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When the ice melts, the Antarctic 500 rolls
March 16, 2005 10:24 AM   Subscribe

In an effort to undermine California's vehicle global warming law, the auto industry has been running an ad claiming today's vehicles are virtually emission free. The Union of Concerned Scientists says "poppycock on that!" and is seeking a FTC false-advertising investigation. Fortunately, no matter who's bullshooting, you can help wipe away the problem.
posted by danOstuporStar (30 comments total)

 
Poppycock! I love that word.

I don't see anything suggesting that this is in an effort to undermine California's law specifically. The UCS has some interesting figures, but they seem to focus more on total emissions of ALL cars over the country, and broad comparisons to the rest of the world instead of identifying the true emissions of new vehicles.

While I agree that the Auto Alliance is making a bold claim that vehicles are "virtually" emission-free (whatever that means), the UCS could have done a better job, and should have been more specific as to why the AA's claim is faulty.
posted by santiagogo at 10:50 AM on March 16, 2005


California's list of zero-emission and PZEV (partial-zero!) vehicles

Looking at that add, only GM and Porsche should be omitted from the ad. The rest have vehicles that are listed BY California as zero or near-zero (I am not using partial-zero, that is stupid) emission vehicles. That's about the same as saying "virtually emission free", so how is this a case of false advertising in an effort to undermine California's own emission laws?
posted by linux at 11:09 AM on March 16, 2005


Heh. Good point: the add says "autos manufactured today", not "every auto manufactured today" or "all autos manufactured today". Still, I think it's misleading, as these latter phrasings could be interpreted as being implied by the former phrasing. I don't know whether it's misleading to the point of being false advertising.

"Partial-zero" is a hilarious term.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2005


mr_roboto - I laugh myself silly everytime I see the ZPEV sticker on my fiancee's Camry.
posted by linux at 11:32 AM on March 16, 2005


bullshooting?
posted by Hubajube at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2005


Californians fell for teh Ahnold didn't they? Why not another slick scam?
posted by nofundy at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2005


"Autos manufactured today are virtually emission free." (emphasis added)

And the Bush administration would like you to believe that our current war is virtually american casualty free.

This is all bullshit, but as pointed out above it has no clear tie to the CA law specifically.

On preview: Roboto, yes, partial-zero is a wonderfully funny term. I think we should expand our use of it in everyday lexicon to point out its absurdity.
posted by mystyk at 11:39 AM on March 16, 2005


much-ado about nothing
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2005


do american cars run on air?
posted by gwildar at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2005


Virtual: Act like something, but isn't.

Virtual Memory: Acts like core, but isn't.

Virtual Genius: The person who came up with the statement that "Autos manufactured today are virtually emission free."
posted by eriko at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2005


Californians fell for teh Ahnold didn't they?

Hey, that broad brush you're painting us all with tickles.
posted by scody at 11:56 AM on March 16, 2005


I checked, and "partial-zero" is actually listed in one of my old college Electrical Engineering texts (I knew saving them would come in handy years later) along with "partial-one."

Apparently, it describes the fact that in a circuit, the voltages counted as ones and zeros are not actually 1v and 0v, but rather a range from 0-5v with the smaller half counting as '0' and the larger as '1'.

Later in the text they simply use either '0' and '1' or '0v' and '5v'.
posted by mystyk at 12:04 PM on March 16, 2005


You folks are right, there is nothing specifically linking the ad campaign with this lawsuit...but the timing is fishy to say the least.
posted by danOstuporStar at 12:12 PM on March 16, 2005


Huh? I don't see any problem in that ad. Everything was properly qualified, etc:

virtually emission free = emits almost no emissions (there's plenty such vehicles on the market)

99% cleaner than you think = anecdotal and unqualified evidence (although on the website they work to qualify it)

dramatic improvement over thirty years ago = does anyone actually contest this? Have you ever seen the emissions from a big block engine?

This is no different than saying "global warming". It's not that at all, global warming has been thouroughly debunked (although if you want to argue on climate change instead, I'll have a much tougher time defending my posistion). However, the term is recognized as many other things to many other people.

This AD pales in comparison to the "shocker" ads used by people on the other side of the coin. In fact, I can't see a single "lie" in that AD at all. I challenge you to point one out to me.

On the website, things are a bit more out there. I'm sure I could point out plenty of over-the-edge eco-terrorism websites, though.

If you don't like the term "Partial-Zero" why don't you phone up some ambulance chasers and complain? I doubt such a confusing term was used as a first choice.
posted by shepd at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2005


As far as the automakers suing California goes, why bother?

Just stop selling cars there if they don't want you too. Eventually the state's population will complain that it's starting to look a lot like Cuba, and whammo, the laws are repealed.

Or maybe companies come in and clean up the market desparate for vehicles. Basically, why sue over a law when you can abuse a law instead?
posted by shepd at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2005


I doubt such a confusing term was used as a first choice.
hahahahahahahahahahhahahaha!
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2005


shepd: The ad is doing exactly what it is supposed to do: mislead while being careful not to "technically" lie. The opposing ad does exactly the same thing!

This is on par with people who denounce either Fahrenheit 9/11 or its opponent film FahrenHype 9/11 as completely bullshit. On the contrary, both are full on an endless array of fully-qualified truths, but are put together by masters in information manipulation. They say part of the story in an attempt to get you to infer the rest in the direction they want, not even bothering to represent the equal facts from the other side as even existing.

It sounds like you don't fully understand what media - ANY media - be it liberal or conservative, has been doing for ages. Effective propaganda isn't about lying, it's about selectively hiding truths.

As for "partial-zero," we don't hate the term, we LOVE it. It is a perfect example of how silly terms can get in an effort to say one thing but mean another.
posted by mystyk at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2005


sonofsamian, don't laugh. The "obvious" term that the automakers actually used in their ad was "virtually emissions free", instead of "partial-zero". Have you EVER heard a marketer say "partial-zero"? Now, even with multiplication, do you have enough body parts to count how many times they've said "Virtually" or "Almost" or "Pretty Much", "As Good As"? :-)

mystyk, I know that the AD is truthful while covering up some things, but it drives home one undeniable truth: If you buy a car today, it is, with very few exceptions, going to emit much, much, much less crap than a 30 year old beater does now (even if the "beater" was in storage for 30 years).

I think automakers are just tired of being called the bad guy, when, if you look at the modern designs of combustion engines, they have done everything reasonably possible to minimize emissions and maximize efficiency. I dare you to honestly try to counter that statement... :-)

The only "bad guy" thing automakers are doing (IMHO) is pressing to stay with the gasoline based economy. But it is understandable when you consider the economic pressure exerted on them to stick with gasoline by their clientele (ie: You, the buyer, who wants to be able to fill your car anywhere, not just in your local city).

You can be assured, if the market was ready for alternative fuel cars, if the big automakers ignored it, another company would quickly be bigger than the present big automakers in no time by capitalizing on it.
posted by shepd at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2005


shepd-

While I didn't think I agreed with your first couple of posts, I think you are right in this last one. The auto industry does get blamed, and even the counter-ad suggests that they should get blamed, for people driving more cars more places. The auto industry may well have been behind efforts to curtail public transport (although I know of no cases where that is in fact true), but they do not make people drive. Nor is driving addictive like cigarettes are addictive.
posted by OmieWise at 1:01 PM on March 16, 2005


mystyk, I know that the AD is truthful while covering up some things, but it drives home one undeniable truth: If you buy a car today, it is, with very few exceptions, going to emit much, much, much less crap than a 30 year old beater does now (even if the "beater" was in storage for 30 years).
Granted. Essentially true, although vehicles like the HUMMER could be considered a step back, not forward. SUV's in general have made things worse, and they still sell because they are big and heavy, giving a high-up view of the road. It's one of those false sense of security things that the Government has run with in recent decades.
...if you look at the modern designs of combustion engines, they have done everything reasonably possible to minimize emissions and maximize efficiency.
Objection. The opposing counsel is asserting positions from data not in evidence. The simple fact is that the auto industry has opposed ANY legislation that makes them change their M.O. at all. They gave a fight about seatbelts, airbags, unleaded fuel, and have consistently opposed clean air regulations. There is little evidence that suggests they have done "everything reasonably possible." and often have gone away from the use of newer technology in favor of short-term profits and trying to set court-precedents to stay out of their business.

On review, my prior post bordered dangerously close to trolling, so I'm trying to be careful here. Still, consider that statement countered. The paragraps that follow from you are ones I agree with; they may not have done everything they could, but they definitely have been portrayed as truly evil when they're not.

On previw, OmieWise: are you sure driving isn't somewhat addictive? Racing, or even driving moderately fast, produces endorphin rushes similar to that from hard drugs, and it is that combined with a greater desire to take risks that makes young males have such high insurance rates.
posted by mystyk at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2005


"much-ado about nothing"

Don't you mean "much-ado about virtually nothing"?

Sorry to disagree shepd, but the market for new technologies is not determined by consumers, it's determined by the big automakers (consumers buy cars, not technologies and the massive infrastucture investments it takes to implement them; in the alternative technologies market, the automakers are ultimately the consumers); the automakers are the ones in the market for new technologies, so consumer demand doesn't really factor into it here, except to the extent that consumer demand can't be influenced by marketing efforts. It's all well and good to say the "market" isn't ready for alternative fuel technologies, but the reality is, it's the producers that simply aren't ready to take the risks. And why should they? If the dominant fuel technology shifts abruptly, there's no guarantee that the big automakers could come out ahead in fair competition, and they're mostly happy with their market position as it is. That's why they spend tons of money on marketing existing inefficient technologies (like the "hemi" engine) to discourage widespread demand for alternative technologies. Why does everyone have so much faith that the market would quickly weed out big automakers who failed to adapt if there were legitimate consumer demand for new technology? When was the last time any big automaker was allowed to fail? Meanwhile, 9 out of 10 privately owned businesses fail within their first year. Free market my ass. Even Adam Smith would agree.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:17 PM on March 16, 2005


On previw, OmieWise: are you sure driving isn't somewhat addictive? Racing, or even driving moderately fast, produces endorphin rushes similar to that from hard drugs, and it is that combined with a greater desire to take risks that makes young males have such high insurance rates.

Most snake bites occur to males between 15-25, mostly on the hands. This is not because snakes are addictive, but because young men can be stupid.

Just because it's fun doesn't mean there's an addiction defense lurking somewhere inside.
posted by OmieWise at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2005


Except it is the pleasure chemicals released in the brain, as well as the developed sense of anxiety in their absense that defines addiction. People can get addicted to the rush of driving, and they can feel anxiety from staying off the road.
posted by mystyk at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2005


mystyk, I know that the AD is truthful while covering up some things, but it drives home one undeniable truth: "If you buy a car today, it is, with very few exceptions, going to emit much, much, much less crap than a 30 year old beater does now (even if the "beater" was in storage for 30 years)."

And much/most of that progress is the result of laws the auto industry has been kicking and screaming against for those 30 years. I know in the conservative dreamland the market solves all ills (and the liberal dreamland is full of its own skewed logic), but to imagine cars would be as (relatively) clean (or safe) as they are today without a lot of legislation is rather naive.
posted by jalexei at 2:25 PM on March 16, 2005


The bigger problem is that cars last forever out west because of the dry air. So there is even less pressure to remove older cars from the street.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:57 PM on March 16, 2005


Steve_at_Linnwood writes "much-ado about nothing"


Really, Steve, do explain!

And remind me, your PhD is in environmental science, chemistry, or atmospheric physics? Or do you have an MD and a specialization in oncology research?

Or is your opinion based on the experimental results of your 8th grade science-fair project, "Effects of Tonka Truck Pollution in a Pot of Mom's African Violets"?
posted by orthogonality at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2005


Or is your opinion based on the experimental results of your 8th grade science-fair project, "Effects of Tonka Truck Pollution in a Pot of Mom's African Violets"?

Actually, he was getting some fantastic data, but got spanked.....uhh, I mean the funding wasn't renewed.
posted by jalexei at 4:03 PM on March 16, 2005


For the record: the ad says

Your car may never be spotless
But it's 99% cleaner
than you think.

Autos manufactured today are virtually emission-free.


So:

(1) What is the basis for the claim that most people think that their (new) cars emit 100 times more pollution than their cars actually do? (Or is this simply "puffery" that is protected speech?)

(2) Is it true that ALL autos manufactured today are virtually emission-free?

-- Is there a widely-accepted definition of "virtually emission-free"?

-- If there is, and the sentence is true, why not put "All" in front of that sentence?

-- If only some autos manufactured today are "virtually emission-free", why not put "Many" before the word "Autos", so no one misunderstands? .


In short, if this ad is intended to lead to constructive dialog and improved understanding of the situation, it does a shitty job. If it is intended to obfuscate facts and cloud minds, then (depending on the answers to the above questions) it may be fairly effective.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:25 PM on March 16, 2005


orthogonality: I see you have officially joined my fan club. Welcome!

Your remarks are so cutting, I don't know if my self esteem will survive!

One does not need a PhD in environmental science, chemistry, or atmospheric physics to be able to see that this is "much-ado about nothing." As pointed out by others in this thread, there is nothing wrong with the ad.

But I'm curious, what is your PhD in? Surely you must have a JD at least...

Or is it your "400+ fans" over at Slashdot that make you an expert?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:49 PM on March 16, 2005


Californians fell for teh Ahnold didn't they?

Hey, that broad brush you're painting us all with tickles.
posted by scody at 2:56 PM EST


My apologies. It was only in jest. I really do know many very, very good Californians who would never dream of voting for Ahnold. (damn Marin County hot-tubbers!)
posted by nofundy at 5:42 AM on March 18, 2005


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