Carol Browner, the President's Advisor on Climate Change, had a phone conversation with California's Governor Schwarzenegger earlier this week. In that phone conversation,she said that the President had promised that he'd get the US EPA to re-evaluate the granting of California's
waiver regarding tailpipe emission standards [i.e. cleaner cars].
Nothing more happened. Not yet.
So, for all of us who only pay attention to NPR's story teasers and the headlines in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, don't count this as a victory yet. It's a step in the right direction. Yes. But a phone call with a presidential friend is not the same as the U.S. EPA actually issuing the waiver - the only one ever denied to California - to allow our state to set standards - more stringent than the Federal standards - regarding tailpipe emissions.
Senator Fran Pavley, [D-CA] stated at Monday's Press Conference in the Governor's Press Room that, "The President is just asking the EPA to re-evaluate the granting of this waiver."
Senator Pavley sees it as it is. She is lauded by all, including the Governor who calls her a "terrific environmentalist," as being the author of AB 32, California's Global Warming Emissions Cap and also very instrumental in AB 1493. Those bills mandate that we, in California, cut down our greenhouse gas emissions by 22 percent by the year 2012 and then by 30 percent by 2016.
"We hope that soon the President will actually follow through with this waiver," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California. When the US EPA grants California our waiver, we will be on track to meet these goals.
But lets not celebrate until the victory is won.
Linda Adams, Secretary of California's EPA, said, "We believe that California has a very strong case and we trust that the U.S. EPA will grant us consideration in short order."
Governor Schwarzenegger sounded the most enthusiastic and confident about the phone call with Carol Browner, "Today I got great news from Washington. President Obama ordered his Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider California's request to set our own tailpipe emission standards and to complete its review."
But Governor Schwarzenegger didn't grow up on the streets of Djakarta nor was he mentored in the back alleys of Chicago politics, so what might be uttered through an intermediary as an intent, meant mainly to gain political goodwill, could sound to his ears like a promise.
The Governor added, at his press conference, that, "We didn't get into those kind of details, what has been done in the past and what will be done now. I think the phone call was just much more about we have great news. There was a promise made to the people of America by President Obama and the promise is being kept, that we have just instructed the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington to move forward with the waiver and to complete all the work and that we want to get this done and we want you and the other states to have this waiver."
He added that, "We have always been the laboratory for the federal government," and that, "it would be really great to do this nationwide, so that car manufacturers don't have two standards but only one."
Why are tailpipe emissions such big news? It's because putting clean cars on the road is a huge accomplishment towards living in a cleaner world. Forty percent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Pushing automakers to be innovative to develop new techniques to make better, cleaner cars means those vehicles will be more competitive around the world. Vehicle tailpipe emissions, believe it or not, are about a child's right to clean air, about saving money at the gas pump, and, just as importantly, about reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil.
Another benefit to California taking a leadership role in setting the nation's tailpipe emission standards is that, "protecting the environment and protecting the economy go hand-in-hand," as it was so eloquently stated by Del Chiaro. When California is given this waiver, 13 other states and D.C. are set to follow, and even more states, such as Illinois and Florida, both with large populations, are hinting that they, too will jump on board the clean car wagon.
For right now, however, the proper response is Show Me The Green! Del Chiaro commented to Governor Schwarzenegger at this week's press conference that, "the President is taking a page out of your playbook." I'll take a page out of the Jerry Maguire playbook and in the pop iconic tradition of "Show Me The Money!" I say, SHOW ME THE GREEN!