First, I must make something clear. The AAA to which I refer in this article as pure evil is the AAA formerly known as the American Automobile Association. I have no problem with the good folks at the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, a group whose members are nice enough to come to Hayden Planetarium lectures on clear nights with their own telescopes and allow people to look at the stars. Please assume all references to AAA going forward refer to the former American Automobile Association, known simply as AAA now.
If you are a member of AAA, please answer for yourself whether you joined for roadside assistance and travel services or whether you joined to become part of a powerful lobbying organization. I’m going to assume the former. If I am incorrect, please reply and let me know that there truly are grass roots members of the AAA that intended to further the causes lobbied for by the AAA in your name.
Second, I’m going to assume that the vast majority of AAA members, when asked the generic, “what are you?” will likely NOT respond with the first thought, “I am a motorist.” Yet, that is precisely how AAA claims you would respond. They would also claim that as a motorist, you want certain things. And, they will lobby for those. Check that list carefully and see whether you are OK with AAA lobbying using your name as one of its many members, the largest grass roots organization in the country.
Third, you have a choice. There is a better roadside assistance club. Read on please.
Now read some of these articles about the things AAA lobbies for, and has done so since its inception. Essentially, it might be fair to call AAA a secret lobbying arm of the automotive and oil industries. Read these and decide for yourself.
The Secret Life of AAA — from The Amicus Journal, reprinted by NRDC
Smitten with a Club – Your AAA dues fuel pollution and sprawl — From Harper’s, linked to a reprint on the Better World Club site to avoid a requirement to subscribe (more about BWC later).
For those not willing to read detailed articles on other sites, here are some of the things AAA has lobbied for and/or still does:
- 1990 – AAA lobbied against the Clean Air Act
- 1998 – AAA lobbied against a 7 cent gas tax for land preservation. We all like to get from point A to B, but only if neither is totally paved over when we get there.
- Present – AAA still lobbies for ever wider roads, seen as a major cause of congestion rather than a relief of it by many organizations.
- Present – AAA is on the record against virtually every proposal for cutting automobile pollution.
- 1989 – AAA called vapor traps on gas tanks a safety hazard.
- 1994 – AAA opposed a move by smogbound eastern states to promote low-polluting cars.
- 1997 – AAA opposed new smog limitations.
- AAA opposed the airbag law, not sure what year.
So, with AAA lobbying for everything you are against and against everything you are for, most likely, anyway, what can you do about it? You can cancel your membership immediately. They will pro-rate you for the year, or at least they did for me, much to their credit. Then you can join Better World Club, which has other advantages as well. They will help you if your bicycle gets stuck. The will give you four $10 checks per year for your gasoline. Send in a receipt for more than $10, get a check for $10. That’s $40/yr. I’ll take it.Here is Sierra Club’s plug for the Better World Club, which should carry a lot more weight with you than my own.
To help further clear your conscience for the bad things that driving causes, you may also choose to get a terrapass to offset your carbon emissions.
Happy driving! May it be as guilt free (or more accurately guilt reduced) as possible.