Student environmentalists urge car-makers to cut pollution

For most students, Apr. 1 is a day of jokes. But for some environmental activists, it was a chance to raise some important questions.

This year, energy conservation advocates have dubbed the date Fossil Fools Day, and they say the joke is on American consumers and corporations at the expense of natural resources.

In more than 100 cities across the country, student activists held events to “get students and community members to organize to break [U.S.] oil addition and call attention to the biggest ‘fossil fools,'” according to the campaign Web site.

A major part of the campaign is convincing large companies to overhaul their fuel economy standards and set an example for others.

Among corporations, Ford Motor Co. has been labeled “the biggest fossil fool because of its production of the least fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Sarah Connolly of the Rainforest Action Network, one of the groups sponsoring the movement.

Nile Malloy, an activist from Flint, Mich. and also a member of RAN, said Ford vehicles have a higher emission of greenhouse gasses and worse gas mileage than other brands, and with improvement, the company could encourage change among its competitors.

“Ford’s brand gives the power and the responsibility (to lead others),” Malloy said. “Technology exists to make cars have higher miles per gallon.”

Malloy said Ford should use its reputation for technological innovation to create more fuel-efficient cars. The group is sponsoring “Adopt-A-Dealer” campaigns to target individual Ford dealers and urge them to promote better fuel efficiency practices within the company.

Another major organizer of the events is Energy Action, an umbrella organization made up of 30 students organizations at 500 different colleges in the United States and Canada that encourages universities to build energy-efficient facilities on their campuses.

Billy Parish, the group’s co-founder, said the collective success of the student groups has resulted in “over 100 colleges that are now purchasing clean energy,” adding that colleges purchase the largest amounts of clean energy.

“Our vision is to get colleges to model behavior for corporations, cities and other institutions,” Parrish said, adding, “Fossil Fools Day is a call to action and for leadership.”

“People aged 18-35 are the most sought-after consumer demographic in America,” Parrish said. “We’re trying to change the consumer habits of our generation. We want to create a bar and say corporations need to think of new ways to attract students.

Some professors are also joining the movement. Michael Klare, a professor at Hampshire College and author of Resource Wars and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Petroleum Dependency, said over-reliance on oil was causing the United States to ally with otherwise unfriendly regimes.

“We’re addicted to a product we don’t produce,” Klare said, adding that the addiction has created a “dependence on dangerous countries (to) protect the flow of oil.”

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