Commentaries by the Safe Climate Campaign

Tea Party Misses Target

(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

October 22, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

WASHINGTON In their zeal to live free from outside interference, the Tea Parties are shooting at the wrong target.

They would be right to be angry with an oil industry poisoning their water, an auto industry polluting their air, and agribusiness providing unsafe food.

Instead they are attacking the government, the only entity that can protect their water, their atmosphere, their food.

Powerful corporate interests are taking advantage of Tea Party anger for their own self-interest. They are funneling vast sums to fuel and steer an anti-government campaign that would gut the rules protecting people from dangerous products and the environment from poisonous emissions.

What if they succeed? Just consider the menu at their tea party: Scrambled eggs with salmonella, a cup of arsenic-laced tea, and orange juice with a dash of cryptosporidium in the ice cubes. And if you are driving to the party in your SUV, watch out that it doesn’t roll over…

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(This commentary also appeared on the Web sites of the Tennessean, the Houston Chronicle and the Albany Times Union, and in Truthdig and the Huffington Post, among other blogs.)
 

 

Build a better vehicle

(Miami Herald)

September 6, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

The next big thing from Detroit may not just be a new car, but a new car industry: transformed, modern and competitive.
This month, with traditional fanfare, Detroit is launching the new model year. More quietly, the Obama administration is preparing to help shape the cars that we will be driving six years from now. In coming weeks, it will unveil the first draft of standards for fuel efficiency and emissions beginning with the 2017 model year.
The challenge facing the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation is to set standards tough enough to revitalize the industry. They will bring….

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This commentary also appeared in the Austin American-Statesman and the Albany Times Union, the Halifax, Nova Scotia, Chronicle Herald’s Wheels blog, Truthout.org and the Huffington Post.

 

 

Set tougher mileage standards for vehicles

(Detroit Free Press)

June 17, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

What is the best way to prevent future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico? Break our addiction to oil.

One year ago, President Barack Obama took the biggest single step in this direction. He boosted the nation’s fuel economy standard and established the first U.S. standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

As a result, new vehicles will average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, up from the current 27.5 m.p.g. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates this will save 1.2 million barrels of oil a day in 2020.

That’s the good news. The bad news is we have a long way to go.

The lesson of the BP disaster is that we must now substantially toughen those standards. They need to be strong enough that…

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This commentary also appeared on Truthout.org and in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

 

What do you want to hear from President Obama during his address to the nation on Tuesday?

(Politico’s Arena)

June 14, 2010

 …As we said in Bloomberg/Businessweek, the Gulf spill is an environmental disaster that will happen again until we cut our addiction to oil. How do we wean ourselves? We toughen our fuel-economy and emissions standards so that automakers move beyond cars that depend on oil….

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BP Mess is a Mileage Argument

(Bloomberg Businessweek)

June 9, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

What do we do after BP Plc fixes the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico — days, weeks or months from now? We tell them what to do with the rest of their oil: Keep it in the ground.

The Gulf spill is an environmental disaster that will happen again until we cut our addiction to oil. How do we wean ourselves? We toughen our fuel-economy and emissions standards so that automakers move beyond cars that depend on oil.

President Barack Obama was right to suspend new drilling. He should make that a permanent ban. He is also right that we won’t get off oil in 10 years. But we never will if we don’t try much harder. The long-term answer to this catastrophe can’t be limited to a halt in dangerous deepwater drilling…

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This commentary appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal Gazette, and on BusinessWeek.comBloomberg.com,SFGate.com, and other Web sites.

 

On Climate, Energy, Oil Rigs: First, Do No Harm

(Huffington Post)

April 30, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

United States action on global warming is long overdue. But energy industry lobbyists and their Senate allies have thwarted the best efforts of three leading senators. The result: A weak bill with egregious flaws. Fortunately, it is temporarily derailed. This hiatus provides President Obama and the three senators time to fix it.

They should keep in mind the Hippocratic Oath: First, Do no harm. Unfortunately, the bill would do harm.

The bill, as currently drafted, would prevent full use of the Clean Air Act and restrict the states from acting on their own against global warming. These are the two mechanisms that have yielded the only significant progress our nation has made against climate change….
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This commentary also appeared on Truthout.org.

 

Future cars, now

(Los Angeles Times)

April 2, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang
Two federal agencies, working with California, have taken the biggest step in the nation’s history to reduce the United States’ global warming footprint. On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced specific rules that require automakers to build cars, SUVs and minivans that will average 35.5 mpg by 2016 and cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, thereby saving an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

It’s been a long haul. For a dozen years, the auto industry stymied efforts in Washington to improve fuel economy standards. California stepped in, enacting its own emissions law in 2002 under the federal Clean Air Act. Last May, President Obama instructed the EPA and NHTSA to use the California benchmark to set new national standards for fuel economy and emissions.

These national rules are a good step forward, but they’re not enough. Now it is time for California to …

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This commentary also appeared in the Huffington Post.

 

OMB puts its thumb on the scale against the environment

(ClimateProgress.org)

March 23

The Office of Management and Budget is proposing to skew the formula used to weigh pending government regulations, reducing the value assigned to potential benefits

The result would be to give industry a strengthened weapon to fight standards with huge claims of anticipated costs, while the anticipated benefits are greatly discounted. This puts the wide sweep of President Obama’s energy and environment policies in jeopardy, as guest bloggers Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang explain. Becker is director of the Safe Climate Campaign, which advocates for strong policies to fight global warming. Gerstenzang is editorial director of the Campaign.

Working quietly out of the spotlight, OMB is preparing a section of the nearly-complete automobile fuel economy and global warming pollution rule that would deeply undervalue its benefits. If issued by the Obama administration, it would impose …
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Read the letter to the Office of Management and Budget…

This commentary also appeared in the Huffington Post.

 

It Was Big While It Lasted

(Living on Earth)

March 6, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bid farewell to a legend, one whose demise has been recorded around the world; such was the impact of this icon. One of massive strength, it left behind a vast mark – some would say gash – on our planet.

General Motors’ Hummer has died. But it will continue to spew its fumes – and spread global warmth – for years to come. The Hummer was born in 1992, the offspring of an M1A1 Abrams tank and – it is rumored –Beelzebub. Too big for its garage, it was raised in a driveway in Kokomo, Indiana. Eventually, it moved to the wide-open spaces of Scarsdale, N.Y. But throughout its life, it was misunderstood, got no respect, and often not enough gas.

Read the full eulogy online, or download it as a PDF

A version of this also appeared on the Huffington Post.

 

 

General Motors needs more than jolt of Volts

(Detroit News)

Jan. 12, 2010

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

As General Motors faces the prospect of a fourth CEO in a year, there is good news and bad news about the iconic company. The good news is it has survived years of mismanagement, Hummers and other gas guzzlers. The bad news? We, the American people, own it.

Take a look in the executive suites, home for years to the folks who drove GM over a cliff. Steven Rattner, President Barack Obama’s "car czar," said they "could not be allowed to continue after burning through $34 billion in cash in barely a year."

And perhaps they won’t. For starters, there’s a new acting CEO, Edward E. Whitacre Jr.

Moving belatedly into the 21st century, General Motors now has…

 
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A longer version of this commentary appeared in the Huffington Post.
 

 

Obama on His Own

(Truthdig.com)

Commentaries by the Safe Climate CampaignDec. 3, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

In Copenhagen, a major binding agreement at the global warming summit is not to be. Not this year. In Washington, the Senate is so divided that it became clear months ago that climate legislation will be pushed off until 2010 at the earliest.

Still, the United States can meet the challenge of a world demanding that it take the lead on global warming. Here’s how:

Using his executive authority, President Barack Obama can instruct power plants to ….

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This commentary also appeared on Truthout.org and the Huffington Post.

 

Use mandates, not markets, to push high-mileage cars

(Detroit News)

Commentaries by the Safe Climate CampaignCommentaries by the Safe Climate CampaignNov. 27, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Everyone knows that $4-a-gallon gasoline in 2008 finally led Americans to abandon their gas guzzlers and start buying gas sippers. Everyone is wrong.

According to a new report released with little fanfare by the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans bought vehicles in 2008 that averaged only 0.4 miles per gallon better than a year earlier, when gas cost nearly 50 cents less.

Yes, some car buyers looked for ways to drive cheaper. Some dealers ran out of highly efficient hybrids. And many gas guzzlers sat ignored on dealers’ lots.

But the price of gas — which had been increasing every year since 2002 — wasn’t enough to significantly alter the fleetwide fuel economy…

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(A version of this Op-Ed commentary appeared in the Baltimore Sun).

 

 

With the stroke of his pen, the president can act against climate change right now

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Nov. 13, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

WASHINGTON — The Copenhagen global warming summit is less than a month away, with major agreement far from certain. The U.S. Senate is so riven that President Barack Obama’s top climate aide says legislation will be pushed off until 2010 at the earliest. Still, Washington can meet the challenge of a world demanding that it finally take the lead on global warming. Here’s how:

Using his executive authority, Mr. Obama can instruct power plants to burn cleaner fuels, order new efficiency standards to reduce the energy used by consumer and commercial appliances, and help the world’s least-developed nations use solar power — rather than heavily polluting wood fires — for cooking.

If he does these things, he would…

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Guest editorial: Standard will save car owners money

(The Tennessean)

Oct. 2, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

 President Barack Obama’s new clean car standard is the biggest single step the United States has taken to curb global warming and ease our oil addiction. It demonstrates to the world that the United States is finally confronting the threat of global warming.

This fuel-economy measure is necessary because the world’s leading scientists agree we must cut pollution to reduce climbing temperatures.

You don’t care about global warming? Maybe you care about our addiction to uncertain supplies of foreign oil. Driving cars that get 35.5 mpg — the average set out in the new mileage requirement — rather than the current average of 25 mpg will cut our oil imports. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the reduction will save nearly the equivalent of the oil we buy from Saudi Arabia each year.

The new standard can be achieved without compromising safety…

 

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‘Cash for clunkers’ is a lemon–so let’s make lemonade

(Baltimore Sun)

July 14

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Is the new "cash for clunkers" law really a vehicle for replacing gas-guzzling cars and trucks with the next generation of clean, green machines – or is it just a pretext for moving slightly less thirsty guzzlers from dealers’ lots onto America’s driveways?

If the federal agency with the mission of overseeing the law does its job well, we’ll find out quickly – and well before the automakers show up again on Capitol Hill, tin cup in hand, asking Congress this question from Dickens’ Oliver Twist, updated for 2009: "Please, sirs, may we have some more billions?"

Sadly, the law is, in fact, weighted heavily in favor of car makers looking to unload…

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(A version of this Op-Ed commentary also appeared in the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Portland Oregonian’s OregonLive.com, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the San Francisco Chronicle.)

 

Scientists warn that delay in cutting global warming pollution is dangerous. 

(Politico.com)

July 10, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, does its heat trapping damage for over 100 years and accumulates in the atmosphere. So the G-8’s imitation of Nero will bring….

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Unfortunately the Energy-Climate bill has more holes than cheese.

(Politico.com)

June 26, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

The bill’s renewable energy provisions fall far short of technology can provide. The requirement for the cleaner coal plants wouldn’t take effect until 2025-and that technology doesn’t exist. And the bill revokes EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. That’s a step backwards. …

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Open Mic in The Arena

(Politico.com)

June 20-21, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

On climate change, “decisions made now will determine whether we get big changes or small ones.” So said the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco this week. 

The Obama Administration had just made public on Tuesday its report on the anticipated impact of global warming…

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California can lead the U.S. in kicking the gasoline habit

(Sacramento Bee)

June 14, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

OK, California. Please do it again.

Seven years after the state paved the way with major cuts in global warming pollution from automobiles, President Barack Obama ordered up similar progress for the nation’s entire fleet. Now it is time for California to lead the country to the next big thing: Kicking the gasoline habit…

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Cash-for-clunkers program crashes up against the environment

(The Los Angeles Times)

May 17, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

The automakers are filling up again at the Capitol Hill bailout pump. The latest idea is "cash for clunkers."

Interested in junking your old gas-guzzling Hummer — or maybe Lincoln Town Car or Chevy Blazer — for a new vehicle?

If the gas mileage of any 2009 model passenger car you buy is just 4 miles per gallon better than the one you are now driving, you could pick up $3,500 from taxpayers…

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Want Tailfins With That?

(The Huffington Post)

April 30, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Should taxpayers subsidize the sale of 18-mile-per-gallon SUVs?

That is the question at the heart of a still-quiet but heated debate that is likely to flare into full view in Congress in coming weeks. It brings together two issues at the intersection of …

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Obama: Clearing the Air in 100 Days

(The Huffington Post)

April 29, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Gone are GM’s rhetoric echoing in the Oval Office, Exxon’s denial of science, and Dick Cheney’s years of inaction. When it comes to fighting global warming, President Obama has swept them all away in his first 100 days in office.

He has put a new and proper reliance on science. He has named dedicated environmentalists to key positions within the White House, at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the Energy Department. And he has unveiled substantial measures to directly tackle climate change.

Perhaps nothing the president has done so far will on its own reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas. It’s only been 100 days. But he has…

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Obama’s Power Plays

(The New York Times)

April 25, 2009

By Daniel F. Becker and James Gerstenzang

First, he can…

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Obama’s Auto Pitch: Crush Those Clunkers

(The Huffington Post)

March 31, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Unveiling his far-reaching auto plan, President Obama gave a nod to a little-noticed movement in Congress to clear the roads of gas-guzzling clunkers best destined for the crusher.

It’s an attractive idea. Think of it as: "Get the Jalopies off the Road."

The theory is simple enough: Reward owners for junking older-model fuel-slurping cars and light trucks and buying new "clean" vehicles that will use less fuel and release less carbon, the key culprit in global warming.

If done right, it delivers two benefits central to the president’s goals. It would stimulate the sale of new vehicles and help fight global warming and other air pollution. If done poorly…

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Detroit 3 must come clean on getting green

(Detroit News)

March 31, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

As part of their turnaround plans, General Motors and Chrysler delivered bold promises: Clean cars, clean fuels and more hybrids.

But the Obama administration found the plans lacking and sent the two automakers back to the drawing boards. This leads to the questions..

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Lessons learned from Exxon Valdez disaster

(Chicago Tribune)

March 24, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Four minutes after midnight on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez went aground on the Bligh Reef in Alaska‘s Prince William Sound, fouling beaches, killing thousands of sea otters, bald eagles and other wildlife—and sinking the reputation of an oil industry already wracked by ecological disaster.

The 10.8-million-gallon oil spill was not the biggest up to that point. There have been larger since. But in that grinding, steel-against-shoal instant, it became emblematic of all…

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GM, Chrysler don’t get it

(Los Angeles Times)

February 18, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

 After receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bailouts over the last few months, General Motors and Chrysler returned to Washington on Tuesday to shake their chrome-plated tin cups again.

In addition to begging for billions more in bailout funds, the automakers…

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President Obama On Global Warming: Finally Part Of The Solution

(The Huffington Post)

January 26, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Let’s give a cheer for President Obama’s order Monday that his Environmental Protection Agency reconsider President Bush’s rejection of the request by California and 13 other states to write their own rules on greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, they will be tougher than anything the Federal government has produced.

On his fifth full day in office…

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Bush, Blowing Global Warming Decision, Opens Door For Obama

(The Huffington Post)

January 9, 2009

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

In a little-noticed decision, the Bush administration this week slammed the environmental door — walking away from what could have been its most far-reaching measure to cool a warming climate while heating up a frozen economy.

With the same stroke, President Bush handed…

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The Brother-In-Law Of All Bailouts

(The Huffington Post)

October 17, 2008

By Dan Becker

While the nation’s attention was focused on that other bailout, Congress and the President awarded automakers $25 billion in taxpayer-subsidized loan guarantees. The money is supposed to pay for up to 30% of the costs of retooling factories to make vehicles that get at least 25% better gas mileage than similar cars.

But this auto industry salvage package lacks…

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