Major American corporations may be getting off easy on environmental regulations in the U.S. these days, but they’re being forced to toe the line in Europe. Rules adopted this year will require all electronics manufacturers doing business in European Union countries to eliminate use of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals from their products, and makers of electronics and appliances to pay to recycle their goods at the end of their useful lives — changes that U.S. companies say could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Also in the works are E.U. laws that would encourage energy conservation and require chemical manufacturers to run safety and environmental tests on some 30,000 chemicals. Lobbyists for U.S. companies are finding that techniques they’ve long used at home to fend off environmental protections don’t work with European regulators. Many Europeans, unhappy about what they say is the Bush administration’s arrogant unilateralist actions, regard American corporations with suspicion these days; recent corporate accounting scandals are causing further problems for the companies.

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