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May 04, 2011

With Clean Car Victory, Time to Move Forward

Last Friday's final rejection to attempts to overturn California's right to implement stronger vehicle pollution standards should be the final blow to attempts to hold back California's central role in cleaning up cars. It is time to focus on moving standards forward and California continues to play a central role. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the final holdouts against progress (the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Association) and recognized the important role California and other states have had in delivering better vehicle standards.

Consumers are now getting cleaner, more fuel efficient cars and will only see their choices improve through 2016. But it is time to lock in even stronger standards through 2025. Sadly, some automakers are falling back on old ways, picking up where the dealers lost and massively increasing their lobby efforts against better fuel efficiency standards:

Lately (GM) has joined other auto makers in urging the White House to back off a proposal that could require auto makers' vehicle fleets to get an average 62 miles a gallon by 2025, and to instead adopt less ambitious standards.

Let's not forget, we (the tax payers) bailed these guys out to the tune of $80 billion (and still own part of GM). And the thank you we get is a push to hold back standards that promise to help end America's addiction to oil? Stronger standards are now helping GM, Ford and Chrysler sell cars; strengthening them to reach at least 60 mpg by 2025 is necessary progress. The reports keep coming in - cleaner, more fuel efficient cars are exactly what Americans want, especially as gas prices keep climbing:

High gas prices and a recovering economy led to a 46 percent increase in hybrid and clean diesel sales in March 2011 compared to March 2010, a jump that was about three times higher than the increase in the overall car market last month, according to auto analyst firm Baum and Associates.

Kelley Blue Book also reported that trend - with 84% of their respondents saying gas prices influenced the type of car they bought (The Wall Street Journal calls it downgrading, but having to stop less often for gas fill-ups sure sounds like an upgrade to us).

Those choices are boosting the economy too - look at how well Ford's doing now because of this trend. The company "earned $2.55 billion in the (first) quarter, a 22 percent increase from the period a year ago..."

And, GM, the company lobbying against hitting a 62 mpg average for new vehicles in 2025, is also benefiting from its high mileage cars sales.

Go60mpg Automakers would do better focusing their attention and money (GM spent $3.6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2011) on more innovation. Maybe the guys lobbying in DC for weak fuel efficiency and emissions standards should talk to the guys making the higher mileage cars that are selling so well. And maybe the dealers (the guys who lost last week in court) should be thankful that we have standards that are putting such popular higher mileage cars on their lots.

The Go 60 MPG coalition ran the above ad just last fall in Politico (Click the image to enlarge it) - perhaps it's time to run it again. Click here to see the PDF of the ad.

Americans are seeing no end to higher gas prices, and that is influencing their car searches. It's time for the auto industry to lead, not stand in the way.

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign


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