Bush administration response on car mileage riles governors
The fine print in a new federal plan forbids states from setting their own standards.
In the politics of science – especially involving the environment and its connection to the economy – nothing is as simple as it seems. That's especially true for global climate change.Skip to next paragraph
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On Earth Day (April 22), Transportation Secretary Mary Peters outlined a new plan requiring that the nation's fleet of new cars and trucks achieve 31.6 miles per gallon by 2015. According to the Associated Press:
"Under the plan, the fleet of new vehicles will be required to achieve 27.8 mpg by 2011, with passenger cars achieving 31.2 mpg and pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and vans reaching 25 mpg by that year. By 2015, the efficiency of cars will be required to meet 35.7 mpg while the fleet of trucks would need to achieve 28.6 mpg. The plan is expected to save 54.7 billion gallons of oil over the life of the new vehicles built between 2011-2015. It will add an average cost of $650 per passenger car and $979 per truck by 2015…."
With motor vehicles emitting a major portion of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases causing global warming, everyone agrees that improved CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards are a good thing. A Los Angeles Times story stated that:
" 'It's a good first start. The first time in many years that they've made an improvement like this,' said Jim Kliesch, senior engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program."
Dave McCurdy, President and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers acknowledges that carmakers "have a responsibility to increase fuel economy and limit greenhouse gas emissions." In a statement, the industry trade group said:
"Automakers believe this tough, nationwide, proposed fuel economy increase will be good for both consumers and energy security. While these increases will present a challenge, it is critical that automakers and consumers have the certainty that this nationwide, 50-state fuel economy rule provides."
"Tucked deep into a 417-page 'Notice of Proposed Rulemaking' was language by the Transportation Department stating that more stringent limits on tailpipe emissions embraced by California and 17 other states are 'an obstacle to the accomplishment' of the new federal standards and are 'expressly and impliedly preempted' by federal law."
In plain language, this means that California and the other states – which have faulted the administration for foot-dragging on reducing earth-warming emissions – are not allowed to set their own standards.
Obviously, this does not sit well with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California and his fellow governors. Under the Clean Air Act, California can adopt stricter standards by obtaining a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency. Other states then have the choice of following California's lead.