Ben Buchwalter

Right (correct) Turn Signal for Emissions
January 26, 2009, 10:33 am
Filed under: Environment, Supreme Court, Transportation | Tags: ,

This morning, President Obama will pave the way to increasing fuel efficiency standards in California and thirteen other states that have repeatedly petitioned the U.S. government for such emissions restrictions. 

While working for an environmental organization in northwest Michigan in 2006, I wrote about a Supreme Court case in which the State of Massachusetts (and 12 other states) sued the Environmental Protection Agency for neglecting to regulate automobile emissions. At that point, the EPA said that it would not regulate greenhouse gasses “until more is understood about the causes, extent, and significance of climate change, and the potential options for addressing it.”

Since this time, everyone who is respected in the scientific community has confirmed that climate change is facilitated by human activity, including the harmful effects of automobile emissions. This led to the Supreme Court’s decision – in April 2007 – that the EPA does, in fact, have the authority to regulate greenhouse gasses. Still, the EPA under the Bush administration dragged its feet and refused to support the states asking for higher emissions standards.

Obama’s directive will likely result in the reversal of Bush’s rejection of higher emissions restrictions. In the 13 states included in the California-led petition, which includes Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania (pretty much the entire readership of this blog), the average mile per gallon will increase from 27 to 35 in cars and light trucks.

This is an enormous improvement and will certainly help the larger goal of reducing the impact of global warming. But I hope that we will see more environmentally-minded directives from President Obama specifically designed to increase the United States’ public transportation infrastructure. But so far, it looks like this isn’t likely. 

To make a permanent impact to reverse the trend of global warming, increasing automobile efficiency must go hand in hand with lowering the number of people who use personal vehicles.


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