First of all, let’s stop with the stupid sports metaphors. Really. If you need an analogy, smog regulations are a low card in a high stakes game, and Lisa Jackson is the queen of hearts when Obama needs spades. If you insist on baseball, smog reduction is a run, and Ray LaHood is Obama’s designated hitter. But really, let’s kill the sports metaphors.
One way to lower the amount of smog in American cities comes with through thick binders of all-powerful EPA regulations. Another way involves transportation spending priorities and vehicle emissions standards — policies — that also form a thick set of binders. Either way involves policy in binders. Either way reduces pollution.
Friday’s progressive freakout over nixed EPA smog rules is not really about fighting smog, but the myopia of issue focus in the blogosphere and the inflated currency of online outrage. Transportation is a wonky subject that often flies below the radar. It is not sexy or cute. Much of its advocacy is local. But federal transportation policy is also crucial in reducing smog levels as well as achieving other progressive ends.
The ingredients of smog come from tailpipes. The way to reduce the impact of modern civilization on the environment is to make those tailpipes better and cleaner. To accomplish that, the president has leveraged his opportunity to force change on the auto industry.
Big Auto has successfully fought higher mileage standards tooth-and-nail for decades. But industry lobbyists recently caved in to the administration — for the second time. Automakers must raise their fleets to a genuine average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That is not nothing. What was that about bad negotiating and selling out?
Roland Hwang at the National Resources Defense Council calls this “the single biggest step the president can take” to lower American carbon emissions. It will also reduce the tailpipe pollutants that form smog because less fuel will be burning to keep Americans on the roads and rails and pavement we can build.
Meanwhile, the number of zero-emission electrified vehicles on American roads will go up 4,500 percent in the next six years. That’s nearly one million cars that won’t create any smog at all, thanks again to administration policy. It’s a start on the greener America we need.
To be sure, there is room for other policy changes to effect emissions reductions. The American semi truck fleet is woefully inefficient, for example, getting about six gallons to the mile. A mere ten percent increase in efficiency would save as much oil as eight Deepwater Horizon disasters — a point that brings us to another set of progressive freakouts over energy and pollution.
Obama is a transportation progressive. Why should the White House choose to fight costly battles over EPA regulations, tar sands pipelines, or offshore drilling when they can win policy battles that reduce consumption? This is not eleventy-dimensional chess. It is not apologetics. It is solid policy.
(read the rest, including internal links)
Comments are closed.