Politics make strange bedfellows.

Certainly that’s the case when the Sierra Club and the United Auto Workers Union come together to oppose a policy.

The two powerful organizations often find themselves at odds over environmental regulations, but they have found common ground in opposition to a new proposal by the Bush administration to change the fuel economy rules for domestic automobiles.

They are right to oppose the changes.

Under current federal rules, automakers divide their cars into two categories, light trucks and passenger cars. The feds set fleet-wide mileage standards for each class. A company’s line of cars must average 27.5 miles per gallon, and its fleet of light trucks, which includes SUVs, must average 20.5.

Proposed changes would create weight classifications within the light truck fleets. Basically, heavier vehicles would be allowed lower mileage standards.

It’s a bad idea. The change would further erode the fuel economy of the cars on U.S. highways. Carmakers would have an incentive to produce heavier, higher profit vehicles that face lower standards. The incentive to build smaller cars would be reduced.

Without fleet-wide standards, workers who produce smaller cars could see their jobs shipped overseas.

The proposed changes are bad for the environment and bad for workers. On this issue, the Sierra Club and the UAW are right.

Pakistan’s nukes

Which is more frightening: that a Pakistani scientist, that country’s father of nuclear weapons, sold secrets, know-how and materials on an international black market or that the military dictator who runs the country says he knew nothing about it?

Gen. Pervez Musharraf took control of Pakistan in a coup. Since, he has become an important ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism. But after “discovering” that Abdul Qadeer Khan, a folk hero in Pakistan for developing the “Islamic bomb,” had trafficked in nuclear secrets, Musharraf gave him a free pass. Khan was pardoned.

In the wake of the scandals, Musharraf has also announced during an interview with the Financial Times, a London-based newspaper, that he would never allow international inspectors to monitor his country’s nuclear programs.

All this raises serious questions about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Elements of the army and the secret police have shown themselves to be backers of extreme jihadists groups, the Taliban among them.

If the United States is serious about controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the job starts with Pakistan.

To entice Musharraf into allowing international inspections could require serious horse trading, including opening U.S. markets to Pakistan’s textile industry, a tough sell when American textile jobs are already high-tailing it overseas. But such a move might be necessary.

A wink and a nod won’t do. We need to get serious with Pakistan.

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