Our best climate program is under attack

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Rows of vehicles in traffic spewing emissions.
“Clean car standards are one of the quickest, most effective and easiest ways to help us get on the right track to carbon-free transportation and a safer, healthier climate.”
By Garrett Garner-Wells, Paul Guzyk and Luke Walch

What if we told you there’s a five-year-old who is on the front lines of tackling climate-changing pollution? As the nation reels from global warming, exacerbated hurricanes and wildfires, we’re about to celebrate a birthday for the most important climate program on the books. On Oct. 15, the clean car standards turn five years old. In those five years, these standards have avoided more than 142 million metric tons of global warming pollution and have saved Coloradans $550 million. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If fully implemented, the standards would save Colorado 8,098 Olympic-sized pools of gasoline and eliminate emissions equivalent to powering Boulder three times over. Now more than ever, it is critical that we stop attacks on these highly successful standards.

Scientists have already noted increases in extreme precipitation and heat waves as global warming raises temperatures and exacerbates weather extremes. The planet right now is the hottest it has been in 115,000 years. Increasingly severe weather events, like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, are becoming the new normal with a climate that’s changing.

We need to do everything we can to cut the carbon pollution that fuels global warming. And we need to start with cleaning up our cars. America’s transportation system has emerged as climate enemy No. 1, with cars and trucks now representing the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution. Our country also produces more transportation carbon pollution per capita than any other major industrialized nation. Yet, America’s best climate program is under attack, with automakers working with the Trump administration to weaken the clean car standards.

Over the past six months, the Trump administration has started unraveling clean car standards that protect our health, cut our dangerous emissions, and reduce our oil use. The standards remain under attack in Congress. As we face hotter summers and more unpredictable winters we know that now more than ever, we need to protect our health and environment. We need to build a future where our kids can breathe easier, a future where we worry less about asthma attacks and Lyme Disease. Instead the Trump administration is slamming the brakes on our progress.

The benefits at stake matter here in Colorado. In our state, transportation makes up 29 percent of global warming emissions. In 2015, Boulder had 90 unhealthy air days. We need cleaner cars, not weakened standards.

The vast majority of the country, Republicans and Democrats alike, support these standards. As many as 95 percent of Americans want automakers to keep improving fuel economy for cars and trucks. And it is no wonder — nationally, these standards will prevent 6 billion metric tons (more than a year’s worth of U.S. carbon emissions) of dangerous global warming emissions from being dumped into our atmosphere, protecting our health and climate.

Clean car standards are one of the quickest, most effective and easiest ways to help us get on the right track to carbon-free transportation and a safer, healthier climate.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s joint technical report this past July showed that auto companies have the technology to clean up our cars. In fact, multiple vehicles already exceed the standards. Moreover, automakers can manufacture cleaner cars that drive innovation, cost less than originally projected, and help protect our health and environment. Instead automakers stood with the administration in Detroit and are linking arms to attack this program that is set to save a typical Colorado household $2,700 by 2030.

So as we celebrate all the benefits from these five-year-old standards, we need to ensure that they are around for their 10th birthday. Automakers, the administration and Congress should be putting cars that burn too much gasoline in the rear-view mirror instead of green-lighting attacks that endanger our health and use more oil, and cost more for consumers. Now, more than ever, we must charge ahead and reduce transportation emissions, not put our most successful policies in rearview mirror.

Garrett Garner-Wells is state director of Environment Colorado. Paul Guzyk owns Boulder Hybrids. Luke Walch owns Green Eyed Motors in Boulder.

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