WASHINGTON — A Michigan congressman is defending the U.S. auto industry against fuel efficiency increases by criticizing a famous foe of global warming: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg's re-election campaign placed a billboard along a busy interstate in metropolitan Detroit that reads, "Arnold to Michigan: Drop Dead!" It shows a grim-looking picture of the actor-turned-politician and draws attention to a Web site.
"Michigan and the Big Three are being unfairly bullied by politicians who have no understanding of auto manufacturing," Knollenberg said Thursday in a statement announcing the billboard and Web site: www.big3defense.com.
Knollenberg said his group "picked on Schwarzenegger because he's a perfect symbol of a bully and because he has become the Republican Al Gore."
By raising fuel economy requirements on new cars, those vehicles would emit fewer carbon emissions tied to global warming.
Schwarzenegger signed the nation's first statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions last year and has supported a California law passed in 2002 regulating tailpipe standards for automobiles. Automakers have sued the state, asserting the rule is a de facto mandate on fuel economy standards, which can be set only by the federal government.
Reply: 'Backward thinking'
A spokesman for the Republican governor said that "it's unfortunate that this congressman doesn't understand the serious threat that our country faces because of greenhouse gas emissions."
Spokesman Aaron McLear said Schwarzenegger's work was "allowing the auto industry to move into the future instead of this kind of backward thinking that will negatively impact job growth and the economy."
Knollenberg estimated the fuel economy increases would cost the Detroit-based automakers $85 billion and predicted that "tens of thousands of working families will lose their jobs" if the standards are raised.
"This is a crisis in my judgment and I think we have to employ some means that are kind of unusual," he said.
The congressman, whose district includes the headquarters of DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and several major auto suppliers, has criticized President Bush's proposal to raise federal fuel economy standards for new passenger vehicles.
Knollenberg contends it would lead to massive job losses in the domestic auto industry.
Knollenberg, first elected in 1992, narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger last November and his seat is expected to be targeted by Democrats next year.
Trent Wisecup, Knollenberg's chief of staff, said the congressman's re-election campaign paid $10,000 for the billboard and $1,500 to create the Web site.
The site urges supporters to donate $3 "in honor of the Big Three" automakers. Wisecup said the campaign has opened a separate bank account for the proceeds, which will help keep the billboard up along southbound Interstate 75 on Detroit's north side. Wisecup said the funds will not be used for Knollenberg's re-election campaign.
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