As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Big Shift On Cleaner Cars

I'm looking at the President's speech on raising gas mileage standards and finally putting to an end the slow-walk approach to reining in greenhouse gas emissions. My state Senator, Fran Pavley, is there, and there may be nobody more responsible then her for this day. She authored the landmark tailpipe emissions law in the California legislature that provoked this eventual solution. And as Kate Sheppard explains, this is really a big step.

The move will push the entire country to meet the aggressive standards proposed by the state of California. California and 13 other states had requested a waiver from the U.S. EPA that would allow them to set tougher auto-emissions standards than the federal government by requiring cars to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide—and the only viable way to cut CO2 emissions is to require cars to get better gas mileage. The Bush administration denied California’s request last year, but Obama directed the EPA to reconsider the petition almost immediately after he took office.

The Obama administration will now officially grant California’s request for a waiver, and at the same time will adopt California’s standard for the whole country. This means fuel-economy and emissions standards will be combined into one straightforward set of rules [...]

The announcement will also be an opening move for the EPA in its fight against global warming. Last month, the agency indicated that it intends to begin regulating greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, having determined that planet-warming gases threaten human health. EPA’s first target was expected to be mobile sources—i.e., cars and trucks—which account for 20 percent of all U.S. emissions.

The move will please the Auto Alliance, the major industry group representing car makers, which has been asking for one standard that unifies emission and fuel-economy standards across the whole country.

Environmentalists do not consider this a backtrack or a compromise at all, but the "single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions," according to Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign. The cost of cars will increase, but the reduction in fuel costs will offset that.

And this shift will aid the climate and energy legislation moving through the House. Obviously the White House is signaling that they're moving forward, and the Congress can either get involved in the solution or sit back and watch. I have no doubt that Obama's EPA will be vigorous in pulling the trigger on regulating more greenhouse gas emissions, for example from power plants, in the absence of legislation.

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