Clean Cars in Oregon

By Jeremiah Baumann of Portland, Oregon. Jeremiah is a clean energy advocate for OSPIRG.

Tonight in Portland, DEQ holds the final public hearing on Governor Kulongoski's proposed Clean Cars program.

After a 1,000+ mile road trip around Oregon to hearings in Medford, Bend, and Pendleton, I can tell you that this is an idea that's got support in every area of the state. A total of more than 100 people showed up to the hearings and all but four spoke in favor of the program, even though the Oregon Auto Dealers Association has encouraged auto dealers to weigh in (and disguise the fact that they're auto dealers).

And the supporters were passionate: a crowd of more than 60 in Medford hissed when Rep. Gordon Anderson (Grants Pass) spoke against Clean Cars and questioned the science behind global warming.

The outpouring of support makes sense for a proposal that benefits all of us. The Clean Cars program will force Detroit to cut global warming pollution from new cars and trucks by 30%.

Global warming threatens every region of our state. Declining snowpack ' already down 50% in the last 50 years ' threatens farmers' irrigation, salmon migration, and outdoor recreation. Higher temperatures could mean worse air quality for residents of the Rogue Valley who have struggled with air pollution for years.

Critics have said Oregon is too small to make a difference in the fight against global warming. Not true. If we adopt the Clean Cars program, it will trigger the same program in Washington. We'll have the whole West Coast participating and a total of 10 states on both coasts. OSPIRG released a study a few weeks ago showing that the combined pollution cuts from these 10 states represents more global warming pollution than the total national emissions of 140 countries.

And cutting global warming pollution will result in cars and trucks that go farther on a gallon of gas. That means energy independence and savings at the pump. Cleaner cars and trucks will actually save more money on gas than the slight increase in the up-front cost ' a net savings of $8 million for Oregonians when the program is fully implemented. $40 million once loans on new cars are paid off. The Clean Cars program flies in the face of the stale myth that we have to choose between protecting the environment and growing the economy.

The most shocking thing about the Clean Cars program is that some Oregon lawmakers are suing the state trying to block the program. I hope there's a huge crowd at the Portland hearing tonight to tell elected officials at all levels that Oregonians are ready for Clean Cars. The hearing is at 7 p.m. at DEQ headquarters, 811 SW 6th. Click here to let OSPIRG know if you can be there.

  • MikeSelvaggio (unverified)

    Jeremiah --

    As a consumer who breathes regularly, thank you for working on this.

    This past session, we joked that the Speaker's vehicle emissions (I think it was a Mountaineer) from her daily round-trip commute weighed as much as one of our staff. (They did... at over 140 lbs.) Then it was less of a joke and just plain scary.

    Aside from the air and weather benefits, this means that new car buyers will pay up to $30 less each month in gas+payments (assuming gas stays over $1.75/gallon). It's great when policy can save you money and lungs at the same time.

  • AF (unverified)

    60 people hissed when someone said something that they disagreed with? sounds to me like the room was full of jackasses.

    my take on the Oregon clean car thing is that it is stupid to create unique laws for a specific State. There is already a federal responsibility for this and the EPA and a slew of regulations. Adding on some more requirements at the State level is foolish. It just bogs down the development process for new technology and adds extra cost into the system.

  • MikeSelvaggio (unverified)

    Actually, the federal EPA, along with Congress, made specific allowances for individual states to adopt these standards as an addition to existing federal floors. As such, these standards are limited in their scope by the federal rules.

    Besides, the "slew" of regulations was designed specifically to compliment projected federal changes and manufacturer abilities. For example, the emissions rules affecting deisel vehicles take effect only after the new federal 2006 deisel standards are in place so that there is no discontinuity in terms of fleet availability.

    This is not to mention the waiver system, whereby manufacturers that need additional time to integrate or develop technology into their fleets may petition the state to waive the regulation; they need only to show cause. For all the writhing and gnashing of teeth that we have heard, only two such applications have been received in California: one for zero-emissions standards (from GM), and one for evaporate standards (from Ferrari). Both were granted.

    And AF: Where's the "extra cost?" In California, the manufacturers pass cost along in the form of $20-$300 per vehicle, which is absorbed by a standard 5-year auto loan and more than negated in gasoline savings each month. That money goes towards well-paying jobs and ultimately comes out of the coffers of the oil industry -- not the comsumer.

    Research, research.

  • JoanneR (unverified)

    Wow, over 100 people turned out in 3 of the largest cities in Oregon to support this? Wow, that's alot! Gee, what'd Ted do, send out a personal email invite to his campaign contributors?

    I know, I know, I'm going to don the flame suit now, but come on people, 'over 100 people' in 3 cities that size? In the whole state? Surely you can't think that's a mandate for the state. It's kind of pathetic, even if it was over 100 per city in all 3 cities....

  • (Show?)

    Great post, Jeremiah. For the first time, it seems like global warming is being addressed at the grassroots--since obviously the Oilman in Chief isn't interested in addressing it from the top. The Governor, who is shown lukewarm love on BlueOregon, really deserves some props for this effort. It's a no brainer, and the benefit of bringing Washinton along makes the incentive all the sweeter.

    (Incidentally, your timing reminds me of Governor Schweitzer's plan for coal gasification, which got great press this week on 60 Minutes.)

  • rickyragg (unverified)

    So it's "Research, research." is it?

    Then cite some.

    Not like citing anecdotal waivers as some kind of assurance of future behaviors.

    As for the extra cost, how does a 5-year auto loan "absorb" it. Or do you mean the consumer won't "feel the pain" when the cost is such a small percentage of the total loan? The old "nickel and dime" theory?

    The extra costs aren't negated by fuel savings (where's the study?), they're just transferred to the oil industry and eventually back to the consumer.

    That's how it works. It's not alchemy.

    "That money goes towards well-paying jobs..."

    Oh, so it's a jobs bill??? Union jobs???

    I thought we'd work around to the real deal eventually.

    BTW, research the spelling of diesel.

  • Jeremiah Baumann (unverified)

    Good news -- more than 100 people were at the Portland clean cars hearing last night -- around 35 spoke, all but 4 were supportive of the Clean Casr program.

    The auto manufacturers' representative didn't challenge the fuel efficiency & cost savings estimates laid out by DEQ and others. While he argue that "there will be no change in Oregon's climate if you adopt these standards" (I think he was trying to say the standards won't stop global warming though it sounds like he was saying the opposite), he didn't challenge OSPIRG's research showing that the 10 states who have adopted the program will in fact cut global warming pollution by more than the national emissions of 140 countries.

    If you're looking for the studies, you can check out either the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers or the California Air Resources Board. While they come up with different cost estimates, as long as gas is more than $3 per gallon by 2016, they both show consumers experiencing a net savings because of fuel efficiency gains.

  • Jeremiah Baumann (unverified)

    Oh, and one more note, for Joanne-- The 200 people who have now been to hearings on this topic, while a large number for a regulatory proceeding at the Department of Environmental Quality (especially when the bigger cities of Salem and Eugene didn't have hearings at all), are hardly the whole story.

    Last fall the Vehicle Emissions Task Force studying this issue received more than 1,200 comments. 94% were in support of the program. The governor's office has reported more than 6,000 favorable comments by email and phone to their office. And we expect more comments to be sent in by mail and email during the current DEQ comment period.

  • MikeSelvaggio (unverified)

    I misspelt a word on a blog! How embarassing... My entire argument crumbles under the weight of the fact that there is a misspelled word on an online blog.

    You see, Rickster, the Clean Cars data isn't made up like some kind of Republican expense report... it comes from several sources, including the federal Department of Energy, the federal and California Environmental Protection Agencies, the Calif. Air Resources Board, the Auto Manufacturers' Association, and the federal Department of Commerce, General Motors, and Ford Motor Company, to name a few. But I already made my citations and footnotes last year, so if you'd like to match up the facts to the sources, feel free. (Or send a FOIA request to the proper offices.)

    Yes -- the additional cost is sread out over a 5-year auto loan, resulting in increased costs of between 33 cents and $5 per month at the onset of the program, 2009. Since the savings in terms of fuel costs outweigh those increases, less money comes out of the consumer's pocketbook.

    A general decrease in the demand for oil doesn't push the price up -- it pushes the price down. Way to have taken high-school economics.

    Oh, so it's a jobs bill??? Union jobs???

    Yes, you've hit the nail on the head. The entire effort was just a sneaky roundabout way to secretly put people to work. You blew the lid right off of that conspiracy.

  • Jon (unverified)

    And AF: Where's the "extra cost?" In California, the manufacturers pass cost along in the form of $20-$300 per vehicle, which is absorbed by a standard 5-year auto loan and more than negated in gasoline savings each month. That money goes towards well-paying jobs and ultimately comes out of the coffers of the oil industry -- not the comsumer.

    Gasoline savings??? Are you saying that a car sold in Calif gets better mileage than the same car sold in Oregon because of some $20-$300 gadget they put on the CA car? I find that very hard to beleive. If that was so, the auto manuf. would put it on every car. Or at the very least, people would be running out to install the gadget themselves.

    The sad part is that if we adopt the CA standards, diesel-powered passenger cars will become illegal (they are illegal to sell new in CA, as of 2006), taking away a viable alternative for people who want a car that gets high gas mileage.

  • Jon (unverified)

    Cleaner cars and trucks will actually save more money on gas than the slight increase in the up-front cost ' a net savings of $8 million for Oregonians when the program is fully implemented. $40 million once loans on new cars are paid off.

    Which we will still end up paying in higher gas taxes, or by the new mileage "fee" system they are currently testing.

  • MikeSelvaggio (unverified)

    Jon --

    Yes, the cars in California will get better gas mileage once the gadget standards begin in 2009.

    Yes, people in California are putting the gadgets on their cars themselves, though it's more than $300 if it's not on an assembly line. (Economy of scale and all.)

    Yes, the auto manufacturers are putting them on cars themselves now that fuel economy is becoming a selling point. Look at Ford's new hybrid SUV.

    <h2>No, diesel powered cars will not become unavailable in 2006. They would based on the current federal diesel standards, but since new federal standards will be in place by the end of the year that bring federal diesel standards up to CARB standards, there's no danger of missing out on next year's hot little Jetta (or such).</h2>
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