Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 8 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/26/10

Tesla - Toyota - NUMMI: The Electric Car Reborn?

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   No comments
Become a Premium Member Would you like to know how many people have read this article? Or how reputable the author is? Simply sign up for a Advocate premium membership and you'll automatically see this data on every article. Plus a lot more, too.

When the history of a 21st Century "Green Revolution" is written, last week's Toyota-Tesla headlines and, behind the lines, the concern of a veteran California politician for a few thousand unemployed auto workers, may be the preface to how the electric car eventually penetrated the consciousness of America.

Two years ago, California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer commissioned me to study the potential of "Green Business" in America. I was struck by all the jokes about a benign "plot", of an environmentally-conscious power elite, determined to drag the gas-guzzling, carbon-loving masses into upheaval against an old regime of fossil-fuel energy.

Bill Gates was one "elitist" who pointed out that a hundred million consumers were not about to "go Green" merely to save the earth. Alternative energy had to be economically competitive before it was adopted on a scale massive enough to truly counter the threat of Climate Change.

Living and working in the Berkeley-San Francisco-Silicon Valley milieu, it's easy to be blinded by Green optimism. More Prius autos are sold per square mile in northern California than anywhere else in America. Solar panels are popping up all over in public places, lighting school buildings and powering traffic lights. But no matter how Green the "Left Coast", a Richard Nixon might still ask, "Will it play in Peoria?"

What could possibly trigger a popular Greening of the American heartland? Maybe the one thing many Americans love above all else - their automobiles.

A documentary film of 2006, "Who Killed The Electric Car?", explored the complex of special interests and happenstance that conspired to doom the first General Motors Electric Vehicles which appeared on California roadways in the 1990s. The same question might have been posed a century earlier when the US Government, having bought a large fleet of electric trucks as transport for its new Parcel Post service, scrapped the metal and the technology and joined the rest of the country in hailing Henry Ford's internal combustion engine.

During the last decade, the gradual acceptance of Toyota's Prius hybrid, sales of which passed the respectable (but not yet game-changing) million mark, held out hope for a slow trend back to that fateful turning-point of the past - until the recent bad rap of real and imagined mechanical failures.

Then, while licking its public relations wounds, Toyota announced it would close the NUMMI (New United Motors Manufacturing Inc.) plant in Fremont, California, which it had been operating for 25 years in collaboration with General Motors. Hard hit by the Great Recession, GM was pulling out of the partnership, and Toyota wasn't willing to go it alone. So over 4,000 unionized auto workers would be out of luck.

That disturbed Bill Lockyer. Before he was elected to state office as Attorney General and then Treasurer of California, Lockyer was the State Senator representing southern Alameda County. NUMMI was a dozen miles from his home and his close ties to the plant and its workers, who adapted well to the Japanese production system, were of long-standing.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).


Rate It | View Ratings

R.H. Smith Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Smith is an historian and public policy consultant.

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Tesla - Toyota - NUMMI: The Electric Car Reborn?

Senator Dianne Feinstein's Defining Moment

State of Emergency: Why Bill Lockyer Should Be Governor of California


PANETTA COMPLEX: A Liberal Down The Rabbit Hole


To View Comments or Join the Conversation: