The Sacramento region has made incredible progress toward clean air over the decades. But there’s more work to do.
The region does not meet all current health standards. Those sensitive to air pollution – children, older adults, those with heart or lung ailments – suffer most.
We know how to achieve our vision for clean and carbon-free air for all. Seventy percent of smog-causing pollutants come from cars and trucks, which are also a major source of greenhouse gases. We need to drastically reduce vehicle emissions by, among other things, improving fuel efficiency. Consumers will benefit from cleaner cars and pay less for gasoline.
But this week’s political decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reopen the 2012 national fuel standards for vehicles will set us way back and puts oil interests over consumers.
Rolling back the standards ignores reality – cleaner, more efficient cars are already abundant on our roads -- and wastes large investments by automakers. Beyond innovations to gasoline engines, electric vehicles are improving battery life and charging times. And hydrogen fuel cell cars are coming up fast right behind. These advances are reflected in growing sales in California and other leading markets. Electric cars are the superior, no-compromise, and cheat-proof alternative to combustion.
California, with its unique authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own emission rules, and its dozen partner states will not back down. Automakers better get ready to build two fleets of cars, some that meet California’s 2012 standards and some for whatever Faustian bargain they expect to get from the EPA.
California is on solid footing. Last year, it reaffirmed its fuel standards. I led the technical team at the California Air Resources Board that, in collaboration with EPA, conducted studies showing that the auto industry is already on track to meet the standards with known technologies or credits. Fuel savings alone will exceed the additional costs of the cleaner car technology.
Still, EPA’s decision could have huge consequences. A weakened national clean car market stifles innovation and research in zero-emission technology. That means higher costs and more pollution. This action will have major ramifications for climate change since transportation is responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions.
We all deserve more efficient cars that are good for clean air and a sustainable future. We know how to get there. EPA’s decision ignores all that.