California Feels Global Warming Heat From Automakers

Date: 9 Dec 2004 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

A coalition of U.S. and foreign automobile manufacturers and car dealerships in California joined together to file a lawsuit against California’s innovative rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in that state. In a tug of war between federal and state authority, the stage is set for a public debate on how far a state can go in directing its own energy future.

Ironically, the lawsuit against California came nearly the same time as U.S. federal government representatives solidified the Bush Administration’s position as climate change skeptics. The US chief climate negotiator, Harlan Watson, spoke at the international climate change conference taking place in Argentina saying, “Kyoto was a political agreement. It was not based on science.” The Administration has also opposed efforts to increase the fuel economy standards of the nation’s vehicles.

With the Bush Administration’s clear intent to avoid any public policy initiatives to lower greenhouse gases, California says that they are exercising authority that was given to them under the federal government’s passage of the Clean Air Act. California is the only state empowered under the federal law to pass stronger air pollution standards than those set by the federal government. Other states can then choose California’s standards, but cannot be the first to surpass those set by the federal government. Thus, passage of a California law requiring reduced greenhouse gas emissions from cars eventually could spark changes in the design of automobiles sold across the country.

The furor generated by California’s greenhouse gas rules stems from the fact that the only way that automobile manufacturers can meet the new standards is by increasing the fuel economy of the vehicles that they produce.

We here at Democratic Energy applaud California’s efforts to push the transportation emissions envelope and increase the fuel economy of vehicles for the rest of us. But in the face of an uncertain outcome in the courts, perhaps Governor Schwarzenegger should adopt a stronger biofuels strategy as an insurance policy in case the ruling goes in favor of the automakers? Biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks too. Just a thought.


  • New Rules Project’s section on California’s Automobile Greenhouse Gas EmissionsRule
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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.