Taken for a Ride: Detroit’s Big Three and the Politics of Pollution is an indictment of America’s auto manufacturers (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors). Jack Doyle, founder of the environmental research center Corporate Sources and previously affiliated with Friends of the Earth and the Environmental Policy Institute, attacks the auto manufacturers as would a prosecuting attorney, and he argues that the automobile industry is as vulnerable to legal action as the tobacco industry.
Doyle’s thesis is that since the 1950’s the “Big Three” have acted irresponsibly and sometimes illegally in opposing any and every attempt to limit air pollution and to increase gas mileage, from opposing the catalytic converter to impeding alternatives to the internal combustion engine. In so doing they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in misleading advertising, lobbying in Washington and elsewhere, money which would have been better spent on research and development.
A strong case is made for the necessity of government action in reining in air pollutants, confronting global warming, and other life-threatening possibilities. Doyle claims that the auto manufacturers would never have adopted any conservation measures if left to their own devices because Adam Smith’s invisible hand of competitive market forces does not truly exist in the auto industry. He finds few heroes among elected politicians—Edward Muskie is an exception—and even fewer in the top rank of automobile executives, although he has praise for those of Honda. Doyle argues that the recent proliferation of SUVs and pick-up trucks, all exempt from Environmental Protection Agency requirements, is typically irresponsible in the quest for corporate profits.
Filled with details, Taken for a Ride raises important, and troubling, issues. It is a one-sided account, but is there another side?