Vehicle standards are just a part of climate solution

By JP Leous

After years of Congressional inaction and squabbling between auto makers and the government, the EPA and National Highway Safety Administration have finally released new vehicle efficiency and pollution standards. This is wonderful news just in time for Earth Day—our skies, lungs, wildlands,  and economy will benefit. Sad to say though, these important improvements simply aren’t enough to give us the climate solutions we need, one of which is clean energy and climate legislation in Congress.

Before you think I’m just getting greedy (I can hear you now: “JP’s always wanting MORE clean air to breath, MORE money in his pocket than in Big Oil’s, and MORE healthy wildlands to visit!”) check this out:  While these regs will mean the “average” U.S. car will cause less pollution in the future, the number of cars is expected to increase— and in many communities vehicle miles traveled per family are increasing. 

The point is this: It would be really good if we figured out how to break our dependency on cars. If not for the benefit of the environment, how about for our pocketbooks? If you’re a car owner, you spend an average of $8,500 a year to own and operate it, according to estimates from the AAA. 

I’m not calling for a ban on personal car use—but an expansion of the options Americans have to get from point A to point B.  Many traffic-choked suburban strip mall-lined streets are simply not designed to facilitate walking or riding a bike— let alone set up for bus and streetcar lanes.

But let’s not just pick on the ‘burbs: way too many urban areas are equally uninviting and inconvenient for non-car users.  Hopefully the smart-growth trend will continue—putting focus on redeveloping where we’ve already built before, rather than tearing down forests, filling wetlands and converting farmland to pop up McMansions and the gas stations and ubiquitous coffee shops that support them.   Not only will these improvements put more money in our wallets, but they will also put less pressure on the little untouched open space we have left, and help reduce pollution enough to avoid a climate crisis. 

I get that for most folks their jobs and lives currently necessitate a car-dependent existence, but just as people most often default to the easiest way to get from here to there, so too do our officials and urban planners.  This often means making the same mistakes urban planners have made in this country for the last 50+ years.

So while we should thank the Obama administration for their hard work setting long-overdue vehicle pollution standards, we can’t yet declare “mission accomplished”.  On this issue, the rubber meets the road in every community across this country.

Photo by Simone Ramella, Flickr

47 comments

LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr5 years ago

Thank you for article.

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LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr5 years ago

Thank you for article.

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LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr5 years ago

Thank you for article.

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LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr5 years ago

Thank you for article.

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LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr5 years ago

Thank you for article.

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Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat8 years ago

Thanks

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M I K E
Mike K8 years ago

Agreed. New regs may help in the long run...if they are properly enforced

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Rodney Paige
Rodney Paige8 years ago

The technology is there. All it would take is big oil and auto industry to release licensing so that new more environmentally friendly vehicles can be manufactured.

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Muhammod H.
Muhammod H8 years ago

have to think this way

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James Siberry
Past Member 8 years ago

great article, thanks

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