Green wash or greenwash?

Roadside rescue, free maps and, now, environmentally friendly?

The California State Automobile Association, the second largest chapter of the national AAA, this month received accolades from the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) on the opening of the club’s first “green” automotive shop right here in Sacramento.

The AAA Car Care Plus center boasts a full array of automotive repair and services, will be open seven days a week and even features a fancy café and play area for the kids. More important to CalEPA, the center represents an environmentally benign future for auto shops.

CalEPA issued an “environmental certificate” to AAA recognizing several ways that the new shop attempts to minimize pollution. For example, the shop will be able to recycle all spilled oil and antifreeze, rather than allowing these hazardous substances into storm drains, as many other auto shops do. The shop also features a car wash that recycles all of its wastewater and a solvent-free tool-washing system.

“We’ve caught the green bug,” said AAA spokesman Justin O’Brien. “We believe we can make a profit and make good on our commitment to the environment.”

Speaking of AAA’s commitment to the environment, AAA members may want to check out the winter issue of the Amicus Journal, which features a seven-page exposé blasting AAA’s record on the environment.

It seems the car club’s national lobbying arm has been busy using the clout of its 43 million members to push Congress for more roads and less public transit. AAA also quietly opposed federal EPA regulations approved earlier this year that will dramatically reduce tailpipe emissions.

Daniel Becker with the Sierra Club’s global warming and energy program told the SN&R that he was surprised any environmental agency would give an award to AAA, given its lobbying record on transportation and air quality issues.

“In general, AAA has been a lobbyist for polluters, for more roads and the paving of America. They certainly are no friend of anybody with lungs,” Becker told SN&R.

OK Dan, but look, free maps!