The products of oil companies and motor vehicle manufacturers make a significant contribution to greenhouse gases and therefore global warming. The group, Environmental Defense, estimates that cars and light trucks contribute 25% of carbon dioxide emissions in the US. Vehicles made by three largest car manufacturers—GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler—contribute 73% of the emissions whilst comprising 68.9% of the vehicles, a higher emissions output per vehicle than other manufacturers.
These car manufacturers, like the oil companies, are opposed to the Kyoto protocol arguing that it would be meaningless unless developing countries agree to meet emissions targets. However, it should be noted that the emissions from cars and light trucks alone in the US exceed the total emissions of whole countries like India. The motor vehicles produced by Ford alone are responsible for more than 1 percent of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions in the world, by its own admission. As the largest car maker, General Motors vehicles produce the most carbon emissions (1.65 percent of the world's total output).
The American Association of Automobile Manufacturers was a sponsor of the front group, the Global Climate Information Project (GCIP) and contributed funds to the Global Climate Coalition, another global warming denial front group.
The Coalition for Vehicle Choice, an automobile industry front group (including Ford, GM and Chrysler), ran advertisements in many national newspapers in the lead up to the Kyoto conference in 1997 signed by many business groups and associations, stating of the proposed climate agreement:
It lets countries like China, India and Mexico off the hook, while Americans are forced to make enormous personal sacrifices. It will hit consumer pocket-books hard through higher prices for energy and consumer goods.
The front group, Cars are Basic, saw fit to reproduce this text on their website in 2009 in the lead up to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. The group claims to be a grassroots organisation.
Following the agreement at Kyoto, a television advertisement sponsored by the American Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and others, argued against the agreement claiming "It's not global and it won't work" and would involve severe energy restrictions.
The SUV Owners of America (SUVOA) is said to be a front group for car manufacturers. It was purchased from its original founder in 2002 and converted into a non-profit group with a Washington lobbyists making up its governing board. It is run by a PR firm, Strat@comm whose clients include GM, DaimlerChrysler and Ford as well as two major automobile trade associations. SUVOA has been running a series of ads opposing California's proposed regulations for greenhouse gas emissions for cars. Currently over 80% of Californians say they are in favour of the proposed regulations but these ads are attempting to generate grassroots opposition to the regulations by arguing that they will mean that people will have to drive smaller cars, which are more dangerous.
In 2006 the CEI ran a couple of misleading and highly controversial television advertisements that ended with the line: 'Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.' In a leaked memo that year, the general manager of the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) claimed the CEI ads had been financed by General Motors and the Ford Motor Company.
Yet the response of car makers to a 2004 Californian plan to require greenhouse gas emissions from cars to be reduced by 25 percent by 2012 and 34 percent by 2016 and for SUVs to be reduced by 18 and then 25 percent, was to threaten to sue the government to stop it going ahead with it. This is even though the cost of meeting these measures is only around $300 per vehicle for the first phase and $600-$955 for the second phase. Even so, the reduction in greenhouse gases that would result if the car makers complied would be overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of cars on the road, if present trends continue.
In 2005 a coalition of automobile companies, including General Motors, Daimler Chrysler and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (representing GM, Toyota, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler), took the government of Vermont to court for seeking to regulate greenhouse gases. A federal court upheld the Vermont state law which requires a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks. The Vermont case was the first of several legal challenges by the automobile industry to state greenhouse gas legislation. Others included California and Rhode Island.
Automobile manufacturers sought to prevent state legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time pleading for government assistance.