California Driving the Nation Forward on Clean Cars

May 20th and 21st, 2010 will go down as a BIG DEAL when the history of clean cars is written. Two critical announcements, one from the White House and the other from Tesla and Toyota, drives home how California is reshaping the landscape on clean car policy and technology.

According to a variety of news reports, today President Obama is expected to announce the next phase of the landmark clean car agreement the administration originally brokered just over a year ago. He will direct the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation, working closely with automakers, California and other stakeholders, to issue a second round of greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for model years 2017 and beyond. The President reportedly will also direct those agencies to work together with California and stakeholders on greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for heavier trucks.         

By directing the federal agencies to work closely with California, the President’s announcement reaffirms the legitimate and important role California plays in setting clean car standards. The President’s announcement also makes it clear why it is so important for California to retain its authority to set its own standards: the only reason we have strong greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards in place for 2012 through 2016 is because California was willing to take on Detroit while Washington did nothing.  Importantly, round one of the clean car agreement demonstrated California is in fact a reasonable and pragmatic partner when it comes to helping in establishing strong federal clean car standards. Instead of chaos and disaster predicted by the auto industry, California's clean car program has resulted in a practical, strong national set of greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards.

And did I mention more jobs? Yesterday’s surprise announcement that Toyota is investing $50 million dollars in the Silicon Valley electric vehicle startup Tesla, confer legitimacy to the company and legitimacy to the notion that strong environmental protections and a strong economy go hand in hand. It is no surprise that California, as the pace setter for clean car standards, now is quickly becoming the hub of innovation for the clean car industry, with electric vehicle companies like Tesla, Coda, Fisker, BYD and Project Better Place all setting up manufacturing or offices here. 

Thanks to California’s leadership, consumers will save money at the pump, our nation will be less dependent on oil, we’ll have less carbon pollution and more clean energy jobs. Sadly, the oil spill disaster in the Gulf is reminder of how important it is for California to continue to play an important role in moving forward on clean and efficient car standards.

About the Authors

Roland Hwang

Director, Energy & Transportation program

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