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January 27, 2012

The Public's Verdict? Clean Cars Are More Popular than Oprah. Well almost...

After a week of public hearings in Detroit, Philadelphia and San Francisco, we can safely say that cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks are a popular commodity.

More than 500 people, including concerned citizens, public health officials, veterans, small business owners, environmentalists and consumer advocates, came out to testify in support of the Obama administration’s proposal to strengthen fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards for cars and light trucks. 

Thanks to these standards from the U.S. EPA and National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average new car you’ll see on the lot in 2025 will get 54.5 mpg and spew 35% less carbon pollution than the models in 2016.  That’s a big deal – and a big win for American families.

So just how broad is public support for these proposed standards?  Very!  Poll after poll has shown that Americans overwhelmingly support better fuel efficiency.  But this support is more than just a checked box on a survey – it’s real stories from real people.

When I testified in Detroit last Tuesday, I was inspired by the near-unanimous support for 54.5 mpg cars from the more than 100 people who came out to give their reasons for supporting clean cars.  Nearly everyone from the United Auto Workers’ President and members to local citizens concerned about air pollution from smog and climate disruption voiced united support for the standards.  

It was great to have the hearing kicked off by Michigan Congressman John Dingell, who praised the standards and said “I am pleased that EPA and NHTSA are joining together to reach out and listen to what the American people have to say.”  The Go60 mpg coalition, which the Sierra Club is a part of, was featured in the New York Times’ piece on the hearing.

Robin Mann testify 1
In Philadelphia last Thursday, we saw record turnout for an EPA hearing with more than 150 people coming out to stand up for clean cars including Sierra Club President Robin Mann (pictures above at the left).  There were so many moving testimonies – including Retired Lieutenant General Richard Zilmer, who spoke about his first hand experience with the dangers of depending on a fuel supply line in Iraq, and Colleen Kennedy, a local resident with serious health conditions that have been exacerbated by smog pollution from cars.

 Finally on Tuesday of this week, EPA and NHTSA held their last public hearing in San Francisco where Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune testified and called these standards the “biggest single step we’ve ever taken to move beyond oil and tackle climate disruption.”  Check out the rest of his testimony here.

The lone voice of opposition at all three hearings:  the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA).  Yet with several individual dealers coming out to testify in support of the standards, even the industry publication Automotive News knows that NADA needs to stop exaggerating the costs and underselling the benefits of the standards.

The Sierra Club live-tweeted each hearing from @SierraClubLive.  Here are some of the highlights:

These hearings were not the only opportunity the public has to voice support for strong new clean cars standards.  You can send your comments until February13th.  Don’t wait -- help us show how broad and deep support is for clean cars!

 And, if you enjoyed reading these tweets from the clean cars hearings, follow @SierraClubLive and you can check out yesterday’s live updates from the DC Auto Show.  After years of saying they couldn’t make new cars or trucks that use less oil, it was clear from the showroom floor that the auto industry is in a race to do just that.

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

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