American car makers may be in dire financial straits, but they are still singing the same old song about cleaning up their act.
Detroit managed to block for two decades any increase in federal fuel efficiency standards. It said making cars that used less fuel would cost too much. They have made the same argument about making cars that emit less pollutants. They found a receptive audience in the Bush administration that blocked for five years tough new regulations adopted by California and then 12 other states, including Connecticut, to reduce vehiclesâ€™ greenhouse gas emissions.
The tide started to turn against Detroit when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency had the authority to regulate these emissions. The EPA can grant waivers under the federal Clean Air Act that would allow the California standard to take effect.
The car makers claimed that in addition to cost they did not want to be hobbled by a patchwork set of regulations that varied from state to state. It was a phony argument. By the time the Bush administration EPA turned down the waiver, states representing nearly half the nationâ€™s vehicle market had passed laws or were considering laws to adopt the California standard, which would cut greenhouse gases, a cause of global warming, by 30 percent by 2016.
Connecticut joined California and other states in suing the EPA after it refused to grant the waiver for the emissions law.
The lawsuit may soon be dropped. One of Barack Obamaâ€™s first acts as president was to order the EPA to reconsider whether the states could impose vehicle emission standards for greenhouse gases. The American car makersâ€™ response was predictable - building a cleaner car would kill their industry. They want to keep making big gas guzzlers. Detroit is taking billions in taxpayer bailouts without a commitment to making cars and trucks that reduce greenhouse gas pollution.