Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What a Difference a President Makes

Back in 1990 the California Air Resources Board adopted a regulation that 2% of all new cars sold in 1998 would be zero emission vehicles (ZEV) – effectively electric cars. By 2003, this requirement was to increase to 10%. The idea was designed to prompt automakers to research radical new designs for transportation rather than simply making internal combustion engines slightly more efficient. The program was quite successful, and resulted in the creation of the GM EV1 and the Ford Think electric cars. It also furthered the growth of the electric hybrid market.

Unfortunately, GM and Daimler Chrysler decided it would be more profitable to take the whole matter to court and force California to repeal the ZEV requirements. After all, the California standards made it impossible for them to sell their largest SUVs – the most profitable units – in the world's largest automobile market. Fortunately for GM and Chrysler, George Bush and his administration strongly agreed with them. So much so, that on October 9, 2002 the Bush administration joined the lawsuit, arguing that by regulating vehicle emissions that the California government was actually attempting to set gasoline mileage standards. Only the Federal government has the authority to do that!

GM, Daimler-Chrysler and the Bush administration won the lawsuit and California had to drop the ZEV requirements. Certainly it was purely coincidental that Andrew Card, Bush's Chief of Staff who led the legal challenge, was the past president of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association and had been GM's vice president for Government Relations. Another odd coincidence that Bush, Cheney and Condi Rice were all products of the oil and gas industry. One more coincidence – right after the ZEV regulations were repealed, GM and Ford canceled their electric car programs. All of this interesting history is captured in an entertaining documentary called “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

And now for something completely different-

Today (May 19) Barack Obama stood in the White House Rose Garden along with leaders of the auto industry, organized labour and state and federal government officials, to announce a comprehensive plan to curb automobile emissions and drastically improve fuel economy standards for the auto industry. CBC online reports the following:

"As a result of this agreement," Obama said, "we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century."

He said the new rules amounted to removing 177 million cars from the roads over the next 6½ years. In that period, the savings in oil burned to fuel American cars, trucks and buses would amount to last year's combined U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya and Nigeria.

While the new fuel and emission standards for cars and trucks will save billions of barrels of oil, they are expected to cost consumers an extra $1,300 US per vehicle by the time the plan is complete in 2016. Obama said the fuel cost savings would offset the higher price of vehicles in three years. While requiring that vehicle carbon dioxide emissions be reduced by about one-third by the target date, the plan requires the auto industry to be building vehicles that average 35.5 miles per US gallon (6.6 L/100 km).”

From : http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2009/05/19/emissions.html

So lets compare:
George Bush
-Used tax payer's money to help GM and Chrysler defeat California's Clean Air Regulations
-Allowed GM to cancel it's electric car program and open another assembly line for Hummers (I'm not joking).
-Insured demand for oil and gas would remain strong
-Preserved American's right to drive the biggest vehicles that they could imagine – until fuel price increases priced them out of the marketplace
-Protected the US from international interference – as contained in the Kyoto Protocol

-Brought together industry, labour, state and federal government
-Created a new and necessary direction for the auto industry – which will create jobs
-Potentially conserves more than 1.8 billion bbls of oil – probably more oil than the recoverable reserves at ANWAR.
-30% lower CO2 emissions for new cars by 2016

What a difference a President makes!

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