Frontline

October 30, 2008

Cars. Can’t live with them, Can’t live without them. This saying applies even more to the huge car manufacturing companies and to Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFÉ standards. As environmental problems begin to sprout up all around the globe, all eyes have been turned to the major contributors of CO2 emissions. The most obvious place to look was to the transportation world which happens to be the third largest contributor to the CO2 problem. It is impossible to walk down a street without seeing a car, truck, train or plane billowing out an overwhelming amount of greenhouse gases. CAFÉ standards urge green standards such as more efficient cars, less dependency on fossil fuels and the over all less CO2 emissions. However, its not as simple as we think to just implement these new standards. These standards take money. Money that the major car manufacturers do not want to spend and money the big oil companies want to make.
The major resistance to these standards comes down to the dollar. Simply put, it costs more money to create these clean, oil-less cars, that the CAFÉ standards are trying to enforce. Major car companies are making money selling the dirty, gas guzzling cars they have been making for years. Honestly, why would they change? In a world like today, where everything seems to down to a dollar, the car companies are simply trying to make a buck and who can truly blame them? Also, the major car companies still do not see the direct success of the CAFÉ standards that are implemented and deeming them as failures. With this mind set, it is not surprise that the companies would resist the changes.
California has always been the forefront of environmental improvements. In the seventies, California forced the car companies to deal with the smog problem in the state. “ The auto business has always had a love hate relationships with California. Obviously, they love the fact that we are the biggest car market on earth, (but) they hate the fact that we try to regulate what comes out of their tail pipes.” This quote from Terry Tamminen, California’s environmental advisor, perfectly describes the relationship California has with the car companies. California attempted to implement new, high fuel economy standards, different than the federal standards, however they needed a ruling from the EPA, which they never received due to car companies lobbying the EPA, white house, the transportation department and Congress.
However, there was a compromise. Congress implemented higher standards than the ones set in place at the time, however these standards were no where near the fuel economy standards California and 18 other states were trying to implement. If the California standards were to be implemented the CO2 emissions would have been reduced by 40%. This was truly one of the largest loses of environmental improvement in the United States.
Electric cars just like any other car have huge benefits and huge problems. Outlooks on the electric car have been mixed. Its name has defiantly been bantered over the years by being an outrageous idea and as of right now this would be a true statement. The electric car right now is no where near marketable. However, there is new hope! This hope is the new GM volt. However the volt couldn’t make it up a small hill and even died. Though there is know price or date for the new volt, GM is still hopful.

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