Monthly Archives: April 2013

In Philadelphia, a Strong Show of Support for Cleaner Cars and Cleaner Air

In the first opportunity for the public to comment on EPA’s proposed Tier 3 standards, the message was clear – people want cleaner air.

Tier 3 is the term the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using for its proposed national vehicle emissions and fuel standards. They are designed to reduce the soot, smog and other types of dangerous pollution that come from the tailpipes of our cars and trucks.

You can find extensive details about the Tier 3 standards in my most recent post.

Yesterday, EPA held the first of two public hearings on Tier 3 in Philadelphia.

My colleague, Caroline Paulsen was there to add her voice in support of the proposed standards. Here’s her eyewitness report:

It was an impressive turnout at the Sonesta hotel in Philadelphia, where EPA held the hearing, and most people in the large crowd were there to testify in favor of the proposed Tier 3 gasoline and vehicle standards.

It was a very busy day, with back-to-back five-minute testimonies starting at 10:00 a.m. During the five to six hours that I was there, only two people testified against the Tier 3 standards, so those are promising odds for us.

I was struck by the incredible range of people testifying in favor of Tier 3. Among the many people I noticed there were doctors and other health experts, business leaders, religious leaders, state government officials and moms – as well as environmentalists, of course. People were there representing General Motors, Chrysler, Honda, Mercedes Benz, the Auto Alliance and the Global Automakers. The American Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society were there, along with the Sierra Club, NRDC, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Consumers Union and the Blue Green Alliance were represented as well – all of them supporting the Tier 3 standards and the vast benefits we can expect from them.

I was especially impressed by the testimony I heard from a doctor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Dr. Gary Emmett talked enthusiastically about the need to cut air pollution for the sake of the asthma patients he sees every day, and about how low-income and minority populations often suffer the most from air-pollution induced illnesses like asthma.

When it was my turn to testify, I talked about how the Tier 3 standards will prevent thousands of deaths each year, and will provide billions of dollars in public health benefits— all for about a penny a gallon.

I talked about how America’s passenger cars and trucks are the second largest source of the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that form ozone, better known as smog. Our cars and truck also emit more than half of all carbon monoxide, and contribute significantly to particulate matter pollution. The Tier 3 standards will allow us to make huge strides towards cleaning up that pollution.

I ended by saying that Environmental Defense Fund is proud to join the auto manufacturers, the auto workers, the emissions control technology industry, the health experts, the environmental organizations, the state and local air pollution control agencies, the consumer groups, and the public who all agree that cleaner passenger cars and trucks are an important step forward for a healthier and stronger America.

All in all, it was inspiring to be there representing EDF.

You can read Caroline’s full testimony here.

EPA will hold a second public hearing in Chicago next week. Check back for an update on that.

I’m happy that Caroline was in Philadelphia to voice EDF’s support of the proposal. And you can add your voice to the hundreds who are supporting cleaner cars and cleaner air. You don’t have to go to Chicago to testify in person — you can send an email to EPA instead. EDF’s web page is designed to make it easy for you to stand up for the Tier 3 standards.

So join us in support of this important proposal. Thank you.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Health, Policy / Read 1 Response

It’s the Demographics, Stupid: Why the Political Future Looks Good for Environmentalism

(Originally posted yesterday on EDF Voices)

Image by Propaganda Times

Political strategists not only want to know what The People think today, but where they are headed.  In the short term, that might mean understanding that an issue that’s popular right now – perhaps because of something in the news – might become unpopular by Election Day.  In the longer term, strategists need to understand demographic and political trends so that their party doesn’t get left behind.

The question of immigration reform is a good example. Both parties see that Latinos are a fast growing segment of the population. So it is obviously very important, in order to win future elections, to be attractive to these voters. That has led to the bi-partisan, self-interested push to achieve immigration reform, which is a high priority for many Hispanic-Americans.

What is true of ethnic population growth is also true when it comes to the inexorable aging of every individual voter. If people born before World War II mostly hold one view and people born after 1980 mostly hold the opposite view, a smart political strategist will align his party with the latter position. Why? Because the younger people will be voting for many more decades than their grandparents. This phenomenon is an important element in the fast changing politics of gay marriage.  As this Washington Post analysis shows, young people are far more supportive of gay marriage, so it’s a long-term political problem (nationally) for those who are opposed.

Politicians are beginning to understand that the same variables come into play with climate change. According to polling by the PEW Center, more than 70% of Americans already believe the climate is changing. But on the more contentious question of whether greenhouse gas pollution is causing that change, there is a dramatic generational divide. Only 28% of voters over 65 accept the scientific consensus that these emissions are warming the Earth, but close to 50% of those under 50 accept it. That means that support for policies to limit greenhouse pollution will only grow in the years ahead. (And there is no reason to believe that young voters will change their minds about this scientific question as they get older.)

Based on data from the PEW Research Center

Some strategists will argue that despite the growing support for climate action, not enough people consider it a “voting issue” – something citizens use to determine which candidate to support.  Still, a candidate’s view on this issue, as for gay marriage, can be a signal to voters about their broader political profile. For example, while gay marriage doesn’t have a direct impact on a majority of voters, younger people may see opposition to it as a signal that a candidate is intolerant. Similarly, voters born after 1985 — who have never experienced a colder than average month — may regard a politician who denies  the scientific evidence of climate change as out of touch.

This doesn’t mean supporters of climate action can relax because a demographic wave is coming to save us. Population changes come slowly and the scientific evidence suggests global warming is advancing rapidly. If we wait on population trends to save us, things will get a lot worse and more expensive to fix before they get better. So we need to continue to push for action, and hope the pundits and strategists see which way the political winds are blowing.

Posted in Policy / Comments are closed

Linkage Approval Boosts Cap-and-Trade Momentum

(This was originally posted on EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog)

Don’t look now, but California’s cap-and-trade program is going global.

With California Air Resources Board (CARB) approving linkage between California and Quebec’s cap-and-trade programs today, these two programs will now be able to trade emissions allowances across borders starting in 2014.  CARB’s action comes on the heels of California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent decision to approve the linkage, which will increase the size of California’s cap-and-trade market by 20 percent. More importantly, linkage will boost California’s clean energy economy by creating a broader market for innovative, low-carbon technologies.  The linkage is also a shot in the arm for global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and it sends a positive signal to other jurisdictions that are working on building their own carbon markets and might ultimately seek to join with California and Quebec.

This linkage comes at a moment when momentum for carbon market development has been building around the world. Many other regions, including Europe, Australia, South Korea, and the Northeastern U.S., have instituted or are currently developing carbon markets. Australia also announced plans last August to phase-in a linkage with the EU system starting in 2015.

California Governor Jerry Brown also recently returned from a trip to China where he signed an agreement with their Minister of Environmental Projection to help reduce air pollution and an agreement with Guangdong Province to share best practices related to cap-and-trade, clear evidence that if we want to get serious about climate change, California or one region can’t do it alone.

Before full linkage is possible, it’s often helpful for governments to develop ‘unofficial links’ in the form of partnerships to share policies, best practices, and goals. This cooperation – which California and Quebec have had since 2007 – is important and beneficial for the overall growth, rigor and integrity of carbon markets. The California cap-and-trade system uses a similar platform to the RGGI system in the Northeastern U.S., and the California system has been carefully crafted based on lessons learned from the EU ETS.

It took many steps to get to this point, but with a first joint cap-and-trade auction now scheduled for early 2014, California and Quebec are finally there. CARB’s approval of linkage is a big milestone for California and the nation, and another strong signal of California’s leadership in fighting climate change, while moving the nation further down the path to a clean energy economy.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, International, News / Comments are closed

Litigation by Coal Interests Attacks EPA’s Landmark Clean Car Standards

Yesterday, coal interests petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review and overturn the nation’s landmark climate pollution standards for passenger cars and trucks.

These Clean Car standards are already reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while driving down our dependence on foreign oil and saving American families money at the gas pump.

They are broadly supported by the U.S. auto manufacturers, the United Auto Workers, national security experts, the Consumers Union, and numerous states.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld these common-sense standards on June 26, 2012. But some coal interests want to turn back the clock on actions that the courts have already deemed “unambiguously correct.”

Yesterday, in its petition to the High Court, the “Coalition for Responsible Regulation” attacked the foundation of our nation’s Clean Car standards. (You can read more about this industry group here)

These seriously misguided legal claims attack the critical societal benefits of the Clean Car standards for model years 2012 to 2016 and a second round of Clean Car standards for model years 2017 to 2025.

Together, the Clean Car standards will almost double the current fuel economy performance of cars on American roads – to an unprecedented fleet wide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

That increase in fuel economy will be a huge financial benefit for American families. They’ll save an average of more than $8,000 in fuel costs over the life of a new car and ensure our country will see $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel savings.

For families purchasing a model year 2025 vehicle, this will be equivalent to lowering the price of gas by approximately $1 a gallon.

The Clean Car standards will also reduce carbon dioxide pollution by more than 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program – comparable to the total emissions from the United States in 2010.

These standards will reduce oil consumption by an estimated 2 million barrels a day in 2025 – as much as half of what we import from OPEC each day.

But we won’t have to wait until 2025. We’re already seeing significant efficiency improvements.

EPA’s preliminary data for model year 2012 cars shows the largest annual fuel economy improvements since EPA first began tracking this kind of data back in 1975. And in March 2013, the average fuel-economy sticker value of new vehicles sold in the U.S. was a record-high 24.6 mpg.

All of this is happening without loss of consumer choice, as more SUVs, minivans, and pickups beat the 20 mile per gallon benchmark, and new technologies such as hybrids are more commonly available.

In other words, our automotive industry can — and is — meeting the challenging of providing fuel efficient, low emitting passenger cars that consumers want to buy.

That’s why automakers are not appealing the case.

In fact, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – an association of 12 vehicle manufacturers including Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors – supports the clean cars standards.

Here’s what their spokeswoman, Gloria Bergquist, said when EPA’s greenhouse gas rules were upheld last summer:

Automakers are already producing almost 300 highly fuel-efficient models, so we have made a huge investment in technologies and want to sell these models in high numbers.

It’s time for these obstructionist coal interests to end the litigation. America is moving forward, together, with innovation that will strengthen our nation’s security, our economy and our environment.

(EDF’s Peter Zalzal contributed to this post)

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, What Others are Saying / Read 8 Responses

Tier 3: What It Means and Why It Matters

By now, you’ve probably seen lots of news headlines talking about the proposed updated Tier 3 standards.

Tier 3 is the shorthand term for national vehicle emissions and fuel standards that will help us make big strides towards cleaner, healthier air. They are designed to reduce the soot, smog and other types of dangerous pollution that come from the tailpipes of our cars and trucks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced the proposed standards to enthusiastic responses from everyone from health advocates to automakers (including EDF, of course).

What exactly are the Tier 3 standards, and why are they so important? Here are answers to some common questions:

What’s the story behind the Tier 3 standards?

Cars and trucks are one of the biggest sources of air pollution in America. For years, EPA has been looking for ways to reduce the pollution associated with those motor vehicles.

In 2000, they created standards that would attack the air pollution problem at two of its sources at the same time – by reducing impurities in gasoline, so what you put into your car is cleaner, and by improving cars’ emission systems, so what comes out of your car is cleaner.

They called these standards Tier 2.

Now, EPA is proposing to update the standards. The new, improved version – called Tier 3 – will keep the proven approach of treating vehicles and fuels as an integrated system.

Starting in 2017, the new proposal would strengthen the earlier standards in order to reduce the pollutants from both gasoline and auto emissions standards in the most cost-efficient ways possible.

The proposed Tier 3 standards are also designed to work in harmony with America’ new clean car standards, which will improve fleet-wide fuel efficiency in new cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025, and with California’s state standards, which are already stricter than the national average.

How exactly would the Tier 3 standards work? 

Cars and light trucks are the second largest emitters of oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the U.S. Those are the primary pollutants that form ozone.

According to EPA, the proposed Tier 3 standards would slash the level of those pollutants by 80 percent.

The proposed Tier 3 standards would also establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard. Particulate matter, more commonly known as soot, is one of the most dangerous types of air pollution. It has been linked to asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks and other types of heart and lung diseases.

The proposed Tier 3 standards would reduce other noxious types of air pollution as well, including carbon monoxide, benzene and butadiene. They would reduce fuel vapor emissions to near zero.

At the same time, the proposed Tier 3 standards would reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline by more than 60 percent, to no more than 10 parts per million of sulfur on an annual average basis by 2017.

Lower sulfur levels in gasoline will allow vehicles to run more efficiently.

It also means we’ll see immediate benefits once the proposed standards go into effect in the year 2017. That’s because older cars that are already on our roads will emit less tailpipe pollution –right away — thanks to the cleaner gasoline. (The cleaner emissions systems will be built into new cars, and we’ll see those additional benefits emerge more gradually as Americans buy those cars to replace their old ones).

What are the benefits of Tier 3?

Tier 3 would be good for public health and for the economy

By the year 2030, EPA estimates that Tier 3 would:

  • Prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths every year
  • Prevent 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits every year
  • Prevent tens of thousands of cases of respiratory illnesses in children every year

EPA also estimates that by 2030, Tier 3 would prevent 1.8 million lost school or work days each year, and would provide total health-related benefits worth up to $23 billion per year.

How much will Tier 3 cost?

We can reduce tailpipe pollution and provide healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans for less than a penny per gallon of gas.

How will America’s gasoline standard compare to other countries?

The proposed Tier 3 standards for sulfur levels in gasoline are similar to levels that are already required – and being achieved – in Europe, Japan, South Korea, and several other countries (as well as California, here in the U.S.).

Do businesses support Tier 3?

Many businesses do support updating the standards, including automakers and the emissions control industry.

Tier 3 would provide greater regulatory certainty for automakers; a national standard means the auto industry can build a car that can be sold anywhere in the country.

On the day the proposed standards were announced, Michael Stanton, president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers said:

We have been anxiously awaiting this rulemaking because it is good for the environment and will help harmonize the federal and California programs for both vehicles and fuel …  With 15 million new vehicle sales a year, automakers need predictable national fuel quality at the retail pump. Ultra-low sulfur gasoline is already available in California, Europe, and Japan and will enable automakers to use a broader range of technologies to meet the significant environmental challenges facing the industry.

Gloria Bergquist, Spokeswoman for Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said:

This is a big step forward for this country to catch up to the clean fuels available in other industrialized nations. Automakers have already reduced vehicle emissions by 99 percent, and we’re working to go further while also delivering high quality, affordable vehicles to our customers.

And the United Auto Workers said:

This is one of the most cost-effective ways for us to get cleaner and healthier air while strengthening our domestic auto sector and creating thousands of new jobs … The proposed rule is a win for our economy and a win for public health.

Who else supports Tier 3?

Even before EPA unveiled its proposal, state and local officials, national recreation groups, health groups and the public – as well as the automakers and the emissions control industry — all announced their support for updating the standards.

EPA has compiled a list of what all those supporters are saying. It’s a very long list. You can read it here.

What happens next?

EPA will hold two public hearings about the proposed Tier 3 standards, the first on April 24th in Philadelphia and the second on April 29th in Chicago.

EDF will be sending experts to testify at both those hearings, and we’ll report back from them. EPA will also begin accepting public comments soon.

Where can I learn more?

Check out EPA’s website. And check back here for updates.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy, What Others are Saying / Comments are closed