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Talking Points: Blocking State Progress

Last week Rep. Rick Boucher unveiled a draft bill that does nothing to reduce global warming pollution.

A recent public opinion survey by the Center for American Progress found that nearly two-thirds of Americans want us to “act immediately to make our country less dependent on oil and move to cleaner, alternative energy sources.”  Two-thirds of Americans want the federal government to require that cars get 40 miles per gallon in 10 years even if it means “smaller and more expensive cars.”  By nearly three to one they favor clean, alternative fuels over the production of more oil and coal. Unfortunately, some politicians just haven’t got the message that the public demands a clean energy future.  Late on Friday, June 1, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) unveiled a draft bill that does little to increase fuel economy and produce more clean fuels, and nothing to reduce global warming pollution.   It is chock full of loopholes that benefit oil and auto companies at the expense of everyone else.

  • The Boucher legislation infringes directly on states’ rights to regulate the quality of their own air. On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that the agency has the authority to control global warming pollution from motor vehicles.  Boucher’s draft bill would remove the EPA’s authority to set emission standards for new vehicles.   The bill overturns elements of the court’s landmark decision. Due to the federal government’s inaction, California and 11 other states (CT, MA, MD, ME, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA) decided to set their own global warming (carbon dioxide) reduction standards for cars and light trucks.  The Boucher bill would force the EPA to disallow standards that “are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • The bill significantly weakens the planned improvement in fuel economy standards called for by President Bush. The Boucher bill ostensibly sets new, stricter fuel economy standards for new cars and light trucks. But according to the National Resources Defense Council, these standards are less than half of the 4 percent annual improvement recommended by Bush.  The current version allows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set weaker standards than required by the bill, with enough leeway that there could be little improvement in fuel economy or reduction in global warming pollution.
  • Investment in alternative fuels must be made with an eye toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The bill’s Alternative Fuel Standard would allow fuels made from coal and other nonrenewable fuels. This new liquid coal technology has been shown to produce significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than current technology. Without standards for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, this bill has the potential to do more damage than existing laws. While the bill does establish a “low carbon fuel” program, it includes a weak standard that only the “average carbon intensity” of fuel must be lower beginning in 2013.  This standard does little to spur investments in and production of clean, renewable biofuels.