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Cleaner Cars are on the Way!

Dave Hawkins

Posted January 25, 2009 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Less than a week into office President Obama is acting to show the country and the world that the U.S. is back as a leader in the fight to protect the climate by taking on global warming pollution.  The Washington Post and the New York Times are reporting that on Monday the President will direct EPA to approve the right of California and at least 13 other states to set global warming pollution standards for new cars and direct the Department of Transportation to set higher national fuel efficiency standards.

With these actions our new President is not just stepping up to the threat of climate chaos. The cleaner cars he will help put on the road will show us the way to reduce our dangerous dependence on oil and will push automakers to make the cars that the world will want and need in the 21st Century.

We at NRDC are thrilled that the President is acting quickly to follow-up on his campaign promise to stop the pattern of global warming denial and delay that we have lived through in the past eight years.  In 2002 California enacted the world's first law to cut global warming pollution from automobiles. The response of the automakers was to hire lawyers instead of turning their engineers loose to make cleaner cars. Court after court shot down the auto company lawyers' claims but the Bush Administration threw yet another roadblock in the path of the cleaner cars that California and at least 13 other states were trying to put in the hands of their citizens. Overruling the advice of career agency staff, the Bush Administration EPA for the first time since EPA was founded 38 years ago, denied the right of the states to set tougher vehicle pollution standards under the Clean Air Act.

By directing his EPA to reverse this unlawful obstructionism and approve the states' efforts, President Obama is preventing years of additional delay in getting these cleaner cars on the road.  If the automakers would take their eyes off the rear view mirror in developing their business plans, they too would be applauding the President's action for it is the kick they need to turn out a better product-better for the planet, better for consumers, better for ailing auto companies, and better for the American economy.

I've been watching Presidents come and go in Washington since 1970 and this is the best and fastest environmental start of any Presidency I've seen.  Bravo to the President and bravo to the American voter for bringing all of us this breath of fresh air!

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Comments

Bill KennedyJan 26 2009 02:01 PM

First - lets clear up the incorrect statements in your blog:

1) The California legislation was not the first "to cut global warming pollution from automobiles" - as CO2 is directly related to fuel economy all prior laws related to fuel economy also directly correlate to GHG.
2) Automakers don't hire lawyers and stop working on making cleaner cars. They hire hire lawyers to fight legislation that is inefficient and will add costs. Meanwhile, they work on cars that people want to buy. BTW - "automakers" here include Honda, Toyota, Nissan, as well as GM and Ford. If gas is $2/gallon John & Jane Q Public are not interested in small fuel efficient cars, or in mass transit, or in driving fewer miles.

What will happen with the Calif. law? Well - if the "greenstates" all fall in line it will create that many separate auto markets - each potentially with different model availability and almost certainly different pricing as the auto companies balance offering "cost effective" cars that people want to buy with the need to meet the legal fleet average. What can we expect? Sales in the "greenstates" to decrease as vehicle prices rise or people find ways to buy vehicles from "non-green" states. Count on a reduction in tax revenue for Calif.

The change we really need is a new national fuel economy standard (somewhere between the 35mpg in 2020 national standard and California's would be fine - same global GHG reduction, more efficient costs) coupled with a 10 year plan to raise the price of fuel. All of the auto companies listed above have fleet averages in Europe that are equal to or better than what Calif. wants - its not that the technology isn't there. It is that the customers must DEMAND the product.

Encouraging the States to set their own fleet averages is ludicrous. Lincoln would NEVER have endorsed such a mis-guided policy. Its a shame Pres. Obama is taking the easy road - and that you endorse his actions for a short term "feel good" buzz. The results will be disappointing.

Bill

Peter RivaJan 27 2009 12:30 PM

What I do not get is the unbelievable degree of stupidity by our Congressional leaders not knowing the 1st thing about making cars or what cars these Big 3 actually already make which could, if they were forced to sell them here, save you and me at least 50% or more on our fuel bills. Think I’m kidding? Check this out (and there are dozens more examples, use the net and check it out for yourself and get angry):
Mercedes now sells their clean diesels here, averaging 45% mileage improvement per gallon compared to the gasoline models. And California emissions testing, the toughest in the nation, has rated them cleaner than most hybrids. So much for “dirty” diesels. A Diesel won the 24 race at le Mans, 2 years running. Diesels are in, smart, strong, and reliable.
Toyota sells hybrid cars here (averaging par consumption especially for those of us in the wide-open country) instead of the same Toyota models sold around the world (except USA) with more efficient diesels, with more power, more acceleration, and way more mpg. For example, the smallest engine Rav4 here averages 28mpg whereas the same car with a diesel does 50.4 mpg average in Europe on the city/urban testing, but an incredible 70 mpg in extra-urban environments (like our wide-open spaces). Their own stats are found here: http://www.toyota.co.uk/bv/1024downloads/FuelConsumption_Emissions_01-06.pdf
on Toyotas’ own web site (but they don’t want you here in the US to know that).
GM sells Opels in Europe (or Vauxhall in Britain), the equivalent of the Saturn brand here (same cars really; same platform, same design). All Opels come with a diesel option, of course. Consumption? Incredible. The Aura equivalent, the Vauxhall Astra, with a diesel does 70.6 mpg extra-urban and 45.6 in the city. Here’s a link:
http://www.carpages.co.uk/vauxhall/vauxhall-astra-29-08-08.asp
Ford, of course, sells diesels all over the world, but not here, oh no, why give Americans good economy and help with National Security? The best selling Fusion diesel (called the Modeo in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, China, etc.) does 50.4 mpg, whereas the US Fusion Hybrid only does 33 mpg (the regular model does 29 mpg they say). The link:
http://www.ford.co.uk/ie/mondeo/co2_mdo/co2_model_mdo_diesel/-/-/-/-
And the list goes on with Nissan, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Land Rover, BMW, and, yes, even Audi sports cars. Just thought you might appreciate a different perspective. It is worth remembering that gasoline costs more to refine, is more dangerous to store and, since the removal of sulfur in US diesel fuel, is matched for environmental cleanliness by diesel.
Give Detroit $35 billion dollars? Mandate more mpg and cleaner emissions? Sure, but why not make them sell those “secret” diesels they already make and profit from - to boost the US economy and economize at the same time? I, for one, am sick of their whining while they refuse to sell us superior, cleaner (per mile driven) faster, cheaper to maintain, and cheaper to run cars.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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