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Fouling the Clean Air Act

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Posted on Mar 3, 2011

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

In a largely hidden component of its attack on the federal budget, the House of Representatives has approved a key Republican campaign promise to big business: protecting it from what the new majority calls the handcuffs of environmental safeguards. The Republicans would cuff the Environmental Protection Agency instead.
If the Republicans prevail in the Senate and overcome a White House veto, they would hobble the Clean Air Act, probably the most successful U.S. law protecting health and the environment, and threaten the authority of California and several other states to use it to fight pollution and global warming.

The Clean Air Act has meant fewer hospitalizations and missed workdays, and would save a projected $2 trillion in 2020 alone by reducing asthma, chronic bronchitis and premature deaths from lung disease. Now, having been given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court, the EPA is using it to cut back on carbon dioxide pollution, the prime culprit behind our changing climate.

Think of the law as the legal weapon—passed by an overwhelming bipartisan congressional majority, signed by President Richard M. Nixon, approved by the highest court—that has allowed every president beginning with Nixon to fight some of the nation’s most difficult health and environmental challenges. Using the law to reduce carbon dioxide will bring us solutions that people like: hybrid and other high-tech, gas-sipping cars that cut our gasoline bills by more than the costs of the improved technology.

But some of the nation’s biggest polluters have teamed up with the Republicans to try to stop progress—as the evidence of global warming grows: The 10 warmest years on record have all been since 1998; last year was tied with 2005 as the hottest. Together, the polluters and the GOP would turn the House into a special-interest court of appeals to circumvent the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the EPA to fight global warming. They would limit the clean air law’s protections against power plant pollution and block several states from adopting tougher pollution controls than the federal government.

California has been a leader in setting air pollution and emissions standards under Clean Air Act provisions. Its efforts to set strong standards have been joined by 13 other states, among them New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Washington.


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Now, automakers are demanding that politicians—not scientists—write the clean car standards intended to reduce carbon dioxide pollution.

The automakers supported a 5 percent annual reduction in emissions that will get us to 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016—the biggest step we’ve taken against global warming. They say they cannot cut emissions 6 percent the next year. These are the same people who said they could not equip cars with seat belts, air bags or catalytic converters.

By using continuously variable transmissions, low-friction lubricants, improved engines, aerodynamic designs and high-strength lightweight steel and producing electric vehicles, the manufacturers could deliver a fleet that would achieve 62 mpg, cut our emissions by 6 percent per year and help us reduce our oil consumption by half by 2030, saving us money at the pump.

Sure, they don’t want to. But they can. If you don’t believe this, listen to Toyota.
Whatever goal the administration sets “Toyota will be prepared to meet,” the automaker’s vice president for product communications, Jim Colon, said. “If it’s 62 miles a gallon, we’ll be able to achieve that.”

Even General Motors, famously late to the innovation starting line, says it will join the race—if ordered. Mark Reuss, the company’s top North American executive, said that although he was concerned about meeting a 62-mpg standard, “I think the industry can do anything it wants when it puts its mind to it … we’re going to make a plan that’s profitable with cars and trucks that people want.”
That would be a welcome epiphany for a company that stayed afloat only with the help of a $50 billion bailout from America’s taxpayers.

With the planet growing warmer, gasoline prices climbing and new turmoil in the Middle East threatening our energy security, we can’t afford to allow polluters to team up with the new House leadership to deny us progress.

As Mark Twain said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

Dan Becker is director of the Safe Climate Campaign, which advocates strong action to fight global warming. James Gerstenzang is the campaign’s editorial director.

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By Jimnp72, March 6, 2011 at 11:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

do you remember the gas lines in the 70’s? siphoning gas from one tank to another because you couldnt get gas.Remember waiting in line for gas for four hours and then getting five gallons. remember the tankers lined up offshore and being denied accesss to the refineries so demand would rocket up the price, which is exactly what happened. remember our 50 cent gallon gas lurching to a dollar, then a dollar and a half in a matter of days. remember the staggering profits the oil companies were making then.
no, nothing has changed,  the repubs have indeed blocked it all.
remember them ridiculing carter for his sweater, remember them gleefully knocking the solar panels off the white house roof when reagan was elected?

I will never forget the shit they pulled and continue to get away with as their heads sink up the ass of API.God Help Us All.

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By lancemfoster, March 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

hey, who cares if we all have to live in Mordor, as long as Sauron gets rich right?

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By Inherit The Wind, March 4, 2011 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

“In the long run, we are all dead.”—John Maynard Keynes.

Curiously, Keynes wrote the Republican mantra—right now, to them, the distant long-run is November of 2012, and no further.

In 1973, Richard Nixon had a vision of the United States being energy-independent by 1980.  We COULD have done it but even Nixon was stymied by the energy and auto industries.

In 1975, Gerald Ford called for the United States to be energy-independent.

In 1977, Jimmy Carter called for the United States to not only be energy-independent, but to develop clean and renewable energy sources.

Then, in 1981, Ronald Reagan swept into the White House, the Senate went Republican, and ALL efforts toward energy independence ended.  All efforts to develop alternate, clean and renewable energy sources were killed, and kept killed for 12 years.

Then after only 2 years of Clinton, the GOP took back the House and Senate and any embryonic efforts to re-establish what Nixon, Ford and Carter advocated were killed and remained dead throughout the Bush years and even the first two Obama years.

Now, 30 years after Reagan and the GOP MURDERED all efforts at energy independence and alternate energy sources, we are paying the price, again and again and again.  Our recovery small as it is, is about to die on the rock of inflating overseas oil prices We never learn.

And the GOP keeps singing the same songs about “shackling industry” solely to get drilling off-shore and in Alaska, neither of which will bring us CLOSE to energy independence and both are highly polluting.

But…in the long term we are all dead, so why worry about it if you can use it to defeat Democrats in 2012?

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By rollzone, March 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment

hello. the Republicants are in favor of anything oil,
and we gave them some power. by 2012, there will be no
air to breathe, no food to eat, no water to drink:
except for the insulated, heavily protected wealthy.
but this EPA is over regulating people out of business,
while Republicants deny electric vehicles. either we
get the electric vehicles, or you have to relax the
requirements to keep combustions in business. the
carbon credits is definitely gone too far. the EPA
needs to be slapped down, or we go electric. the
Demoncrats are too burned out to put up a fight.

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By Bob Mitchell, March 3, 2011 at 8:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Count your blessings if you are over 60, as things are going to get really bad on the planet, including in the United States—most of our grandchildren are going to lead very unpleasant lives compared to what we have known.

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By Big B, March 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment

Who here thought for five seconds that the US was going to proudly lead the world into a new and prosperous 21st century featuring an environmentally friendly post petroleum economy?

What, nobodys hand up?

I was telling people a couple years back that the US would de-evolve back to the living conditions once enjoyed by our ancestors in the early 20th century, for we will quickly give up any pretense to be a leader in the post petroleum economy when the next recession hits us. And sure as shit, here we are! Digging, drilling, and burning everything we can get our hands on. We have resigned ourselves to poison the air, water and land in a futile attempt to bring back 1950.

Join us now in the race to the bottom.

Maybe what the Mayans were fortelling was another conservative president elected in November of 2012.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 3, 2011 at 6:06 pm Link to this comment

There’s not one safety or health issue that every industry opposes because it “costs too much”.  Whether it’s clean chicken processing plants or seat belts in cars, or not pouring industrial waste into rivers, they’ve always got a “good” reason not to do it, and always have.  Before there was an EPA or OSHA to force them, there were the unions who could shut down a plant for unsafe conditions.

But the unions have been strangled since 1981, and the USDA and FDA have been handcuffed and impoverished, and now it’s EPA’s turn.  All in the name of “not shackling industry”.  It’s just good bid-nezz to go on poisoning our people.  Look at the enormous fight the worst legal drug pushers, the tobacco industry, put up.  It was like the 20th century version of the Opium Wars to FORCE China to let Europe addict and poison her people.

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By SoTexGuy, March 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm Link to this comment

I’ll say this.. here in Texas we are in pollution central.. by some estimates Texas
ranks above many countries as a net producer of greenhouse emissions and
major pollutants.. It’s a point of pride in case you’re wondering.

Unchecked chemical and petrochemical emissions have made a size-able swath
of the Gulf coast practically uninhabitable.. our Republican governors and
attorneys general have sued successfully to delay or prevent implementation of
air and water standards and remedies..

They grandfathered existing operations.. including one of the world’s largest
open pit coal extraction sites (it’s a stone’s throw from Austin.. school kids are
taken there on tours).. allowing practically limitless dumping in our air and
water of known carcinogens and more.. Texas is ‘open for business’ as our man
Perry said in his recent campaign..

Now Perry, a one time TA&M cheerleader, has repaid his contributors by signing
an exemption to allow nuclear waste to be brought into Texas from across the
nation and maybe even overseas..

It’s all big business and along with our out-of control sprawl and the nation’s
highest birth rate and immigration rate amounts to an all-out war on nature
herself..  and nobody cares..

My point is all this has occurred under the oppressive hand of the EPA, the
Clean Air act and all that jazz.. which it seems is just as dysfunctional as most
any other branch of government or regulatory bureaucracy that thinking and
caring people have foolishly relied upon to keep things like this in check and
bring bad players to justice..

So if what’s at stake is the EPA.. let ‘em all go out and get new jobs.. maybe
their coconspirators in industry will hire them.. Then perhaps we can get real
laws and rules and more.. and start making progress.

Yeah, this subject tees me off.

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