Muckraker: Grist on PoliticsGeneral Motors Corp. announced this morning that it is closing its Janesville, Wis., assembly plant, which produces SUVs and pickup trucks, along with three other North American plants that churn out gas-guzzlers. CEO Rick Wagoner says it’s because the company is moving toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, as fewer Americans are buying big automobiles these days.

The Janesville plant will be ending production of medium-duty trucks by the end of 2009, and bigger trucks — the Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon — in 2010, or possibly sooner, if demand continues to decrease. GM already laid off more than 750 employees in April because demand was down.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, who visited the Janesville plant while he was campaigning in Wisconsin a few months ago, issued a statement in response to the news, and used the opportunity to tout his plans to help the U.S. auto industry move to cleaner technology and create new green jobs:

I’ve proposed investing $150 billion over 10 years in green energy and creating up to 5 million new green jobs. We’ll finally provide domestic automakers with the funding they need to retool their factories and make fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel cars. And we’ll invest in efforts to make sure that the cars of the future are made where they always have been — in the United States. Because the fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America’s future — and I believe that’s a fight this country will win.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!