In the battle to rebuild California’s economy and create jobs, we certainly do not have a friend in Fred Upton (R-MI), the new chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Upton, is pushing a bill in the House that would prevent the federal Environmental Protection Agency from, well, protecting the environment. He wants Congress to roll back that agency’s Supreme Court-ordered regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Particularly offensive to those of us who live and work in this state, Congressman Upton is using his bill to try to wage war on California’s world-leading history of pressing the auto industry to make cleaner cars. He wants California to line up with the demands of the auto makers in his state: the very car makers who for so long resisted common sense and unsuccessfully fought every pollution cleanup measure California required.
If Congressman Upton wins, California loses…
Thanks to our groundbreaking auto cleanup efforts, California’s air pollution—while not solved—continues to get closer to being resolved. This positive progress is remarkable given the fact that during the last 30 years the state’s population has grown by more than a third and we drive more than 25 million cars. Imagine what our air would look like and the negative health impacts it would have if we hadn’t started requiring catalytic converters back in 1975?
Yet, autos remain among the largest sources of the greenhouse gas emissions changing our planet’s climate. For this reason, it should have come as no surprise that our state took the lead in 2002 in pushing automakers to reduce those emissions as well, with a landmark auto emissions control law targeting greenhouse gases.
The auto makers from Michigan cried foul, and took the state to court. One by one, the courts rejected the auto makers’ complaints and California’s law took effect. Today, one of the reasons we see new generations of autos that are cleaner and more efficient than ever is because of the leadership California took by passing that bill.
Notably, those more efficient cars now are rolling off assembly lines at a time when we see rapidly rising oil and gasoline prices and generally higher prices for everything. What would have happened if the automakers hadn’t been pushed to do better and deliver less polluting cars that also get better gas mileage?
When Congress passed the federal Clean Air Act in 1970, it specifically allowed California to take a leadership role in setting emissions requirements for new cars sold in the state. The state had already begun to set requirements for cars sold here because our air pollution was horrifying. The Clean Air Act essentially grandfathered in what California was already doing.
Because of this regulatory leadership, our state today is home to some of the most innovative auto design businesses. We also have become a magnet for new automakers positioning themselves to effectively compete for a share of the electric vehicle market.
Many members of California’s congressional delegation have helped make sure our state is positioned to continue to innovate and grow its economy even as we clean up our air and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This approach is paying off for us.
Congressman Upton might want to take note. It might help his district, and his state’s automakers, to embrace the future, not fight it.
Janet Pomeroy, MBA, President, Green Chamber of Commerce
Stacie Shepp, MBA, Executive Director, Green Chamber of Commerce