Our Commentaries

Make an example out of Volkswagen. USA Today.

June 10, 2016
Volkswagen’s cheating on diesel emissions tests isn’t the first pollution scandal to rock the auto industry. Here’s how the Obama administration can make it the last. VW should be ordered to fix the diesels, or buy them back and scrap them, begin large-scale production of electric vehicles and face civil and criminal penalties, including a fine large enough that no automaker will even think about cheating on air pollution standards again. VW and government regulators suing the company are negotiating at a propitious moment, as federal agencies and the California Air Resources Board evaluate another crucial program protecting the environment — the joint U.S.-California 54.5 mpg mileage and emissions standard. It is possibly the biggest single step any nation has taken to fight global warming, and the automakers are fighting to weaken it. The VW scandal, and the separate revelation that VW may have also under-…

Read the entire commentary at usatoday.com. A version of this commentary also appeared in the Huffington Post. 

Truck sales boom as emissions push climate to the brink. Truthout.

March 31, 2016
The auto industry spends roughly $15 billion on marketing annually, according to Kantar Media. Ads for gas-guzzlers are ubiquitous on the web, in print and on television. And sales of SUVs, minivans and other light trucks are surging — up nearly 10 percent in the first two months of 2016 compared with 2015, according to Automotive News. Coincidence? Probably not. Automakers don’t invest that kind of cash because they want to enrich the media. They do it because it sells cars — or, actually, mostly trucks. It’s worth considering as the auto industry whines that consumer demand for trucks will make it nearly impossible, if not impossible, to meet the tough fuel efficiency standards to which it agreed. In 2012, the Obama administration — with auto industry support — took the biggest single step of any nation against global warming and set us on the path to a fleetwide average of 54.5 miles per gallon. The climate doesn’t care about the…

Stalling on fuel efficiency. The New York Times.

March 10, 2016
THE Obama administration’s stringent fuel efficiency standards are intended to reduce auto pollution and drive up gas mileage. They are the biggest single step any nation has taken to fight global warming. The rules worked well, at first. They no longer do. They can be fixed.The repairs are all the more important since the Supreme Court last month put a hold on the administration’s plan to limit pollution from coal-fired power plants.The fuel-economy standards are designed to deliver a new-car fleet averaging 54.5 m.p.g. in 2025. But this goal is in jeopardy as automakers increase the production of gas-guzzling light trucks, minivans and most S.U.V.s, which are subject to less stringent standards than other cars. These vehicles are driving up oil consumption and pollution and putting at risk American compliance with the Paris climate accord.Two recent government reports provide ample evidence that to cut carbon dioxide emissions, the…

How Obama can follow Paris climate deal: Column. USA Today.

December 21, 2015
President Obama’s crackdown on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and power plants made the U.S. a leader at the United Nations climate summit. Now, with the whole world watching, he can give real meaning to the promise Paris offers without bumping into an intractable Congress.The president can accelerate and expand efforts to slash emissions of global warming pollutants in the natural gas and oil industries’ drilling and distribution systems and improve refinery efficiency. He can issue tougher efficiency standards for energy-wasting home furnaces. And the government must begin to tackle industries such as cement manufacturing, which gets little public attention but spews vast tons of carbon dioxide, the gas primarily responsible for climate change.Such strong measures would have a multiplier effect: Not only would the U.S. cut global warming pollutants, its leadership would also reach beyond the Paris talks and pressure others to act,…

German engineers only latest auto cheaters: Column. USA Today.

September 29, 2015
The diesel engines on which Volkswagen relied for at least seven years could meet critical emissions standards only with software designed to cheat on government tests, the Obama administration disclosed this month. But in the ranks of cheaters, VW is not alone. At some point over the past four decades, VW has had plenty of company among big automakers in trying to evade emissions restrictions.  Four steps could put an end to this history of automotive malfeasance: The government must investigate the extent of the cheating, punish VW, prosecute company officials wherever criminal behavior is found — and overhaul its system for testing vehicles’ emissions and fuel efficiency.  Right now, companies conduct tests for fuel efficiency as well as smog and soot emissions — which cause and exacerbate lung disease and worsen childhood asthma — largely on their own.  With little spot-checking, the government accepts the results. But the…

Nicht Gut! That device also defeated the public’s trust in the Volkswagen brand. Quartz.

September 25, 2015
Why would a company that relies on public trust and a reputation for ace engineering risk $18 billion in penalties, corporate ignominy and global embarrassment? There is no rational reason.Yet, to squeeze out a barely perceptible improvement in fuel economy and acceleration, Volkswagen did just that. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) disclosed last week that the world’s biggest automaker had cheated on critical emissions tests that allowed it to sell so called “clean” diesels spewing far more pollutants than the company acknowledged—or than were allowed.The environmental regulators have ordered the company to recall nearly 500,000 vehicles in the US—and the company has confessed that it cheated on rules applied to 11 million vehicles worldwide.To try to understand the thinking behind the Volkswagen scandal, it helps to recognize the underlying attitude the auto industry has displayed for decades in the face of government…

Safety sacrificed in NHTSA revolving door: Column. USA Today.

February 25, 2015
The wheels have come off the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To fix the agency responsible for making sure cars and trucks are safe and operate cleanly, its new administrator, Mark Rosekind, must begin by closing its revolving door.From 1984 to 2010, by the Department of Transportation inspector general’s count, 40 officials left the safety agency for jobs with automakers, their law firms or auto industry consultants. The group included four administrators, two deputy administrators, seven associate administrators and two chief counsels. In addition, 23 auto industry executives moved into top agency jobs from 1999 to 2010.Just last year, the head of NHTSA, David Strickland, a key author of strong auto-mileage and emission standards, left the agency to join a law firm representing the auto makers’ trade groupas NHTSA completed a settlement with one of its members. Rosekind, an expert on human fatigue, replaced him in December….

Your Letters: Carbon dioxide storage. The New York Times.

February 17, 2015
Climate: Energy Use TO THE EDITOR:Re “Burying a Mountain of CO2” (Feb. 10): Turning carbon dioxide from power plants into rock and burying it is a good idea. An even better one is leaving the carbon dioxide that is currently buried as coal safely underground. We can use efficiency technologies to reduce our demand for energy. And we must phase in renewable energy technologies, such as Iceland’s geothermal and our own wind and solar technologies, to meet that reduced demand.Daniel F. BeckerWashington The writer is director of the Safe Climate Campaign.

Bailed-out GM needs to rev up emissions effort. The Los Angeles Times.

November 28, 2014
Half a century ago Ralph Nader published “Unsafe at Any Speed,” which warned of the hazards built into the Chevrolet Corvair. Today, General Motors’ safety record is still being justly vilified, most recently for an ignition defect blamed for at least 33 deaths. And a new report demonstrates the degree to which its vehicles are also unsafe for the climate.GM’s failure to substantially cut its vehicles’ pollution threatens the success of the Obama administration’s tough auto mileage and emissions rules, the biggest single step any nation has taken against global warming — and this after taxpayers bailed the company out of bankruptcy. The standards require the fleet of new cars and trucks sold in the United States in 2025 to average 54.5 mpg. Achieving this is auto mechanics, not rocket science. GM could start down the right path by using on-the-shelf technology.For every gallon of gasoline consumed, whether in a mileage-leading Toyota Prius…

Read the entire commentary in the Los Angeles Times….This op-ed also appeared in Truth-out.org.

3 Lessons to Winning the War on Global Warming. InsideClimate News.

September 30, 2014
The Dumpster may be nearly full. A World Meteorological Organization report has led scientists to fear that the Earth is losing its capacity to absorb heat-trapping gases, the Washington Post reported. With greenhouse gas emissions rising, we don’t know whether we can hold warming to two degrees Celsius, the goal of UN negotiations. But we can’t if the United States ignores its critical leadership role. For more than two decades, environmentalists fought for tough auto pollution standards. We won rules that will halve emissions and gasoline use—President Obama’s signature effort to fight climate change. They will deliver a new-car fleet that averages 54.5 mpg in 2025 and cut carbon dioxide pollution by six billion tons. As the world faces an accelerating climate challenge, the mileage-and-emissions fight presents a hopeful lesson: The United States can cut fossil fuel emissions. The fight that produced the biggest single step any nation has…

Next steps on climate change. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

September 25, 2014
President Barack  Obama said at the United Nations Tuesday that the United States has begun to tackle global warming, can take more action and, with China, has a special responsibility to do so. Right, right and right. If you thought the United States had little to show in the fight against global warming, think again. The measures being undertaken by federal, state and local governments may surprise you — and will carry us several real steps forward as we pursue our responsibility to cut carbon dioxide emissions. To make a real difference, they must be adopted across the nation. There’s money — and energy — to be saved. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy projects that we can net $2.6 trillion in savings by 2040 by fully implementing current and pending federal rules limiting emissions from cars and power plants and encouraging energy efficiency in appliances and in homes. The rules would reduce carbon dioxide…

American leadership beyond the climate summit: Column. USA Today.

September 23, 2014
As a United Nations summit seeks to energize the fight against global warming, the United States must lead by example if the world is going to cut heat-trapping greenhouse gases.Although some may think the nation is making no progress, it is undertaking a surprising number of measures at the federal, state, and local levels that will take a significant bite out of carbon dioxide emissions. To slow the race to the precipice, the challenge is to adopt them widely and implement them fully.The savings can be eye-popping. At the federal level alone, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates, full implementation of existing and pending rules governing cars, power plants, appliances and housing could net the United States $2.6 trillion through 2040 and cut 34 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. That is the equivalent of eliminating more than six years of U.S. fossil fuel use.Every level of American society — from individuals…

Auto mileage reports should reflect reality: Column. USA Today.

August 18, 2014
With 2015 cars rolling off assembly lines, Americans can expect a barrage of auto company advertising misleading them about fuel economy. The ads tell consumers only part of the gas mileage story, sowing confusion about which cars are clean and which are not — and leaving buyers at risk of driving off in vehicles that get worse mileage than they expected.Advertising matters. With accurate and complete information, buyers can easily choose the cleaner cars that the Obama administration’s mileage-and-emissions standards force automakers to build, cutting America’s oil dependence and emissions, the key contributor to climate change.The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates advertising claims, is reviewing rules that give automakers great leeway in how they advertise gas mileage. The companies can post highway mileage without having to disclose lower city driving figures. Tougher controls are overdue.To protect consumers, the commission should…

Saving the climate by saving gas. Barron’s.

June 23, 2014
The Obama administration’s clean-car program—the biggest single step any nation has taken to save oil and fight global warming—is working. The auto industry should stop trying to undermine it.Although they pledged to meet the clean-car standards that they negotiated with the Obama administration when the taxpayers bailed out bankrupt GM and Chrysler, car companies are acting like they want to run the rules off the road.Their obstinacy is all the more remarkable because the government’s first look at how the auto companies are doing under the new rules tells us we’re headed for a 2025 fleet in which cars’ carbon-dioxide emissions will be cut in half, also saving consumers billions of dollars at the pump.According to an Environmental Protection Agency report, “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Fuel Economy Trends,” mileage across the 2012 fleet—the most recent for which figures are available—was up 1.2 miles…

How loopholes could weaken CAFE standards. The Detroit News.

April 30, 2014
Under the Obama administration’s pollution-cutting mileage and emissions rules, the fleet of new cars sold in the United States in 2025 must average 54.5 mpg, with the fleet growing cleaner each year on the way to that strong standard. But a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency demonstrates how loopholes are letting most carmakers get away with lower annual performance and still be considered in compliance.The manufacturers successfully demanded the loopholes when they negotiated the standards with the administration. The loopholes let the companies undercut the rules’ strong targets and turn out cars and light trucks that increase pollution. It’s akin to a doctor telling you: “Go ahead and smoke, as long as you go on a diet.”Here’s how the loopholes work:■For each vehicle a company builds that is capable of running on E-85 ethanol, in addition to conventional gasoline, the automaker can increase the number of gas guzzlers it…

Why are the Big Three resisting new mileage and emissions standards? Los Angeles Times.

December 19, 2013
One year after automakers began building cars to meet tough new mileage and emissions requirements, it is clear the new standards are working. An in-depth assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency found that manufacturers are on track to deliver a fleet by 2025 that will cut in half the global-warming pollution of cars and save Americans billions of dollars at the pump. The EPA reported Thursday that the 2012 fleet’s mileage increased 1.2 miles per gallon, a roughly 5% jump. That improvement alone will save purchasers of 2012 cars about $1,600 at the pump over the life of a vehicle. And because car engines turn each gallon of gasoline into 25 pounds of carbon dioxide, the improvement will also keep about 4 tons of CO2 per car out of the atmosphere, the EPA estimates. So why is the auto industry still resisting the new standards? Virtually all the 2012 improvement came from cars. Automakers failed to shrink SUVs, minivans or…

Climate deniers meet Joe Camel: Column. USA Today.

October 10, 2013
Half a century ago, the tobacco industry tried to preserve its market by misleading Americans about the scientific validity of research demonstrating that smoking causes cancer. To weaken efforts to fight global warming, the “climate change denial machine,” in the words of the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, has been using that same strategy. For more than 20 years it has sought to cast doubt on the science that demonstrates that the climate is changing and pollution is to blame. Why is anyone still paying attention? The denial lobby is using pseudo-science and cherry-picked data to present the fringe view that global warming is nothing more than what Sen. James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, famously called “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Once again it has reprised its tired — and false — arguments to debunk the premier scientific assessment of global warming, produced by the United Nations…

‘Green’ cars mostly hype. USA Today.

August 29, 2013
The auto companies have a serious case of Prius envy. Just look at how they seek to sell their cars. They tout “efficient” models, making “best in class” claims, shouting “ecoconscious” and how gently they treat the environment. You’d think all they were selling was the Prius. Unfortunately, when it comes to fuel efficiency and emissions, few come close to the Toyota hybrid. As 2014 models arrive in showrooms, the integrity of the car makers’ pitch is about more than truth in advertising or savings at the pump. It goes to the heart of the Obama administration’s program to fight global warming. Under the plan’s 54.5 miles per gallon standard, the fleet of new cars sold in the United States in 2025 is slated to nearly double gas mileage and halve carbon dioxide emissions, the major cause of climate change. Despite loopholes that, for example, allow the companies to make no improvements in the biggest pickup trucks’ mileage through 2021, the…

Millennials reject car culture. USA Today.

June 19, 2013
Cars aren’t cool anymore.That is the verdict of a broad swath of Generation Y. The auto industry covets the 18-to-30-somethings as trend-setting potential customers. But they aren’t as infatuated with cars as their parents and grandparents were. They are driving less; indeed, many aren’t bothering to get a driver’s license. And many who are interested in cars don’t want what Detroit is selling.With online shopping, they have less need for cars to take them to malls. Smartphones take them to virtual hangouts with friends. Driving to the movies? Not in the age of Netflix. And when they’ve got to get somewhere, they avoid the hassle, cost — and pollution — of owning cars by relying increasingly on bicycles, public transportation and such hourly car rental services as Zipcar. Or they walk.That is great for the environment. Less driving means less global warming. (For every gallon of gasoline produced and burned, 25 pounds of carbon dioxide, the major…

No good will come from Keystone pipeline. The Miami Herald.

April 19, 2013
President Obama is facing a critical opportunity to take the country beyond its century-and-a-half reliance on oil. Earth Day on Monday, and this weekend’s third anniversary of the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster, offer stark reminders of the stakes and mistakes inherent in crude.To paraphrase Charles Dickens, the president made the best of decisions last summer when he dramatically improved mileage-and-emissions standards for U.S. cars and light trucks. Now, he could make the worst of decisions – approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline.The pipeline would carry some of the world’s most-polluting and expensive oil from Canada to Texas. It would threaten America’s rivers, water supplies and the atmosphere. And we won’t even get the benefit of these new supplies. Much of the fuel the pipeline delivers would be exported.There is no question that we are burning too much oil – too much for our economic security and our environmental security.The president…

Detroit should improve gas mileage. The Detroit News.

March 18, 2013
After improving for six years, average gas mileage of all cars and trucks sold in the United States went into reverse in 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported last week. What brought the change? Toyota’s and Honda’s production fell by more than 500,000 vehicles, following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March of that year.The data, contained in the EPA’s annual mileage trends report, the government’s most thorough look at fuel economy, present a sharp contrast to the post-bankruptcy and bailout happy talk of the U.S. auto industry. The report is a warning light on Detroit’s dashboard.The study compares fuel efficiency in 2011, the most recent year for which the agency has details, with 2010. In a blizzard of numbers, it demonstrates that General Motors and Chrysler are not pulling their weight—and that Toyota and Honda are delivering the mileage benefits Americans need.The two biggest Japanese automakers delivered…

Clean-car battle shows how to fight for emissions reduction. Truthout.

March 8, 2013
President Obama signaled in his State of the Union address that global warming holds a top spot on his second-term agenda. To rescue a climate under assault, the lessons of the fight that has delivered tough new auto pollution standards can guide us as we tackle the next climate challenges: slashing power plant emissions and oil use.Those clean-car rules will cut gasoline use in half, create 500,000 jobs, and boost energy independence. The safeguards will deliver new cars in 2025 that average an impressive 54.5 mpg. Most important, compared with 2010 models, these cars will halve their emissions of carbon dioxide, the major heat-trapping pollutant.The program represents the biggest single step of any nation against global warming. The take-away from the president’s action is unmistakable: We can cut fossil fuel emissions.But scientists say the United States must make far deeper cuts in carbon dioxide emissions than those of the auto program to…

Limiting carbon dioxide pollution by power plants. The New York Times.

February 26, 2013
WASHINGTON–Electric power plants spew about 40 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution in the United States, but, amazingly, there are no federal limits on utility emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. The Obama administration plans to remedy this situation by drafting rules that would curtail these discharges from existing plants. The president should make sure they are tough. Nothing he can do will cut greenhouse gases more.By accomplishing this under the executive authority Congress granted him in the Clean Air Act, the president will be stepping in where recent Congresses have refused to go. He did the same thing last August, when he toughened auto emissions standards that will result in a new car fleet that averages 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, and again last spring, when he proposed rules, restricting carbon dioxide emissions, that will effectively prevent the building of new coal-burning power plants.Now President Obama should…

Read the entire commentary at nytimes.com.

Obama’s chance to change (political) climate. USAToday.com.

December 2, 2012
Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 drought drove home the need for President Obama to lead the fight against global warming. Freed from the political constraints of the re-election campaign, he holds three tools. Wielding them successfully, he will make bold action against the world’s most pressing environmental problem a legacy of his second term. The president can sharply curtail power plants’ emissions of carbon dioxide, the largest global warming pollutant, by using existing law to require that utilities start converting from coal to cleanly extracted natural gas and introduce more renewable energy. To cut demand for electricity, he can set standards that increase the efficiency of power-gobbling appliances. But scientists warn that far more will be necessary. The deadly hurricane, devastating drought and 332 consecutive months of above-average global temperatures are just the sort of conditions they say will accompany global warming…

New Obama mileage rules will save gas and dollars. Huffington Post.

August 31, 2012
While Isaac-wary Republicans in Tampa try to deny the reach of global warming, the United States under President Obama on Tuesday took the biggest single step of any nation to do something about it. Under auto mileage and emissions rules the Obama administration announced, new cars sold in the United States in 2025 will average 54.5 mpg, doubling their mileage from 2010 and cutting in half their global warming pollution. It’s not every century that the auto industry and the environmental movement agree on anything. But everyone on the spectrum from GM to environmentalists supports these rules. With them, the auto industry can build cleaner, safer cars for Americans and a competitive future for itself. By shunning gas guzzlers and the rules’ loopholes, auto companies will make the program a success and repay taxpayers for the $80 billion bailout that saved their tailpipes. They owe America no less. Critics are telling you how much the rules will…

Detroit owes us better mileage. USA TODAY.

August 19, 2012
When President Obama signs tough new auto mileage and emissions standards in coming days, the United States will take the biggest single step of any nation to combat global warming. It’s a great deal, but automakers must behave responsibly. If they shun their gas-guzzling ways, they can assure its success. That means new car gas mileage will nearly double by 2025 to 54.5 mpg from current mileage. Because better mileage means saving money at the pump, consumers will come out ahead by at least $8,000 per car compared with vehicles on the road today, even after paying the cost of gas-saving technology. The program will halve emissions of carbon dioxide, the biggest contributor to climate change, and cut our risky reliance on oil oligarchs. And, it will create jobs — 570,000 by 2030, according to the Blue-Green Alliance, a labor and environmental coalition.Fortunately, this is auto mechanics, not rocket science. The automakers have the…

Energy savings pay for upgrades. Hearst News Service.

May 17, 2012
Just as hybrid cars are using advanced engineering to cut gasoline bills, technology can cut the cost of heating, cooling and lighting America’s buildings. A hybrid car’s better mileage helps drivers pay for its gas-saving technology. Similarly, a money-saving financing device can pay for energy improvements in schools and offices, and slash their costs. Consider what Naugatuck, Conn., has accomplished. Taking advantage of a financing mechanism known as an “energy performance contract,” it has made $12 million in energy improvements to its schools and other public buildings at no real cost. By cutting its demand for energy from coal, oil and natural gas, Naugatuck is also reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant. Think of performance contracts as magic wands that transform high energy bills into such efficient technology as new air-conditioning and heating systems — and long-term savings. The magic…

Drilling won’t lower gas prices, but this will. McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

March 23, 2012
The drill babies are back, touting Exxon-Mobil’s wish list under the guise of cutting the price of gas. But the truth is we’re already on the way to reducing what we spend on it.In this political season, we’re hearing the broken-record answers to $4 gas: Drill baby, drill; build the Keystone XL pipeline; and raid emergency reserves.None will solve the price problem today or in years to come. Each feeds the United States’ oil addiction. Each risks damaging the environment or draining strategic supplies. Most important, this noisy debate over supply misses the point: Nothing will cut gas prices right now. But by reducing how much gas we use – by reducing demand – we are already on the road to cutting fuel bills.With 98 percent of the world’s oil reserves in the hands of other countries, and an international cartel exerting a powerful hand on prices, the United States cannot control what we pay each day at the pump. Under President Obama, drilling is…

U.S. investment in clean energy production is a must. U.S. News.

January 18, 2012
What do we get for the government’s investment in green energy? A stronger economy, competitive industries, and, of course, a leg up against global warming pollution. And if the government gives up? More oil wars, more pollution, and a continuing addiction to fossil fuels. In short, U.S. investment in new, clean energy production and advanced transportation—whether wind and solar power or efficient cars—is imperative. For already-delivered benefits, look to the nearest roadway. Ten years ago, tax incentives encouraged consumers to buy the new hybrid cars that automakers were just introducing to American drivers. Now, thanks to incentives, hybrids–while far from ubiquitous–are increasingly common on the nation’s roads. In coming years, hybrids are expected to build their share of the market to become a majority of the new cars and trucks. They will get a boost from the government’s strong mileage and emissions standards, which set automakers…

Darrell Issa’s push to abolish an antiquated Law. Huffington Post.

January 13, 2012
Memo to: Fellow Members of CongressFrom: Darrell Issa, Republican of CaliforniaRe: Support for legislation to abolish an antiquated law.I urge you to join us in sponsoring the Hall-Latta-Flake-Issa-Upton-Noem-Goodlatte Act.For too long, science has been trotted out to justify environmental protection, when it is actually being used to mask tax-and-spend policies that sink our economy. With that in mind, I ask you to support the next logical step in our Republican Caucus’ crusade to abolish job-killing “environmental” laws and excessive regulations. Please join us in cosponsoring H.R. 32174, a bill to repeal the Law of Gravity.Congress never passed this law. No president signed it. No court reviewed it. Not even Al Gore voted for it. As Sen. James Inhofe has said of putative “global warming,” so-called gravity is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”Congress never intended that whatever goes up must come down — with the…

For Detroit, size matters. The Los Angeles Times.

November 23, 2011
Launching its biggest environmental accomplishment, the Obama administration has proposed rules that would determine how far 2025 cars go on a gallon of gas and how much global warming pollution they emit.Surprisingly, the auto companies support the strong rules. Even more surprisingly, though, they can dictate how successful the program will be.This presents Detroit with an unusual challenge.After accepting $80 billion in bailouts and demanding wide flexibility in the new environmental standards, will the carmakers act responsibly and embrace them as an opportunity for bold transformation? Or will they latch onto the loopholes they won, undercutting the rules’ benefits by building even more gas guzzlers and pushing a “bigger is better” line?President Obama announced the broad goals, which cover new cars and light trucks sold from 2017 to 2025, in July. The administration unveiled the specific rules for reaching those targets last week, as the…

Read the entire commentary in the Los Angeles Times…This op-ed also appeared in the Sacramento Bee, the Atlantic City Press, the New London, Conn.,Day; the Idaho Statesman; the Columbus, Indiana, Republic; the Lewiston, Maine, Sun Journal; the Bellingham, Wash.; Herald; the Huffington PostClimate Progress, Truthout.org and Petrol Plaza.

Obama’s chance to reduce auto emissions and our thirst for oil. The New York Times.

July 20, 2011
Washington PRESIDENT Obama has promised to break the United States’ oil addiction and tackle global warming. With a decision he will make in coming days, he can do both, and help consumers cut gas costs as well. The right decision would be to order automakers to reduce tailpipe emissions by 6 percent, steering the auto industry away from a century of gas guzzling and transforming it to compete in the world market. It would wean the nation from its oil habit. The wrong decision would let the auto industry drive itself back into a familiar ditch, while allowing the United States to stumble in the green technology race. Under standards that Mr. Obama set last year, cars and S.U.V.’s and other light trucks must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent a year, resulting in a 35.5 m.p.g. national average in 2016. Now, the president is deciding how much to cut emissions through 2025. He has said the reductions will range from 3 percent…

Viewpoints: State should lead again on emission standards. The Sacramento Bee.

June 24, 2011
Despite another round of $4 gasoline and a continuing surge of consumer interest in high-mileage cars, the auto industry is trying to slither out of tougher fuel efficiency and emissions standards. California can put things right. By writing the nation’s first global warming emissions rules nearly a decade ago under the Pavley law, the state set a ground-breaking path for the United States in the fight against global warming. A dozen states, and ultimately the federal government, followed. Now it is time for California to reprise its leadership role with tough, new rules. The Obama administration is in the throes of the biggest environmental decision it will face before Election Day: How much it will cut emissions in new vehicles sold from 2017 to 2025. The auto industry has pressured the federal government to set weak standards that would cut emissions no more than 3 percent a year. Environmentalists and national security groups favor a 6 percent…

Obama can halt our oil addiction. POLITICO.

June 10, 2011
As gas prices float near their all-time high and unrest roils the Middle East, President Barack Obama’s advisers are in the final stages of preparing recommendations for a proposal that will slash our oil addiction, save consumers billions at the pump and help fight global warming. Or not. In the coming weeks, they are to decide how tough or weak to make the next standards governing fuel efficiency and emissions of cars and light trucks sold in the United States. The president is likely to make no more far-reaching decisions concerning the environment and climate change between now and Election Day. This could be his only big opportunity to address the nation’s oil addiction and what consumers pay at the pump, so it could trigger the toughest clash of his tenure between environmentalists and the auto industry. But this decision offers Obama the chance to keep his promise to cut the nation’s oil use and to make auto companies…

The best remedy for the price of gas. Los Angeles Times.

April 15, 2011
There is no magic wand that will bring down the price of gasoline, which has once again crossed the $4 mark in California. But there is a long-term solution that will inoculate us from higher costs in the future. The Obama administration can’t do much to lower the price of a gallon of gas, but it is on the cusp of a crucial decision that could help consumers come out ahead because they would need less gas. Officials are quietly working on just how steeply to require the auto industry to cut emissions and increase mileage in the next generation of cars, SUVs and pickups. Their decision, coming as early as May, could require dramatically cleaner vehicles that would cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 6% a year and average 62 miles per gallon. The new rules would be phased in from 2017 to 2025. Obviously, using less gas is good for the environment. It means less carbon dioxide pollution and smog. It also boosts our energy security — a big…

Fouling the Clean Air Act. The Sacramento Bee.

February 23, 2011
Largely hidden in its attack on the federal budget, the House of Representatives has approved a key Republican campaign promise to big business: Protecting it from what the new majority argues are the handcuffs of environmental safeguards. The Republicans would cuff the Environmental Protection Agency instead. If they prevail in the Senate and overcome a White House veto, they would hobble the Clean Air Act, probably the most successful U.S. law protecting health and the environment, and threaten the authority of California and several other states to use it to fight global warming and other pollution. The Clean Air Act has meant fewer hospitalizations and missed work days, saving a projected $2 trillion in 2020 alone by reducing asthma, chronic bronchitis and premature deaths from lung disease. Now, given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court, EPA is using it to cut back on carbon-dioxide pollution, the prime culprit behind our changing climate. Think of the law as the legal weapon -…

Cash for a clunker. Deseret News.

November 22, 2010
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services WASHINGTON — Here is a test for the new Republican majority headed for the House of Representatives under the banner of cutting the budget deficit, ending federal bailouts and showing fairness to taxpayers.The American people have saved General Motors with more than $50 billion in bailouts and subsidies. GM says we will get it all back. But hidden in statements accompanying its stock offering, the automaker discloses that it won’t relinquish another subsidy — up to $45 billion in tax breaks that, without an IRS exemption, would have been wiped away when the company went bankrupt.This GM loophole presents the Republicans with an early opportunity to live up to the campaign commitments that powered their election victory:By closing it, they can slash $45 billion from the deficit, slam the door on the next phase of GM’s bailout, and raise their banner of fairness for the American taxpayer. Or they can allow this GM…

This commentary also appeared in the Sacramento Bee, the Youngstown, Ohio, Vindicator, the Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader, the Bellingham, Wash., Herald, the Lewiston, Me., Sun Journal, the La Porte, Ind.,  Herald Argus, the Lima, Ohio, News, the Tea Party Express News and the Huffington Post.

Tea Party Misses Target. The Huffington Post.

October 22, 2010
WASHINGTON In their zeal to live free from outside interference, the Tea Parties are shooting at the wrong target. They would be right to be angry with an oil industry poisoning their water, an auto industry polluting their air, and agribusiness providing unsafe food.Instead they are attacking the government, the only entity that can protect their water, their atmosphere, their food.Powerful corporate interests are taking advantage of Tea Party anger for their own self-interest. They are funneling vast sums to fuel and steer an anti-government campaign that would gut the rules protecting people from dangerous products and the environment from poisonous emissions.What if they succeed? Just consider the menu at their tea party: Scrambled eggs with salmonella, a cup of arsenic-laced tea, and orange juice with a dash of cryptosporidium in the ice cubes. And if you are driving to the party in your SUV, watch…

Build a better vehicle. The Miami Herald.

September 6, 2010
The next big thing from Detroit may not just be a new car, but a new car industry: transformed, modern and competitive.This month, with traditional fanfare, Detroit is launching the new model year. More quietly, the Obama administration is preparing to help shape the cars that we will be driving six years from now. In coming weeks, it will unveil the first draft of standards for fuel efficiency and emissions beginning with the 2017 model year.The challenge facing the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation is to set standards tough enough to revitalize the industry. They will bring savings at the pump, reduce global warming pollution and cut our oil addiction and the risks that go with it. They will transform the car industry by transforming the car.This is a unique opportunity. As auto makers emerge from bankruptcy, strong emissions and fuel-mileage standards can ignite American know-how — the country’s…

Set tougher mileage standards for vehicles. The Detroit Free Press.

June 17, 2010
What is the best way to prevent future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico? Break our addiction to oil.One year ago, President Barack Obama took the biggest single step in this direction. He boosted the nation’s fuel economy standard and established the first U.S. standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. • Getting the grid ready.• Build a more efficient transportation system.• Charge ahead into an electric car future.As a result, new vehicles will average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, up from the current 27.5 m.p.g. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates this will save 1.2 million barrels of oil a day in 2020.That’s the good news. The bad news is we have a long way to go.The lesson of the BP disaster is that we must now substantially toughen those standards. They need to be strong enough that auto companies will produce cars that begin to break our…
by: Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang  |  The Detroit Free Press | Op-EdWhat is the best way to prevent future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico? Break our addiction to oil.One year ago, President Barack Obama took the biggest single step in this direction. He boosted the nation’s fuel economy standard and established the first U.S. standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

BP Mess is a Mileage Argument. Bloomberg.com.

June 9, 2010
What do we do after BP Plc fixes the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico — days, weeks or months from now? We tell them what to do with the rest of their oil: Keep it in the ground.The Gulf spill is an environmental disaster that will happen again until we cut our addiction to oil. How do we wean ourselves? We toughen our fuel-economy and emissions standards so that automakers move beyond cars that depend on oil. President Barack Obama was right to suspend new drilling. He should make that a permanent ban. He is also right that we won’t get off oil in 10 years. But we never will if we don’t try much harder. The long-term answer to this catastrophe can’t be limited to a halt in dangerous deepwater drilling.In May 2009, the president took the biggest single step toward cutting the nation’s reliance on oil and reducing global- warming pollution: He set the first greenhouse gas emissions standard for cars and light…
Commentary by Dan Becker and James GerstenzangJune 9 (Bloomberg) — What do we do after BP Plc fixes the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico — days, weeks or months from now? We tell them what to do with the rest of their oil: Keep it in the ground.The Gulf spill is an environmental disaster that will happen again until we cut our addiction to oil. How do we wean ourselves? We toughen our fuel-economy and emissions standards so that automakers move beyond cars that depend on oil.

On climate, energy, oil Rigs: first, do no harm. Truthout.org.

April 30, 2010
United States action on global warming is long overdue. But energy industry lobbyists and their Senate allies have thwarted the best efforts of three leading senators. The result: A weak bill with egregious flaws. Fortunately, it is temporarily derailed. This hiatus provides President Obama and the three senators time to fix it.They should keep in mind the Hippocratic Oath: First, Do no harm. Unfortunately, the bill would do harm.The bill, as currently drafted, would prevent full use of the Clean Air Act and restrict the states from acting on their own against global warming. These are the two mechanisms that have yielded the only significant progress our nation has made against climate change.The president has the power to act and has demonstrated his willingness to use it. On April 1, the Obama administration, acting under the Clean Air Act, toughened the emissions and fuel economy standards governing cars and light trucks sold in…

Future cars, now. The Los Angeles Times.

April 2, 2010
Two federal agencies, working with California, have taken the biggest step in the nation’s history to reduce the United States’ global warming footprint. On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced specific rules that require automakers to build cars, SUVs and minivans that will average 35.5 mpg by 2016 and cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, thereby saving an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil.It’s been a long haul. For a dozen years, the auto industry stymied efforts in Washington to improve fuel economy standards. California stepped in, enacting its own emissions law in 2002 under the federal Clean Air Act. Last May, President Obama instructed the EPA and NHTSA to use the California benchmark to set new national standards for fuel economy and emissions.These national rules are a good step forward, but they’re not enough. Now it is time for California…

OMB puts its thumb on the scale against the environment. Climate Progress.

March 23, 2010
Working quietly out of the spotlight, OMB is preparing a section of the nearly-complete automobile fuel economy and global warming pollution rule that would deeply undervalue its benefits. If issued by the Obama administration, it would impose tall barriers to implementing a broad spectrum of future regulations intended to protect the environment and implement sound energy policies.Think of it as OMB putting a heavy hand on one side of the scales that weigh the costs and benefits of government regulations before they are put into effect—adding to the burden of those arguing that the benefits outweigh the costs.The Safe Climate Campaign and six other environmental organizations blasted the OMB language at the end of last week.  We warned in a letter to OMB Director Peter Orszag, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Lisa Jackson, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, that the addition to the otherwise…

It was big while it lasted. The Huffington Post.

March 6, 2010
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bid farewell to a legend, one whose demise has been recorded around the world; such was the impact of this icon. One of massive strength, it left behind a vast mark – some would say gash – on our planet.General Motors’ Hummer has died. But it will continue to spew its fumes – and spread global warmth – for years to come. The Hummer was born in 1992, the offspring of an M1A1 Abrams tank and – it is rumored –Beelzebub. Too big for its garage, it was raised in a driveway in Kokomo, Indiana. Eventually, it moved to the wide-open spaces of Scarsdale, N.Y. But throughout its life, it was misunderstood, got no respect, and often not enough gas.The Hummer did what most cars do, but oh so much more. It drove through big puddles. It dropped kids at school. And like the true truck it was, it hauled lattes home from Starbucks. It had but five seats, just like the Prius. For all its hulk and bulk, it carried a modest…

General Motors needs more than jolt of Volts. The Huffington Post.

January 12, 2010
As General Motors faces the prospect of a fourth CEO in the space of a year, there is good news and bad news about the iconic American company. The good news is that it has survived years of mismanagement, Hummers and other gas guzzlers. The bad news? We, the American people, own it.Our share of the automaker comes with the deal that turned the Treasury Department into a drive-up ATM.Take a look in the executive suites, home for years to the folks who drove GM over a cliff. Steven Rattner, President Obama’s “car czar,” said they “could not be allowed to continue after burning through $34 billion in cash in barely a year.”And perhaps they won’t. For starters, there’s a new acting CEO, Edward E. Whitacre Jr.Moving belatedly into the 21st century, General Motors now has an opportunity to find a permanent chief who understands the new business environment, as well as the environment itself, and the role that cars and trucks play in both as the world grapples with global warming.Here are…

Obama on His Own. Truthout.org.

December 3, 2009
In Copenhagen, a major binding agreement at the global warming summit is not to be. Not this year. In Washington, the Senate is so divided that it became clear months ago that climate legislation will be pushed off until 2010 at the earliest.Still, the United States can meet the challenge of a world demanding that it take the lead on global warming. Here’s how: Using his executive authority, President Barack Obama can instruct power plants to slash emissions, order new efficiency standards to cut the energy used by consumer and commercial appliances, and help the world’s least developed nations use solar power—rather than heavily polluting wood fires—for cooking.If he does so, he will send a strong signal that Washington is leading the world away from a dangerous warming of the climate. He will head to Copenhagen next week armed with powerful tools to challenge negotiators to produce an agreement with real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.He will step smartly…

Use mandates, not markets, to push high-mileage cars. The Baltimore Sun.

November 27, 2009
Everyone knows that $4 gasoline in 2008 finally led Americans to abandon their gas guzzlers and start buying gas sippers – right?Turns out, everyone is wrong.According to a new report released with little fanfare last week by the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans bought vehicles in 2008 that averaged only 0.4 mpg better than a year earlier, when gas cost nearly 50 cents less.Yes, some car buyers looked for ways to drive cheaper. Some dealers ran out of highly efficient hybrids. And many gas guzzlers sat ignored on dealers’ lots.But the price of gas – which had been increasing every year since 2002 – wasn’t enough to significantly alter the fleet-wide fuel economy of 2008 cars and light trucks. Indeed, mileage has been essentially unchanged for more than a decade.So much for conventional wisdom (and the argument of economists and auto executives) that market forces – that is, more-expensive gasoline – will lead Americans to demand the most fuel-efficient vehicles.There is a…

With the stroke of his pen, the president can act against climate change right now. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

November 13, 2009
The Copenhagen global warming summit is less than a month away, with major agreement far from certain. The U.S. Senate is so riven that President Barack Obama’s top climate aide says legislation will be pushed off until 2010 at the earliest. Still, Washington can meet the challenge of a world demanding that it finally take the lead on global warming. Here’s how:Using his executive authority, Mr. Obama can instruct power plants to burn cleaner fuels, order new efficiency standards to reduce the energy used by consumer and commercial appliances, and help the world’s least-developed nations use solar power — rather than heavily polluting wood fires — for cooking.If he does these things, he would send a strong signal that Washington is leading the world away from an inexorably and dangerously warming climate, while pressuring other major polluting nations to get on board. He also would be dispatching his delegates to the Copenhagen summit with powerful tools: meaningful reductions in…

Guest editorial: Standard will save car owners money

October 2, 2009
President Barack Obama’s new clean car standard is the biggest single step the United States has taken to curb global warming and ease our oil addiction. It demonstrates to the world that the United States is finally confronting the threat of global warming. This fuel-economy measure is necessary because the world’s leading scientists agree we must cut pollution to reduce climbing temperatures. You don’t care about global warming? Maybe you care about our addiction to uncertain supplies of foreign oil. Driving cars that get 35.5 mpg — the average set out in the new mileage requirement — rather than the current average of 25 mpg will cut our oil imports. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the reduction will save nearly the equivalent of the oil we buy from Saudi Arabia each year. The new standard can be achieved without compromising safety, and it will save money. From 1975 through 1989, when the first federal fuel-economy rules doubled our gas mileage, 86 percent of the…
President Barack Obama’s new clean car standard is the biggest single step the United States has taken to curb global warming and ease our oil addiction. It demonstrates to the world that the United States is finally confronting the threat of global warming. This fuel-economy measure is necessary because the world’s leading scientists agree we must cut pollution to reduce climbing temperatures.

‘Cash for clunkers’ is a lemon–so let’s make lemonade. The San Francisco Chronicle.

July 14, 2009
Is the new “cash for clunkers” law really a vehicle for replacing gas-guzzling cars and trucks with the next generation of clean, green machines – or is it just a pretext for moving slightly less thirsty guzzlers from dealers’ lots onto America’s driveways?If the federal agency with the mission of overseeing the law does its job well, we’ll find out quickly – and well before the automakers show up again on Capitol Hill, tin cup in hand, asking Congress this question from Dickens’ Oliver Twist, updated for 2009: “Please, sirs, may we have some more billions? “Sadly, the law is, in fact, weighted heavily in favor of car makers looking to unload unsold gas-gulpers on a skittish market. But Americans have an opportunity in coming months to turn it greener. That’s because the limited benefits the controversial new law would have for greenhouse gas emissions, combined with its cost, have quickly ignited one of those rare American political moments when environmentalists and conservatives…

Scientists warn that delay in cutting global warming pollution is dangerous. Politico.

July 10, 2009
Scientists warn that delay in cutting global warming pollution is dangerous. Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, does its heat trapping damage for over 100 years and accumulates in the atmosphere. So the G-8’s imitation of Nero will bring our leaders no applause from our children and grandchildren. But it is important to recognize a key reason that other nations were unwilling to commit to emissions reductions. They were casting a vote of no confidence in America’s willingness to act. The House climate and energy bill was severely weakened before passage. One amendment even removed the Clean Air Act authority to cut power plant carbon pollution. And the 60th Senate vote will surely try to inflict further damage.
Scientists warn that delay in cutting global warming pollution is dangerous. Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, does its heat trapping damage for over 100 years and accumulates in the atmosphere. So the G-8’s imitation of Nero will bring our leaders no applause from our children and grandchildren. 

Unfortunately the Energy-Climate bill has more holes than cheese. Politico.

June 26, 2009
Chairmen Waxman and Markey and Speaker Pelosi tried mightily. Despite long odds, they came up with a bill that begins to cut emissions, pushes the states to start shifting to renewable energy sources, and orders new coal plants to capture 50% of their carbon emissions.But: The standards for the emissions don’t come near the 17% claimed by supporters. Even if they did, they would be far less than what scientists say must be achieved to avoid dire consequences. The bill’s renewable energy provisions fall far short of technology can provide. The requirement for the cleaner coal plants wouldn’t take effect until 2025—and that technology doesn’t exist. And the bill revokes EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. That’s a step backwards.The administration already has authority to act and many opportunities to cut emissions under existing law. Congress should write a prescription strong enough to fight the disease.

Open Mic in The Arena. Politico.

June 20, 2009
On climate change, “decisions made now will determine whether we get big changes or small ones.” So said the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco this week. The Obama Administration had just made public on Tuesday its report on the anticipated impact of global warming across the United States if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut. As summarized by the Washington Post: Severe droughts in the Southwest, rainstorms 67 percent heavier in the Northeast compared with 1958, greater heat waves in the South, bugs attacking the nations crops, sea levels as much as three feet higher that would put a large chunk of southern Florida at risk of flood. So, as the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill – the centerpiece of the legislative anti-global warming effort – takes shape, will the decisions being made in the House and Senate lead to “big changes or small ones” in the climate? Unfortunately, the bill is suffering death…

California can lead the U.S. in kicking the gasoline habit

June 14, 2009
OK, California. Please do it again.Seven years after the state paved the way with major cuts in global warming pollution fromautomobiles, President Barack Obama ordered up similar progress for the nation’s entirefleet. Now it is time for California to lead the country to the next big thing: Kicking thegasoline habit.Given the state’s green history, its reliance on the automobile and the looming threat ofglobal warming, it is only natural that California show the rest of the country what thefuture can look like – at least from the vantage point of the freeway.In 2002, the state passed a law requiring automakers to significantly cut tailpipe emissionsof greenhouse gases. A dozen states followed Sacramento’s lead. Last month, the Obamaadministration extended the program to cover the nation.By 2016, cars and trucks across the country will be required to average 35.5 miles per gallon.The United States’ biggest single step in the fight against global warming will bring a newgleam to… 

Cash-for-clunkers program crashes up against the environment. The Los Angeles Times.

May 17, 2009
The automakers are filling up again at the Capitol Hill bailout pump. The latest idea is “cash for clunkers.”Interested in junking your old gas-guzzling Hummer — or maybe Lincoln Town Car or Chevy Blazer — for a new vehicle?If the gas mileage of any 2009 model passenger car you buy is just 4 miles per gallon better than the one you are now driving, you could pick up $3,500 from taxpayers as part of the deal.And if your new vehicle produces more significant improvements in fuel economy over your old vehicle’s — 5 miles per gallon more for trucks and 10 miles per gallon more for cars — you could get $4,500.This auto bailout legislation, now being considered as part of the energy bill making its way to the House floor, would provide subsidies from the U.S. Treasury to encourage potential car and truck buyers to ditch their current wheels and drive home new ones.The auto companies have made terrible mistakes — hundreds of thousands of them in any color you want. They are sitting on…

Want tailfins with that? The Huffington Post.

April 30, 2009
Should taxpayers subsidize the sale of 18-mile-per-gallon SUVs?That is the question at the heart of a still-quiet but heated debate that is likely to flare into full view in Congress in coming weeks. It brings together two issues at the intersection of the toughest policy challenges facing Congress and the Obama administration as they seek to revitalize the economy and fight global warming.A $3 billion proposal intended to boost auto and light truck sales will be attached to legislation that could emerge by Memorial Day from the House Energy and Commerce Committee as the panel prepares a bill intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions.There is broad agreement on the idea of using federal money to stimulate sales. But that is where the consensus ends.One approach, advanced by Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) and gathering behind-the-scenes support at the urging of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), long a key supporter of the auto industry, would work this way:Send a gas-guzzling SUV or other…

Obama: Clearing the air in 100 days. The Huffington Post.

April 29, 2009
Gone are GM’s rhetoric echoing in the Oval Office, Exxon’s denial of science, and Dick Cheney’s years of inaction. When it comes to fighting global warming, President Obama has swept them all away in his first 100 days in office.He has put a new and proper reliance on science. He has named dedicated environmentalists to key positions within the White House, at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the Energy Department. And he has unveiled substantial measures to directly tackle climate change.Perhaps nothing the president has done so far will on its own reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas. It’s only been 100 days. But he has charted a new course.President Bush refused to let California set its own auto emissions standards. Obama instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to review Bush’s decision. The agency is nearly certain to grant California, 12 other states and the District of Columbia a waiver in June that will let them slash emissions 30% by…

Obama’s power plays. The New York Times.

April 25, 2009
WITH its announcement last week that global warming is a threat to public health, the Obama administration has made clear that it plans to cut greenhouse gases substantially. This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee began its own effort to deal with warming, but Congress’s path to legislation is long and uncertain. President Obama can get started without waiting for Congress by taking these three steps:First, he can tighten the Department of Energy’s efficiency standards for consumer appliances — everything from lamps to refrigerators to vending machines. During President Obama’s first term, 20 of these standards are up for revision, and if properly improved, they could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 70 million tons annually by 2020.Standards on lighting, for example, should be strengthened enough that manufacturers would be encouraged to produce more L.E.D. lamps, which use a small fraction of the electricity required by incandescent bulbs, and don’t waste…

Detroit 3 must come clean on getting green. The Detroit News.

March 31, 2009
As part of their turnaround plans, General Motors and Chrysler delivered bold promises: Clean cars, clean fuels and more hybrids.But the Obama administration found the plans lacking and sent the two automakers back to the drawing boards. This leads to the questions. GM and Chrysler clearly put Michigan’s future at risk by blowing smoke about what they are doing. Consumers and Washington officials want to make sure that we get something concrete for our money. The companies should be playing it straight. But on clean cars, clean fuels and more hybrids, they are saying one thing and delivering another: Is it just another bait and switch? Consider Chevrolet’s you-can-get-there-from-here-on-electricity Volt hybrid, E85 ethanol and the advertising focus on highway fuel economy ratings. GM tells Washington and Wall Street that the Volt represents the future — the salvation of the company and the climate. Perhaps. But not if they make 10,000 the first year and no more than 50,000 when…

Obama’s Auto Pitch: Crush Those Clunkers. The Huffington Post.

March 31, 2009
Unveiling his far-reaching auto plan, President Obama gave a nod to a little-noticed movement in Congress to clear the roads of gas-guzzling clunkers best destined for the crusher. It’s an attractive idea. Think of it as: “Get the Jalopies off the Road.” The theory is simple enough: Reward owners for junking older-model fuel-slurping cars and light trucks and buying new “clean” vehicles that will use less fuel and release less carbon, the key culprit in global warming. If done right, it delivers two benefits central to the president’s goals. It would stimulate the sale of new vehicles and help fight global warming and other air pollution. If done poorly, it helps sell vehicles that are only minimally more efficient than the ones that are being scrapped. Here are the options: The better way, which is more likely to achieve the environmental goal, rewards purchasers of new vehicles that are 25% more efficient than comparable cars and light trucks, if they are replacing vehicles that…

Lessons learned from Exxon Valdez disaster. The Chicago Tribune.

March 24, 2009
Four minutes after midnight on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez went aground on the Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, fouling beaches, killing thousands of sea otters, bald eagles and other wildlife — and sinking the reputation of an oil industry already wracked by ecological disaster. The 10.8-million-gallon oil spill was not the biggest up to that point. There have been larger since. But in that grinding, steel-against-shoal instant, it became emblematic of all that was wrong with the way the U.S. gets and uses oil. And 20 years later? We use more oil, and much of it still travels by sea.Oil remains at the heart of a warming climate — a slow-motion crisis that, writ large, threatens to do to our global atmosphere what the Exxon Valdez did to Prince William Sound.With the 1989 disaster, the oil industry’s standing as an American institution was so damaged that nearly two decades later, even with a Republican president and GOP majority in Congress, it was unable to win…

GM, Chrysler don’t get it. The Los Angeles Times.

February 18, 2009
After receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bailouts over the last few months, General Motors and Chrysler returned to Washington on Tuesday to shake their chrome-plated tin cups again. In addition to begging for billions more in bailout funds, the automakers presented the Treasury Department with plans for how they will repay — eventually — their taxpayer-funded bailouts and get back on their feet. But at a time when boldness is demanded, the plans lack innovation. They call for laying off more workers, cutting pay and benefits, and reducing the number of models that are manufactured. And GM even had the chutzpah to cut its projected fuel economy by 10% from what it promised in the survival plan it submitted to Congress in December. What the automakers don’t get is this: What’s good for America is good for GM (and Chrysler), and not the other way around. With billions of dollars of taxpayer cash in their bank accounts and billions more…

President Obama on global warming: Finally part of the solution. The Huffington Post.

January 26, 2009
Let’s give a cheer for President Obama’s order Monday that his Environmental Protection Agency reconsider President Bush’s rejection of the request by California and 13 other states to write their own rules on greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, they will be tougher than anything the Federal government has produced. On his fifth full day in office, the president did what he said he’d do on a central environmental question. Excellent. Now, on to why it matters, and, most important, what’s next. The decision sends these important signals: It says the Obama administration is taking with utmost seriousness the challenges posed by global warming, regardless of the obstacles erected by the struggling auto industry. It is a sign to the states that when they come up with good ideas, they should take the lead–and to the federal government to get in line. The United States has produced more greenhouse gases than any other nation. Now, after years of knuckle-dragging, Washington is willing to…

Bush, blowing global warming decision, opens door for Obama. The Huffington Post.

January 9, 2009
In a little-noticed decision, the Bush administration this week slammed the environmental door — walking away from what could have been its most far-reaching measure to cool a warming climate while heating up a frozen economy. With the same stroke, President Bush handed the Obama administration a major opportunity to establish its own environmental credentials, even as it wrestles with an economic bailout made all the more pressing by Friday’s frightening 7.2% unemployment report. As a result, the new president can use sound policy to set the Detroit Three on a globally competitive track, and fight global warming while also starting to right the economy. How did Bush blow it this time? He punted on the key decision to set new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The proposal his Transportation Department spent a year preparing would have increased the average efficiency of US cars, SUVs and other light trucks from 25 mpg to 31.8 by 2015. This would begin to cut the…

The Brother-In-Law of all bailouts. The Huffington Post.

October 17, 2008
While the nation’s attention was focused on that other bailout, Congress and the President awarded automakers $25 billion in taxpayer-subsidized loan guarantees. The money is supposed to pay for up to 30% of the costs of retooling factories to make vehicles that get at least 25% better gas mileage than similar cars. But this auto industry salvage package lacks some of the features of the Wall Street bailout. There is no financial equity for taxpayers, no CEO pay caps. And there is no requirement that automakers improve their fuel economy beyond the 35 miles per gallon by 2020 that Congress passed over industry objections last year. In fact, there is nothing to prevent automakers from offsetting the taxpayer-funded improvements in one vehicle by making another guzzle more. Indeed to qualify for the money, a company’s fleet-wide average need only be better than it was in 2005. Oh, and new companies that want to put advanced technologies into production needn’t apply. When the…


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