General Motors is global warmer number one

New report measures US automakers' corporate culpabilities for global warming pollution

provided by Environmental Defense

new report by Environmental Defense appraises for the first time the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by the new vehicles sold each year by major auto manufacturers. General Motors' fleet imposes the largest “carbon burden,” producing 6.7 million metric tons per year. GM is followed closely by Ford, whose fleet produces 5.6 million tons. The carbon burden is the total CO2 emitted by a group of vehicles each year and represents their lifetime average global warming impact. A copy of the report is available at www.environ

    “Each year, automakers roll out fleets of cars and trucks that add increasing amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere,” said Environmental Defense senior fellow John DeCicco, the report's lead author. “Over the past decade, they have put their design and marketing talents into anything but addressing their products' harm to the planet and liability for oil dependence.”

    “The US emits more CO2 than any other country in the world. Transportation is America's largest source of global warming pollution, and cars and trucks are the largest part of that equation,” said Environmental Defense executive director Fred Krupp. “As the top producer of CO2-spewing vehicles, GM is 'global warmer' number one. Market success brings with it a proportionate responsibility to apply clean and efficient technology as part of auto industry corporate strategy.”

    While GM and Ford clearly head the pack in terms of total global warming pollution, third-place DaimlerChrysler's carbon burden at 4.1 million tons has grown more rapidly. But it is Toyota, whose product line produces 2 million metric tons of carbon annually, that posted the most rapid growth in global warming pollution. Toyota's carbon burden grew 72 perent since 1990, compared to 33 perent growth for the market as a whole. Entitled Automakers' Corporate Carbon Burdens, the report uses government data to project the oil consumption and CO2 emissions from each firm's new vehicle sales and analyzes how these figures evolved between 1990 and 2000.

    “The 'carbon burden' concept provides a new way for automakers and policy makers to assess the bottom line of corporate responsibility for protecting Earth's climate,” DeCicco said. “Unless there is a change in stance, automotive carbon burdens will continue to rise and so will the risks of unchecked oil demand. It's high time for US automakers to take a more constructive approach on this issue.”


    US car and light truck emissions equal 20% of US carbon dioxide emissions and about 5% of the world total. If the US personal car and truck fleet were a country, it would rank fifth in terms of global warming emissions.

    An automaker's carbon burden has two factors. One is the per-vehicle average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rate of the cars and light trucks in a company's product line. The other is the number of vehicles sold. The corporate carbon burden is the product of the two factors, and so represents the amount of CO2 produced by a manufacturer's entire fleet. Here are three ways of ranking the six largest automakers (based on US sales):

Ranking by Share of Carbon Burden in 2000

    General Motors is responsible for the largest overall carbon burden. GM's 2000 model year sales accounted for 30% of total CO2 emissions from the US light duty fleet.

1. GM 29.6% 4. Toyota 9.0%
2. Ford 24.8% 5. Honda 5.6%
3. DaimlerChrysler 18.0% 6. Nissan 3.8%

Ranking by Increase in Carbon Burden from 1990 to 2000

    Toyota's carbon burden grew by a whopping 72% between 1990-2000, far faster than that of any other firm. This increase in CO2 emissions from its US fleet is due to rapid growth in market share (from 7.7% in 1990 to 9.8% in 2000) and an increase in light truck sales (up from 24% to 37% of Toyota's sales). To make up for its ten-year increase in average per vehicle CO2 emissions, Toyota would have to sell more than 315,000 hybrids with the same type of improved efficiency as the current gas-electric Prius.

1. Toyota 72.2% 4. Honda 22.1%
2. DaimlerChrysler 61.7% 5. GM 12.8%
3. Ford 25.8% 6. Nissan 12.4%

Ranking by Increase in Average Per-Vehicle CO2 Emissions Rate from 1990 to 2000

    All automakers increased their average per-vehicle CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2000, with the overall market average rising by 4.1%. Even Honda increased its fleet average CO2 emissions rate, although less so than any other company. Nissan's rising dependence on trucks gave it the largest jump, by nearly 15%, in new fleet average CO2 emissions rate among the Big Six.

1. Nissan 14.9% 4. Ford 4.7%
2. DaimlerChrysler 7.9% 5. GM 2.9%
3. Toyota 6.2% 6. Honda 0.4%