Obama Administration finalizes Historic Clean Car Standards: Maine led the way

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

August 28th, 2012 

alt

Gov. John Baldacci signs legislation in 2006 that mandated clean cars to be sold in Maine. The Supreme Court upheld the law. Maine and 11 other states implemented clean car laws setting the ground work for President Obama to set nationwide standards. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Article by Ramona du Houx

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption. By the middle of the next decade our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today. It’ll strengthen our nation’s energy security, it’s good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”

The Obama administration finalized new clean car standards which will double the fuel efficiency of today’s vehicles by 2025, drastically reducing carbon pollution and cutting oil use in Maine and nationwide. The standards will cover new cars and light trucks in model years 2017-2025, and require those vehicles to average the equivalent of a 54.5 miles-per-gallon standard by 2025. A recent joint analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Union of Concerned Scientists projects that in Maine alone the standards will cut carbon pollution by 1.12 million metric tons annually starting in 2030—the equivalent of the annual pollution from 170,000 of today’s vehicles—and save 95 million gallons of fuel each year.

Together with the Obama administration’s standards covering vehicles in model years 2012-2016, the new standards and their projected cuts in carbon pollution represent the largest single step the U.S. has ever taken to tackle global warming.

“The Obama administration’s new clean car standards are a monumental leap forward in the must-win battle to tackle global warming and get Maine off oil,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “Future generations may well look back on today as a decisive step toward breaking our destructive oil addiction.”

Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said, “The car efficiency standards announced today will cut gasoline costs in half, reduce our dependence on oil, lower emissions of dangerous global warming pollution and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. These standards show that companies, workers, government, consumer and conservation interests can work together and find solutions to the biggest problems that face us today.”

When Governor John Baldacci entered office in 2003, he directed the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) to develop a Climate Change Action Plan to assess and address climate change in Maine. The plan was the first in the nation. Maine led the way for the nation with the Climate Action Plan, with California following suit in having a legislative commitment to specific greenhouse gas reduction goals. Several of the 54 strategies in Baldacci’s Climate Change Action Plan have been implemented, including adoption of greenhouse gas emissions standards starting with model year 2009 motor vehicles. Maine’s Clean Car law adopting the vehicle greenhouse gas standards assured that the cleanest-burning, lowest-emitting vehicles, that are manufactured, became available for sale in Maine.

“Before we enacted the law we met with auto manufactures. They warned us that Maine citizens would be forced to go out of state to buy cars they wanted,” said former DEP commissioner David Littell. “The governor listened to them patiently and then told them that he didn’t want to make another call to a Maine family of a service person that had been killed in Iraq because of America’s oil dependency. Supporting a measure that would help the environment, as well as reduce our energy dependency on foreign oil, was what he was going to do. The room felt silent as the auto manufactures realized that they would never change this governor’s mind.”

The car manufactures took legal action against Maine but then the Supreme Court recently ruled, that states maintain their right to regulate emissions in accordance with the Clear Air Act.

Now the federal government has taken action with nationwide clean car standards.

“It’s a very important step to be taken so that we can stretch the fuel we have to go further,” said former governor John Baldacci, “and to stretch the money we spend now further.”

The NRDC/UCS analysis projects that Mainers will save $415 million at the gas pump in 2030 because of the fuel efficiency improvements required by the new standards.

These new standards will double the number of miles we can drive on a gallon of gasoline for new cars, SUVs and pickups sold in America by 2025, when these vehicles will travel an average of 54.5 miles per gallon of gasoline burned.

“We’re replacing dependence on oil with high-tech engineering and manufacturing of more fuel efficient vehicles, which means cleaner air and more good jobs in America and more money to spend at home,” said Adam Lee, President of Lee Auto Malls. “Here in Maine alone, drivers will save 195 million gallons of gasoline and save $610 million a year when the standards take full effect. The new fuel efficiency standards give automakers their own road map for the future – providing certainty in the market, spurring innovation, and putting people to work. “ A recent independent study released by the Blue Green Alliance estimates the proposed fuel efficiency standard will spark auto industry investments and consumer savings that could generate 570,000 jobs nationwide.

More than 282,000 Americans submitted comments in support of the standards as they were being developed, and they enjoy the support of the major automakers, consumer groups and the environmental community.

Figdor pointed out that Maine played a big role in making today’s announcement possible. Long before the Obama administration took office, California, Maine, and 12 other states were developing and implementing their own state-level clean car standards. Beyond charting a path for pollution reductions for those states, the standards also pushed automakers to begin developing the cleaner cars that we see on the road today. That helped set standards for the Obama administration to implement the first-ever federal carbon pollution standards for vehicles in model years 2012-2016, followed by today’s standards for model years 2017-2025.

“Mainers should take pride in knowing that the Obama administration is following Maine’s lead in getting cleaner cars on the road,” said Figdor. “Without the leadership of Maine and the other states that adopted state-level standards, we likely wouldn’t have any federal standards to celebrate today.”

Among the economic benefits of new fuel efficiency standards:

· The new standards are estimated to add half a million additional jobs to the economy by 2030 according to a new report by the Blue Green Alliance, and save Americans $140 billion a year.

· Failure to adopt these standards would have cost families and businesses an extra $8,000 over the life of a 2025 vehicle relative to the average car today, even after paying for the cost of new fuel-saving technology.

· The standards will reduce U.S. oil consumption by 3.1 million barrels of oil per day, which is more than all the oil we get today from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia, according to joint analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Union of Concerned Scientists.

· Fuel efficiency is already working. Over the past two and a half years, the auto sector has added over 200,000 direct jobs building and selling the next generation of clean cars and trucks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics A joint study by National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, and the UAWfound 300 companies in 43 states today making components and technology that improves vehicle efficiency.