  •  Well, since you're a libertarian (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elise, Do Tell

    You believe problems are the result of individual failure, and not of institutional problems.

    The answer to your question is obvious - consumers never had a choice. Ever.

    Libertarianism thrives on the fallacy of "free choice" - that individuals in the market place have an utterly free choice, can pick whatever they like. And because of that free choice, it is said, any problems that result are their own fault.

    In the auto industry there never was any free choice. No real free choice to buy other, cleaner vehicles before 1999. No real mass transit options. Nothing.

    Your attempt to protect a group of corporations that have greviously erred and have acted irresponsibly is itself absurd.

    But then, so is the libertarianism that underlies that attempt.

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 11:52:49 AM PDT

    •  What the hell? (0+ / 0-)

      Libertarians don't believe in institutional problems?  That's absolutely insane.  Heck, the reason that libertarians are libertarians is institutional problems, and our desire to sap institutions of power to prevent them from enacting such problems.

      What you are saying about libertarians doesn't even begin to make sense.  What's the drug war but an institutional problem?  What about socialized medicine, or public schools, or the Federal Reserve, all of which are some of the most classical libertarian issues imaginable?

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 12:01:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  but we do have a large degree of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GeoGrl

      free choice. American chose to drive inefficient SUVs in droves, when gas was cheaper. Efficient cars were still available. But they were smaller, and ill suited to hauling lots of stuff, or lounging in during a traffic jam, or, mostly, ill-suited for asserting one's big-dog studly dominance on the road.

      American consumers had plenty of choices, and they chose badly. That's human nature. And citizens failed to elect representatives who would incur their wrath by forcing them to make good choices.

      •  It's not just the SUVs (0+ / 0-)

        Pretty much any car, save for '90s Hondas, were environmentally unfriendly.

        In any case, I think it is wrong to blame consumers. Consumers do not wield control in the marketplace, especially not in the auto industry. To assume they do is to engage in a massive delusion.

        I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

        by eugene on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 01:45:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hmmm... let's see if this is true (0+ / 0-)

          [eugene wrote] Pretty much any car, save for '90s Hondas, were environmentally unfriendly.

          Let's do the reality based culture thing, and look at real live economy figures from 1995, since you chose the '90s.

          http://www.fueleconomy.gov/...

          And compacts: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/...

          Hondas had 31 MPG, or so (highway).

          Hyundai Accent could hit 38.

          Ford Escort: 38 MPG!

          Geo (Suzuki/Chevrolet, made in Canada after 1990): 34 MPG

          Mercury (var. models) could hit over 30 MPG highway.

          Plymouth Neon hit 38 MPG!

          I see a number of American models as efficient or more efficient than the Honda. American consumers didn't buy them. They liked their fatass SUVs, to the point of giving automakers a $5000 profit on each one.

  •  This Should be an Interesting Case (0+ / 0-)

    Will the automakers try to cross-claim against individual drivers?  Will they argue that China is an indispensable party?  

    My guess is that the automakers could bring in individual drivers, but won't because it'll be bad business.  China is not an indispensable party, but perhaps a joint tortfeaser. If this case goes anywhere, just think of the litigation private attorneys can bring as global warming really gets going.  Basically every factory, every trucking company, every railroad, every refinery is creating a both a private and a public nuisance.  As a California environmental lawyer I'm licking my chops.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 12:07:29 PM PDT

  •  cow analogy is bad (0+ / 0-)

    You claim that a cow produces half the carbon dioxide of a car. Whether or not this is true, the cow's carbon dioxide is presumably produced in a closed cycle. Grass takes in CO2 to make cellulose, cow eats grass, cow emits CO2....ad infinitum.

    If you want to compare cows to cars, you will need to compare them to biofuel powered cars.

    Having said that, I agree that the lawsuit is silly, unless one can demonstrate other mis-deeds by the car makers. Like conspiring to undermine public transport (which they did).

    It would make as much sense to sue individual car drivers (like the ones bringing the lawsuit), or the government, as to sue the car makers.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site