By Carl Pope
Sierra Club Executive Director Cities, states, major corporations, our leaders in Congress, and even the Supreme Court have all called for meaningful action to fight global warming and end our dangerous dependence on oil–both issues of national security. It is encouraging that the President is now also showing interest in tackling some of our most pressing problems; however, he already enjoys the clear authority to address these problems and he can and should act immediately to do so.
There is no reason to wait until the end of 2008 for federal agencies to act. Most importantly, the President has existing authority to raise fuel economy standards the 4 percent per year he promised in the State of the Union. If he does that, it will be similar to the Markey-Platts bill in the House and stronger than the Senate CAFE bill that came out of the Commerce Committee last week.
It’s great that everyone from Ted Stevens to Barack Obama to President Bush wants to improve fuel economy at 4 percent a year. Such an increase would dramatically cut both our oil consumption and global warming emissions. A key element of the President’s plan is a dramatic increase in the production of alternative fuels. Biofuels, particularly next generation fuels like cellulosic ethanol, hold great promise in reducing our dangerous dependence on oil and our global warming emissions.
However, a dramatic increase in biofuels production done without important safeguards in place could result in negative consequences for both the environment and other sectors of the economy. The President’s proposal also relies on creating a new liquid coal industry. Liquid coal is the dirtiest, most dangerous energy choice we could now make. Fourteen states, representing some 40 percent of the U.S. auto market, have adopted California’s landmark global warming emissions standards for automobiles.
California and the other states are still waiting for permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to implement them. The first hearing in this process is next week and the EPA should act without delay in approving this waiver as soon as possible. The President’s authority to regulate global warming emissions under the Clean Air Act is also crystal clear.
The Supreme Court spoke firmly on this matter and we hope that today’s announcement is the first step in a serious effort to promulgate meaningful regulations to begin reducing our global warming emissions. It is vital that we move quickly to address our global warming and energy problems and we look forward to seeing more detailed proposals from the administration to do so. For more information visit www.sierraclub.org