Nathan Willcox,
Environment America

Report: Global Warming Pollution Standards for Cars Will Save Money, Slash Emissions in North Carolina

For Immediate Release

With gas prices on the rise, requirements for more efficient, less polluting cars would save the average North Carolina report, “Putting the Brakes on Global Warming.”  The analysis also found that global warming pollution standards for automobiles—known as the Clean Cars program—would slash all greenhouse gas emissions from cars, trucks, and SUV’s by 10 percent by 2020. consumer more than $20 each month, according to a new Environment North Carolina

“With global warming threatening North Carolina’s future and gas prices skyrocketing, the Clean Cars program is good for the environment and even better for the economy,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, Co-Chair of the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change and the lead sponsor of a bill to enact the Clean Cars program in North Carolina.

The Clean Cars Program, which originated in California and has been adopted by 13 other states, requires new cars, trucks, and SUV’s to emit about 30 percent less global warming pollution than today’s passenger vehicles.

Because more fuel-efficient cars produce less carbon dioxide pollution, the Clean Cars Program is expected to save consumers money.  The study found that the program would save consumers more than $20 a month in the first five years of the life of the car, and more than $40 a month after the loan is fully repaid.  Drivers of SUV’s, pick-ups, and used cars would reap the most savings.

Without the Clean Cars program, global warming pollution from cars, trucks, and SUV’s, which make up nearly a quarter of the state’s carbon dioxide pollution, is expected to increase 12 percent by 2020, even with recently updated federal miles per gallon standards, according to the report.

“The science is clear that we need bold action to avoid climate catastrophe,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, director of Environment North Carolina and co-author of the report.  “The Clean Cars program can help us put the brakes on global warming.”

“The federal government’s recent increase in the fuel economy of cars showed that the auto industry can put technology to work,” said Christa Wagner, lobbyist for the NC Sierra Club.  “But more action is needed to reduce emissions and save consumers money.”

Background on the Clean Cars program

Last December, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California’s request for a waiver to enforce the Clean Cars program, stalling the measure in all 14 states.  In so doing, Administrator Johnson went against the legal and technical advice of his own attorneys and scientists.   

“Unfortunately,” said Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake), prime sponsor of Clean Cars legislation with Rep. Harrison, “Last year EPA chose politics over practical solutions for curbing global warming pollution and saving consumers’ money.” 

More than a dozen states and several environmental organizations are now challenging the EPA in court over the maneuver. 

“The time wasted in court battles could have been time spent saving families money at the gas pump and reducing the global warming pollution that threatens the Carolina shores” said Michael Regan, Southeast climate and air policy director for Environmental Defense Fund and former EPA national program manager. 

All three Presidential candidates have expressed their support for states moving forward with the program.  Last week, a bill forcing the EPA to grant the waiver to California passed the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. 

State action

Lawmakers filed bills in both houses last year that would implement the Clean Cars program in North Carolina.  A recent statewide survey by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling shows that voters support the legislation by a three to one margin, while 75 percent of North Carolina voters favor the state taking action now to reduce global warming pollution.

In light of current roadblocks to the program by the Bush Administration, Reps. Harrison, Martin, Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg), and Charles Thomas (R-Buncombe) introduced a “study” bill last week that would require an examination of the costs and benefits to North Carolina of adopting the Clean Cars standards.  The bill, H 2526, would require a report back to the General Assembly in 2009, at which point the EPA is widely expected to drop its opposition—if the courts or Congress have not acted already.

Advocates for the Clean Cars Program argued the study bill’s passage would represent an important step towards ultimate adoption of the Clean Cars program.