Automakers Oppose States Setting Their Own Fuel Economy Standards
July 7, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - Allowing states to implement their own fuel economy standards for automobiles, instead of following one national standard, is a bad idea that will raise the cost of cars and trucks -- a cost that consumers will pay for, representatives of the automobile industry said on Friday.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that California could set its own fuel economy standards and emission rules if it got a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California's request for a waiver, however, and congressional Democrats have now introduced legislation to circumvent the EPA.
The bill would grant California the waiver it seeks to implement its own fuel economy standards in 2009. Another 12 states have said they also want to raise their fuel economy standards. (See earlier story)
David Regan, vice president of legislative affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said at Friday's conference, "We oppose the flawed template of a state-by-state patchwork quilt. If we move to this template, it will frustrate the supply chain and frustrate consumer demand -- that will be the unintended consequence."
Regan voiced his group's support for a unified national standard. "We represent the entire industry, speaking with one voice on this issue," he said.
Other members of the auto industry attending the event at the National Press Club said that if each state is allowed to set its own fuel economy and auto-emission rules, the United States could end up with 50 different standards for fuel efficiency, which could complicate and fracture the production and distribution of automobiles.
The price of cars and trucks could go up if each state sets its own fuel rules, but in some states, consumers may deem the price hike worthy for clean air, Tom Firey, a regulatory policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, told Cybercast News Service.
"There are specific problems in specific places," said Firey. "In some places like California, and the Los Angeles basin in particular, pollution is a much bigger problem. the real question is how much are you willing to pay for a car versus how much are you willing to pay for clean air? The politicians never mention this. They have this notion that all we need to do is legislate and we will get much cleaner air and maybe cheaper cars."
California's plan is expected to result in vehicles averaging 36 miles per galllon by 2016. A federal law signed by President Bush last year, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, would mandate average fuel economy of 35 mpg by 2020.
The 2007 law is sufficient as a national standard without addendums from each state, said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "If Congress allows the states to have this power, it will have conceded its power to a state agency that is not even elected," he said.
McCurdy added that the auto industry supported the Energy Independence and Security Act in good faith, but state sovereignty over emission standards would corrode the Act's power.
"We are in this debate," said McCurdy. "We now believe that global warming and climate change is real and we are in support of the national fuel standards passed by Congress and signed by the president. We understand our responsibility and we have already signed up to take care on our part of the problem. We just want to make sure policymakers understand that there has already been action taken at the federal level. We don't need these state standards."
Cato's Tom Firey agreed that if individual state laws are adopted, automobile prices will likely rise. "It will definitely fracture the market," he said. "When any market becomes fractured, the prices for the consumer go up. It could be that various technological achievements will arise to prevent this. But if conditions remained constant, the price of automobiles would go up."
But William O'Keefe, CEO of the Marshall Institute, a think-tank dedicated to making better use of science in public policy, told Cybercast News Service that if the federal government allows every state to adopt its own standards, laws will arise that are not based on sound science.
"I support California's right, and what has been in the law for some 30 years now," said O'Keefe, "but I do not support extending that to emissions that are global or that have not been definitely shown to be a cause of harm or an actual pollutant."
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade association of 10 car and light truck manufacturers, including BMW Group, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz USA, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.
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