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Officer Obama Writes Warning to SUV Drivers

Kalbird12 Pull over, SUV drivers! There’s a new cop patrolling the highways: Officer Barack Obama. And his lights are flashing in your rearview mirror as he scribbles you a friendly warning.

President Obama today is announcing that he is ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider the Bush administration’s refusal to grant permission to California, Maryland and a dozen other states to impose limits on global warming pollution from vehicles.  Obama is also directing the federal Department of Transportation to issue rules to make the American vehicle fleet get an average of 35 m.p.g. by 2020. 

Change may be driving in the fast lane.

More locally, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has thrown his support behind a bill that would require a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all sources (except manufacturers) by 2020. 

The federal actions nudge the U.S. in the direction of smaller and more efficient vehicles. And Maryland’s effort will hopefully lead to more mass transportation. 

In a literal sense, of course, none of these federal or state actions will force anyone to get out of his or her SUV.  With the Obama administration’s approval, the tighter California-based vehicle emission standards, which have been adopted by Maryland and the District of Columbia, would require vehicle manufacturers to offer incentives to encourage customers in the future to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.  Folks who need to drive a Chevy Suburban to ferry the girl scouts to their camping trip will still be allowed to do so.  But buying future Chevy Suburbans will likely cost more money.

That may be a pain for some drivers, but it is not a bad thing.  Smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles help the Bay.  Big gas guzzlers not only  spew  more carbon dioxide (which contributes to global warming, sea level rise and the flooding of Bay shorelines), but they also produce more a lot more nitrogen oxide gas (which help to fuel algae blooms and fish-killing “dead zones” in the Bay). The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has called on the Obama administration to adopt tough California-style vehicle pollution emission standards for the whole nation.

Governor O'Malley today said he is thrilled that Obama is removing a roadblock that had prevented states ilke Maryland from cracking down on vehicle exhaust. "After years of delay from the Bush Administration...this is a tremendous step forward to help our nation begin to control its energy future and to address global climate change," O'Malley said.

This is a perfect time for stronger federal fuel-efficiency rules.  In December, President Bush approved an emergency bailout to the Detroit automakers – and they are expected to return in upcoming months for  more taxpayer money.   How about the new sheriff tells them:  Okay, I’ll give you the public’s money, if you follow the public’s interest.  Stop marketing so many SUV’s and other gas hogs, and start using your advertising savvy to push hybrid cars.  That’s CARS, Detroit, not hybrid Hummers.

Okay, drivers, your thoughts?

The news today is more mixed out of Virginia.  Although Gov. Tim Kaine has announced a new initiative to create green jobs, The Washington Post is reporting this morning that that the governor's proposed budget for the year beginning on July 1 includes eliminating about 20 percent of Virginia’s air pollution inspectors.  "The state of Virginia has eliminated more than one-fifth of its air-pollution inspectors -- who police everything from massive power plants to neighborhood dry cleaners," the Post's David Fahrenthold writes. 


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That's good news from Maryland (and from the president). I'd also like to hear about increased registration fees for SUVs (yes, they really are trucks). That revenue could be put to some good use, don't you think?

Not a bad idea, Betsy. Perhaps increased registration fees for larger and higher-polluting vehicles could: a) help fix the greater damage to roads that heavier vehicles cause; b) pay for better stormwater control systems, to reduce runoff from roads; and c) fight climate change, by paying for the planting of trees and marsh grasses to absorb carbon dioxide.

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