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Op-Ed
 

Union of Concerned Scientists: Obama Opens the Door to States Implementing Clean Car Law


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By: Kevin Knobloch, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (January 26, 2009) – President Obama today instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration's denial of a request by California and more than a dozen other states to implement global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks. The president also directed the Department of Transportation to set fuel economy standards for 2011 and reconsider the methodology for standards in the years that follow.

Below is a statement by Union of Concerned Scientists President Kevin Knobloch. Knobloch was present today at the White House when President Obama made his announcement.

"This is a clean break from the previous administration's do-nothing approaches on global warming and U.S. oil dependence. Reconsidering the waiver denial is a clear indication that the new administration is ready to lead on energy and global warming.

"With this announcement, President Obama is beginning to make good on his campaign pledge to restore science to its rightful place in federal policymaking. I'm confident the administration will heed the advice of EPA staff scientists, grant the waiver, and take necessary steps to implement nationwide greenhouse gas standards for vehicles. If EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson follows through with her promise to keep the process transparent, we'll know the role science played in this decision.

"This is the first of a number of campaign promises President Obama needs to fulfill when it comes to bolstering our economy and protecting the environment. Cleaner cars will strengthen our domestic auto industry. Cutting emissions from the transportation sector is critical to avoiding the worst consequences of global warming. By directing the Department of Transportation to revisit federal fuel economy standards, Obama has an opportunity to make even greater gains in cutting our oil consumption and saving consumers money at the pump.

"If the Obama administration grants the waiver, more than a dozen states will be able to exercise their right to have cleaner cars on their roads. All Americans will benefit from having states and the federal government working together to make cars cleaner."

BACKGROUND

Current federal fuel economy regulations, passed by Congress as part of a December 2007 energy bill, requires automakers to produce new vehicles that meet a minimum of 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2020. However, the Bush administration failed to finalize the first round of rulemaking under the federal fuel economy law. This leaves the Obama administration the responsibility to set higher fuel economy standards that meet a "maximum feasible" level as prescribed by law. According to a UCS analysis, the Department of Transportation could set standards as high as 35 mpg by 2015 and 42 mpg by 2020.

Given the absence of a federal standard for global warming emissions, California set a standard for vehicles that other states have adopted. The California Air Resources Board has set a standard that will apply from now until 2016 and is creating a second standard that will last until 2020, providing a long-term signal to automakers that they will have to make cleaner vehicles over time.

At this point, 13 states and the District of Columbia have adopted California's standard. These states and the nation's capital comprise nearly 40 percent of the U.S. auto market. According to an analysis by the California Air Resources Board, meeting the bare minimum federal fuel economy standards would result in 912 million metric tons of global warming pollution reductions through 2020. By comparison, nationwide adoption of the California clean car standard would reduce global warming pollution by 1,283 million metric tons -- about 40 percent more -- during the same time period.

Website: www.ucsusa.org

 

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