Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Testimony of Sierra Club President Robin Mann At EPA/NHTSA Clean Car Hearing In Philly

Thank you for holding this hearing today. I serve as President of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. The Board of Directors of our volunteer-led organization oversees all of the Sierra Club's national campaigns including our campaign to move the nation beyond oil. I am speaking today on behalf of the Club's 1.4 million members and supporters, and I am proud that a number of our members are here today and will also testify. Our Executive Director, Michael Brune, will be testifying in San Francisco, and our organization will submit detailed technical comments to the docket.

We strongly support EPA and NHTSA's proposed passenger vehicle efficiency and emission standards for 2017-2030. They will ensure that we build on the progress the administration set in motion with the 2012-2016 standards.

Climate Change Is Upon Us 

Nearly every day bone-chilling news circulates of additional evidence that we are cooking the planet and climate disruption has already begun -- extreme weather events occurring more frequently, drought-induced wildfires and crop failures, devastating flooding of coastal communities from sea-level rise, disruptions in critical habitat, migratory patterns and food chains.

Some of this week's scariest news came from the Arctic -- where sea ice is melting at unexpectedly alarming rates, allowing the release of giant methane plumes. The planet is screaming, and the time has come for us to stop turning a deaf ear to it.

Arguments In Favor of New Standards 

The arguments in favor of the proposed new standards are beyond compelling:
Technology: The technology exists to reach the new standards. It should not be reserved for higher-end consumers on the margin; it should be mainstreamed so that all consumers can take advantage of the fuel savings. Saving gas saves money, money consumers can put to better use.

Benefits to the economy: These new standards are a lifeline for American car manufacturing which had to be rescued when consumers demanded greater fuel efficiency in response to spiking gas prices. That consumer preference for increased fuel economy isn't going away, much as the oil companies would like it to. Meanwhile the economic boost of the new standards is projected at 484,000 jobs created economy-wide, and 43,000 in the auto industry alone. [1]

National security: U.S. Presidents going back to President Nixon have recognized that our oil addiction undermines our security, and president after president has committed to reducing our dependence on oil. On March 30, 2011, we welcomed President Obama’s commitment to cut oil imports by one-third over the next decade.[2] We recognize these standards can help make this President the one that keeps this promise. It is estimated the standards will reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1.5 million barrels per day in 2030 – the same amount we imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined in 2010. [3]

Increasing dependence on extreme oil: Look no further than the Gulf. The nation's attention may have shifted away, but the Deepwater Horizon disaster continues to unfold. Economic dislocation persists in the coastal communities; we have not made them whole. And tar balls continue to wash up on shore as a reminder that the extent of the long-term ecosystem damage is still unknown. Yet the oil companies have the hubris to be pressing the administration hard to open up the pristine and treacherous waters of Alaska's Chuckchi Sea to deep drilling. And then there is tar sands oil -- the dirtiest oil on the planet, destructive enough to be seen from outer space. Let me take a moment here to express our thanks to the President for his very significant decision announced yesterday to reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This was the right decision, consistent with steering the nation towards solutions that reduce our dependence on oil, especially the dirtiest oil.

Public health: The public health benefits from spewing less fossil fuel pollution into our neighborhoods and shifting the fleet to the cleaner, more efficient cars will be enormous.

Climate Change: These standards promise a tremendous benefit in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. There is so much more that we need to do in this country to reduce our gluttonous use of energy and the associated emissions. Within the transportation sector alone, the opportunities are immense. But the single biggest step that we can take is the one the administration has proposed here. Implementing these standards will keep an estimated 280 million metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the air in 2030, equivalent to shutting down 72 coal-fired power plants for a year. [4]

Let me recognize that my state of Pennsylvania is one of the dozen states that adopted California’s leading vehicle emissions standards. In joining California’s program, Pennsylvania demonstrated that Americans demand cleaner cars, including cars that spew out less greenhouse gases. We applaud California and the role it played with EPA and NHTSA in proposing these new standards that continue to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Time is up. It is a national disgrace brought to us by the oil lobby that we have squandered so much time and opportunity to embrace such common sense solutions as maximizing fuel efficiency and cutting emissions. We thank the administration for stepping up and putting forward these strong new standards that offer such fundamental economic, national security, public health, and climate stabilizing benefits. We urge that that these standards remain strong and urge that the agencies issue a final rule in July.

[1] http://www.ceres.org/press/press-releases/more-jobs-per-gallonhttp://www.ceres.org/press/press-releases/more-jobs-per-gallon

[2] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/30/remarks-president-americas-energy-security

[3] http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/agreement-on-fuel-efficiency-auto-pollution.pdf

[4] http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/agreement-on-fuel-efficiency-auto-pollution.pdf

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