Front and centre in this year's show is an increasingly aggressive campaign of green posturing by the major car manufacturers as they line up their latest high tech, fuel efficient models for the market and press. Highest profile among them is the Chevrolet Volt, GM's new "plug-in hybrid" concept car.
Doesn't it look pretty!
And as various bloggers and journalists are chaperoned through the Detroit autoshow (so as to better tow the GM line), give them credit for making a pass at something resembling balanced reporting. They do raise concerns with the Volt - about the potential hazards in disposing of electric batteries, of relying on coal powered electricity to charge battery powered vehicles, and of the potential recycling issues with the Volt's interior materials - all while being dazzled by the glitz of surface design.
That was part of the plan, we learned -- "green vehicles" aren't always particularly sexy, so Chevy wanted to bring some of the emotional attachment of the Corvette and Camaro to a greener vehicle.
"Green companies" aren't always sexy either, and what the rest of us have learned is how easy it is to get a environmental writer to lose sight of the ball.
Though valid, the criticisms above utterly miss the point. Namely, that while GM is flogging their green credentials, they are firmly entrenched as one North America's fiercest opponents of global warming action, thanks to their persistent lawsuits against states trying to pass tougher vehicle emissions standards.
GM is the lead plaintiff among a coalition of auto manufacturers in the highly publicized lawsuit against California over their landmark automobile emissions law. They were also the lead witness in a similar suit launched by automakers in the state of Vermont this past Tuesday, while yet another GM backed lawsuit is underway in Rhode Island. All in, nine states are trying to move forward with meaningful action to reduce automobile emissions under tremendous opposition from GM and the auto industry as a whole.
While green writers are being hypnotized by a public relations slight of hand, GM continues a full out legal campaign against some of the most progressive actions on climate change we have.
The bright spot is that thanks to last week's precedent at the US Supreme Court that recognized co2 as a pollutant, GM's efforts stand and excellent chance of failing. But regardless, automakers can make no claim to green credentials so long as they continue to use the courts to derail laws and policies that will lead to a healthier planet - no matter how many green poster cars they roll out for the cameras.
GM can have their Volt, so long as they quit interfering with real climate change solutions.