Tighten your gas caps

"Tighten your gas caps" Continued...

Issue: "Don't run, Newt," April 14, 2007

But economic costs will likely still prove significant and with very little environmental gain. Automakers forced to pursue more efficient technologies for greater fuel economy will pass those costs to consumers. Meanwhile, higher-gas-mileage vehicles will encourage more driving, pushing greenhouse gas emissions back up near original levels.

Still, the president will not likely choose to resist, as his sole avenue of recourse would require pushing Congress to pass legislation amending the Clean Air Act, a political battle with a high degree of difficulty and limited chances for success. But conservatives are not without hope: Some believe that top-down EPA bureaucracy will operate more slowly than the state-by-state movement to restrict emissions, a scenario that would buy time for the creation of new technologies and fuels and could ease some economic pain.

"People that are worried about global warming don't seem to consider that if they're in a hurry, EPA is probably the worst way to get there," Green said. "The EPA process is so unbelievably tedious, so lengthy and open to challenge and comment and public disputation."

Much of that EPA process will revolve around determining appropriate levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike other pollutants, which produce measurable environmental harm at particular levels, CO2 is far more difficult to nail down. Scientists differ dramatically in their estimates of how tight restrictions need to be to stop man-made climate change. And some researchers believe a little man-made climate change could prove beneficial.

In light of such uncertainties, federal standards will be arbitrary and highly vulnerable to repeated court challenges. Justice Stevens should keep his white coat handy.

Air power

California leads several states in adopting stringent emissions standards

In 2002, California passed legislation requiring the state's Air Resources Board (ARB) to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of cars, light trucks, and SUVs. On Jan. 1 of last year, the ARB made official its mandatory plan that automakers begin reducing the amount of CO2 emitted per mile in 2009 and continue those reductions up to 30 percent by 2016.

The automobile industry has challenged the law in court on the grounds that it amounts to fuel economy regulation, which only the U.S. Department of Transportation can impose. California lawmakers insist the statute is justifiable under the Clean Air Act and have petitioned the EPA for enforcement. That petition had stalled but received new life with the recent Supreme Court decision.

Many other states have followed California's lead, some adopting identical standards, others adjusting them slightly to accommodate particular needs or political climates.

States that have adopted California's standards:

New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

States considering adoption of California's standards:

New Mexico
North Carolina

Other related state legislation:

Arkansas: A House bill would set clean car standards and promote the availability of cars that use bio-fuel.

Hawaii: A House resolution would urge the state's congressional delegation to introduce and support federal legislation enabling Hawaii to adopt California's emissions standards.

Tennessee: A Senate bill would require Tennessee to adopt California's emissions standards if other states totaling 40 percent of the U.S. population did so.


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