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October 22, 2009

Clean Cars and that Motown Sound

This post is from Jesse Prentice-Dunn, with the Sierra Club's Green Transportation Program

Yesterday I testified at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) public hearing on proposed standards  that will make our cars and trucks average 34.1 mpg and 250 grams CO2/mile by 2016. The hearing was in Detroit, but Motown might be more accurate. A wide range of seemingly conflicting interests were there to testify; however, everyone was singing harmonies out of the same songbook. The tune – new standards that make our cars and trucks cleaner and more efficient will curb global warming, save consumers money, and help Detroit automakers once again become leaders in a clean energy economy.

One after another, disparate groups praised the administration for accelerating fuel economy standards and creating new greenhouse gas standards for vehicles. If you want a quick recap, check out my live tweets  from the hearing.

Environmental groups applauded the 950 million metric tons of emissions reductions and 1.8 billion gallons of oil savings that these standards will provide and asked the agencies to strengthen several details. Automakers (GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai, just to name a few) praised the direction of the standards and said they would make more efficient vehicles.

More than 60% of an average car is steel, and U.S. Steel was on hand to say that advanced steel and new designs could make cars safer and more efficient. All of this translates into consumer benefits, and the Consumer Federation of America noted that even stronger standards would provide consumers with savings at the pump and cars with higher resale values. An auto dealer from Maine recounted how efficient vehicles, particularly hybrids, have been flying off of his lots. Perhaps the best context was provided by an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, who noted that global warming and our addiction to oil were serious threats to our security that we must address immediately and new vehicle standards are a great start.

All of the testimony in Detroit highlights the fact that strong fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards are truly a win for automakers, consumers, and the planet. The proposed standards are a historic step forward and a much-needed transition to comprehensive future standards that can finally break our dependence on oil and significantly curb global warming pollution.

The EPA and NHTSA are holding two more hearings, in New York City (Friday, Oct. 23) and Los Angeles (Tuesday, Oct. 27). If you live in either of those places, check out our materials and head on out to testify! Otherwise, stay tuned and work with us to applaud the EPA and NHTSA for their proposed standards and urge them to create a strong framework for even more improvements in the future.

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