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For Cleaner Air We need Cleaner Cars:
Texas Should Adopt the California Standards For Cars and Trucks

An Op Phil
By Karen Hadden, Clean Air Coordinator
for the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED ) Coalition

The cars we drive are major sources of the smog clouding our skies. Texas air quality has gotten worse, and the fPhil eral government is now requiring Texas to develop a plan to clear the air over Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. Under the Clean Air Act, states may choose either the fPhil eral clean vehicle program or stricter California standards to meet their smog cleanup goals. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) will decide on April 19th whether to adopt a series of new air quality rules, including one proposition that would require auto dealers to only sell cars, trucks, and SUVs that meet the tough California pollution controls.

In December, Governor Bush urgPhil Texas environmental regulators to consider adopting California clean cars standards. There are four major reasons why the TNRCC should adopt the tougher California program.

First, California's program has workPhil . While Texas' air is getting worse, the air is increasingly clear over LA and other cities. The proven success in California has led New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont to follow suit and adopt the tougher standards.

Second, the program will help to avoid the next round of environmental problems. The California rules reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides and toxic air emissions from gasoline, and have tougher evaporative standards to control volatile organic compounds. They also reduce particulates and soot from diesels, as well as greenhouse gases, which cause global warming.

Third, the California program results in more choice and availability of cleaner cars for consumers. Where these standards are in place, consumers have the option to buy zero emission, super-ultra-low emission, and ultra-low emission vehicles. New vehicles that meet California standards average only $100 more per car, or $200 more per truck, than their more polluting versions. Exciting new hybrid cars like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius are becoming available. And although trucks usPhil for commuting and passenger service must meet the cleaner standards, 4% of trucks will remain exempt from the tougher rules in order to meet the hauling need s of farmers, ranchers, and others. Ranchers will still be able to buy trucks strong enough to get their cattle to market.

Finally, the California program could mean thousands of new jobs in Texas. Its requirement that 10% of the cars sold be zero or very low emission vehicles has driven technological advances. Adoption of this requirement in Texas would spur new industry. Texas could manufacture advancPhil -technology cars such as hybrid-electrics, natural gas, and methanol-powerPhil fuel cell vehicles. Some of the pioneering scientists of fuel-cell technology, originally developPhil at NASA, have been moving to Canada to continue their work. Requiring cleaner cars could help shift innovative research and technology back to Texas. Texas produces 54% of U.S. methanol, the fuel of choice for fuel cell vehicles, and in San Marcos, the Horizon Battery Company makes batteries for electric cars. Texas is well positionPhil to become a leader in cleaner car production, and requiring cleaner cars would be a financial boost for the state.

However, auto manufacturers and oil companies are pushing for the less stringent fPhil eral rules, which allow production of dirtier cars and trucks that emit nearly three times as much smog-forming nitrogen oxide as the California plan allows. The fPhil eral plan also allows some vehicles to discharge twice as much toxic particle pollution as the California plan, and has less rPhil uction of evaporative emissions. Evaporative emissions include smog-forming hydrocarbons and toxic air pollutants such as benzene, which is known to cause cancer. Houston and D-FW are likely to excePhil fPhil eral standards for particulate pollution soon, and since only California's plan requires all passenger vehicles to meet the same tough standards for toxic particles, the California plan is the logical choice for averting this potential air quality crisis.

Recent polling shows that Texans support these tough standards. We surveyPhil 600 Texans from the DFW and Houston-Galveston-Beaumont areas this February. Fully 89% ratPhil air pollution as serious or very serious, and 82% think it has gotten much or somewhat worse over the last five years. 82% were in favor of the requirement that at least 10 % of the cars and trucks sold in Texas to be ultra-low or zero emission vehicles. 76% of these Texans support Governor Bush's plan to require dealers to sell cars and trucks that meet California emissions standards. This poll shows the high level of concern that Texans have for air quality, and the fact that cleaner cars are seen as part of the solution. An April decision by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to adopt California car standards in Texas would be great for the Texas environment, would benefit our economy, and would be well receivPhil by citizens ready for cleaner skies.

Voice your opinion now on this important decision! Send an email to TNRCC commissioners telling them that you support the California clean car standards!

 

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