ManatakaAmerican Indian Council











Clean Vehicles Update


Amidst a weak economy and automaker bailouts, fuel economy and clean car standards were thrust into the spotlight this spring. The Obama administration used methodology held over from the Bush administration to set the 2011 model year vehicle fuel economy standards, which included only a small increase over current standards. UCS is working with agency officials to improve implementation for fuel economy standards in future model years. President Obama also told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider their decision prohibiting states from implementing clean car standards for global warming pollution. UCS analysts and activists spoke loud and clear in support of this issue, including continued efforts to encourage more states to adopt the clean car standards. Our work to reduce global warming pollution from fuels continues as well. UCS scientists worked with the EPA on its plans to implement a Renewable Fuel Standard, but key issues still remain especially in regard to land use and global warming pollution. At the state level, however, we achieved a major victory last week in California where they passed the world's first low carbon fuel standard. The regulation will likely serve as a model for other states and the federal government. In addition, California activists worked to defend diesel pollution standards that protect public health and the environment.


Fuel Economy
Earlier this year, we saw the first actual steps taken from the work UCS, its activists, and allies played in the historic increase of fuel economy standards passed in 2007. On March 27, the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the final fuel economy requirements for model year 2011 cars and trucks. The rule set the average fuel economy at 27.3 miles per gallon (mpg), a small increase from the 2008 model year estimated average of 26 mpg. This modest increase was primarily due to the lack of time to review the Bush administration’s methodology. By law NHTSA had to release the rule by the end of March in order for the standard to be effective in 2011. The new administration simply did not have sufficient time to lay out a new methodology for determining the rule. Instead they were forced to move forward with the flawed methodology and data held over from the Bush administration.


NHTSA did limit this implementation only to the 2011 model year, enabling them to revise their implementation strategy for future model years. UCS Washington Representatives Eli Hopson and Lena Moffitt and UCS Senior Engineer Jim Kliesch have been meeting with administration and agency officials, including Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood, to discuss ways to ensure that methodology for implementation is based on the most accurate engineering data and technological feasibility. Our information, backed by the voice of our supporters, will help ensure stronger and more accurate rules for future model years. The final rule for model years 2012-2016 is expected in early 2010. 

Global Warming Pollution and Automobiles
During the first week of his presidency, President Obama instructed the EPA to reconsider the Bush administration's decision to deny states the right to implement global warming pollution standards for vehicles. The denial has thus far prevented 14 states and the District of Columbia from implementing clean car standards that mandate an approximate 30 percent reduction in global warming pollution from new vehicles by 2016.


On March 5, EPA officials held a public hearing in the Washington, DC, area on this issue. The conference room was filled primarily with clean car supporters, including long-time UCS activist Alan Ford who attended his first ever public hearing. UCS Senior Engineer Jim Kliesch gave testimony about how existing vehicle technologies can be used in vehicles of all types and sizes to meet and even exceed the clean car standards, showing the clean vehicle blueprint developed by UCS engineers—the UCS Vanguard.


UCS testimony was backed by more than 16,000 UCS activists who wrote to demand that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson reverse the previous administration’s ill-considered decision. Backed by the public, as well as the EPA’s own staff recommendations, we are hopeful that Ms. Jackson will grant states the right to implement clean car standards by the summer.


Meanwhile, movement continues to broaden the number of states that have adopted the clean car standards. On March 4, Iowa State Representative Nathan Reichert proposed House File 422, a bill to adopt the clean car standards. Iowa joins Minnesota and Illinois with active legislation to adopt the standards. As action in these three states move forward, as well as the next legislative steps in Florida, the spring and summer look to be a busy and crucial time for moving forward on cleaner cars. UCS and its activists will continue to play a key leadership role in advancing this effort.


Cool Fuels
In addition to stronger fuel economy standards, another step toward reducing our dependence on oil was made in 2007 with the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The EPA is now in the process of determining how to best implement the RFS, which, by law, must take into account all the direct and indirect global warming pollution associated with growing, producing, distributing, and using all types of fuels.


This is a crucial issue for the future of our fuels, as the science has shown that some biofuels can actually produce more global warming pollution than conventional gasoline. UCS Senior Scientist Jeremy Martin and Washington Representative Eli Hopson have been working closely with the EPA to ensure that the methodology being used to account for the global warming pollution from the entire lifecycle of biofuels—"seed to wheels"—is based on the best available science and that the methodology being used is openly available for scientific review.


At the state level, however, we achieved a major victory in California where they passed the world's first low carbon fuel standard. The regulation will likely serve as a model for other states and the federal government. Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Air Resources Board faced tremendous pressure from the corn ethanol industry to weaken the regulation by ignoring emissions caused by deforestation and other land use changes. But the scientific evidence is clear, and with the help of UCS, more than 170 scientists and economists—including two Nobel Laureates and nine members of the National Academies of Science—sent a letter to the board, urging it to account for these emissions. California should be commended for accounting for those emissions—and for continuing to lead the nation in establishing forward-thinking policy to reduce heat-trapping emissions. 

California Diesel
In California, UCS has played a lead role in defending diesel pollution standards that offer important public health and environmental protections. UCS activists submitted thousands of letters and Senior Analyst Don Anair provided critical analysis that helped dampen, but unfortunately not prevent, efforts to weaken the state’s landmark regulation to reduce pollution from off-road diesel equipment. Anair continues working with California coalition partners to ensure that other state diesel regulations are fully implemented, and UCS will explore every opportunity to make up ground where health protections were weakened.

Union of Concerned Scientists Action Network


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