President Obama’s move Monday to allow states to set vehicle emission standards may be a breath of fresh air–quite literally– for North Carolina, where an estimated 40 percent of smog-forming emissions and 34 percent of global warming emissions in our air comes from cars and trucks.
In a sweeping set of directives , President Barack Obama acted aggressively to address global warming and modernize the ailing domestic auto industry by ordering quick action on increased fuel-efficiency standards and swift review of the long-standing request of California and 14 other states for permission to put in place stricter tailpipe standards to reduce global warming emissions.
As of now– once federal permission is granted– 15 states are poised to enjoy cleaner air by virtue of having enacted legislation adopting tailpipe standards that are more stringent than current federal regulations. There’s no longer any reason for North Carolina not to be among that group.
In 2002, North Carolina proudly passed the Clean Smokestacks bill , which addressed air pollution from coal-fired power plants. At the 2002 Governors’ Summit on Air Quality in Charlotte, then Governor Mike Easley said it was time now to clean up the cars. “We have to remember we all came here riding in our own little smokestacks,” he said.
Legislation has previously been introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly that would have our state join the growing number of others states seeking cleaner emission standards, but legislators took a wait and see approach to how EPA would respond to the request of other states for a federal waiver.
Legislators may find of interest a recent NC Division of Air Quality report showing that adopting the California clean car standard would reduce global warming pollution 40% over and beyond the benefits of increased federal fuel economy standards. That’s good news for a state found  to be among the most vulnerable in the nation to the adverse impacts of global warming.
The national winds are blowing in favor of cleaning up global warming pollution from cars and trucks. The question now is– will North Carolina join other future-minded states and adopt clean cars legislation?