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HYBRID INGENUITY
FROM HYBRID THINKING

When the Ford Escape Hybrid sport-utility vehicle rolled off the assembly line in Kansas City, Mo., in early August, labor and environmental leaders stood side by side applauding. It signified an unprecedented partnership in support of fuel-efficient vehicles and other clean energy technologies that are essential to the future of the domestic auto industry and a step in the right direction for a cleaner environment.

Labor unions and environmentalists have not always seen eye to eye. Too often, we have fallen for politicians' and corporations' arguments that a clean, healthy environment can happen only at the expense of well-paying jobs. That's a sacrifice no one should have to make in America today, and the introduction of the first American-made hybrid car is helping to change that kind of thinking.

U.S.-made hybrid vehicles and fuel-efficient technologies will help make our domestic auto industry more competitive while creating and preserving good union jobs. The Escape Hybrid, for instance, is being built at a plant that employs more than 5,600 United Automobile Workers members here in Missouri.

At the same time, the Escape Hybrid is a promising step for the environment. Its EPA-estimated average mileage is 33 miles per gallon - almost twice the fuel efficiency of a typical SUV - and the Escape also meets California's demanding Partial-Zero Emission Vehicle standard for smog-related emissions. That's good for the air, for our communities and for the wild places we love and want our kids to be able to enjoy with us.

Is there a market for these vehicles? Absolutely. There is strong consumer demand for vehicles that use less gasoline. Foreign-made hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic, have sold well in the United States over the past two years. Although only 43,000 hybrids were sold in 2003, that number is expected to double this year, and buyers are on waiting lists for them. The creation of the Escape Hybrid shows that American companies and workers also have the technology to give consumers the clean, fuel-efficient vehicles they want.

Conservationists and unions working together to protect good jobs and our environment is also a new kind of hybrid that makes good sense. The fact is, conservationists worry about unemployment rates and people who struggle to make ends meet because their jobs don't pay enough. And workers want clean air, safe drinking water and beautiful places to hike and take their kids fishing.

In other words, we have a lot in common. In recognizing that "jobs or the environment" is often a false and divisive choice, we are choosing not to be divided.

Regrettably, the Bush administration's policies have tried to widen the presumed antagonisms between unions and environmentalists. Its economic policies have led to good union jobs being shipped overseas, and its environmental policies have weakened protections for clean air, clean water and the awe-inspiring wild places that are our national heritage.

Those policies don't reflect our values, and they don't reflect the values of most Americans. Our partnership also is a call for leadership that doesn't force Americans to make a false choice between jobs and a clean environment. With American ingenuity, we can do better than that.

Written by: Jill Miller and Mike Perry


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