California dreaming may become reality

July 7, 2007, midnight | By Greg Kohn | 17 years ago

Stricter emission standards in California could lead the way to a cleaner America

As humans continue to test the strength and resilience of Mother Nature, several U.S. state governments have been proactive in limiting their contributions to global climate change. Now the state of California, the leader of the pack, may be able to force the auto industry to manufacture cleaner cars, something the federal government has failed to do.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to allow California to impose its own get-tough emission standards. If California is allowed to stop the sale of gas-guzzling cars inside state borders it's likely that 11 other states, including Maryland, will also impose stricter standards. The EPA should live up to its name and protect the environment by letting California set its standards.

Stalemated by industry lobbyists for more than 20 years, environmentalists are hopeful the court ruling finally opens up a way to decrease tailpipe emissions from the millions of cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles that spew out greenhouse gases.

Fuel emissions are a major part of global climate change, a human-caused threat recognized by almost all scientists. Every gallon of gas burned adds 19 pounds of carbon dioxide to the air, so every extra mile per gallon can go a long way toward a solution.

California and the other 11 states have faced powerful opposition. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, comprised of GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and other companies, filed a lawsuit against the new standards. A similar alliance made up of foreign car manufacturers is also in support of the suit – as if it's their place to say what California does.

Oil companies also are opposed because more fuel-efficient cars mean fewer trips to their pumps. Of course, their profits are already exorbitant. Over a recent three-year period the combined profits of Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco and Conoco-Phillips nearly doubled to $64 billion.

Most unfortunate of all, the U. S. Department of Transportation, which, prior to the Supreme Court ruling, had jurisdiction over state standards, started a controversial campaign against California's Clean Air Act that included calling members of Congress. According to the Washington Post, the Department claimed that giving California freedom to set separate rules "would have significant impacts on the light truck and car industry." No mention, however, was made about the significant impact the current standards have on Planet Earth.

They also neglected to mention how a market full of fuel-efficient vehicles would result in savings to motorists. According to Maryland estimates, the average consumer savings could reach $560 per year by 2016.

Stricter standards will also reduce the amount of cancer-causing pollution and smog that encircles most cities, many of which are in California.

This is not California's first time at the forefront of the clean-air fight. In 1990, the state came up with the Zero Emissions Mandate, forcing the manufacture of a certain percentage of electric cars. The mandate was killed in 2003 after the oil industry and federal government teamed up against it.

Now California has a second chance to lead the country toward a better future. There are signs that federal lawmakers may even follow California's example. In late June, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to raise the miles-per-gallon minimum for cars to 35 by 2020.

The auto industry versus our planet? It should be no contest.

Greg Kohn. Greg Kohn is a native Marylander. He's lived in one house his whole life, played soccer since before he could talk, and loves to chant "09" when it's really quiet. He hates being called Gregory, and he wishes he were more organized. He was a … More »

Show comments


No comments.

Please ensure that all comments are mature and responsible; they will go through moderation.