Auto Industry-Backed PR Firm Claims California Emissions Regs Will Kill

A new ad campaign by the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America uses “Squeezy the Clown” to warn that proposed carbon-dioxide emissions regulations in California would force automakers to (gasp!) build smaller cars, which in turn will lead to increased traffic fatalities. (You see, they argue, the regs would force people to squeeze into smaller cars. Like clowns. Funny!) Though the group’s name implies a grassroots citizens’ effort, in fact SUVOA was bought two years ago by Strat@comm, a Washington, D.C., PR firm with extensive ties to big automakers. Critics are calling the campaign a classic example of “Astroturf” — industry-backed campaigns masquerading as grassroots. And critics say the ad’s main contention is a bunch of hooey: Not only does the 2002 law that calls for regulating emissions specifically prohibit state officials from banning large vehicles, but just-released federal data show that SUV occupants are more likely to die in traffic accidents.