Building upon the excellent Gazette-Mail editorial published Saturday, Jan. 11, the facts are that environmental regulations have been developed for decades to successfully reduce health threats and premature deaths.
Contrary to Trump EPA leadership now under a “Friends of Coal” lobbyist/lawyer, Andrew Wheeler, scientifically-based regulations have led to improved products and profits while realizing improved air and water quality.
The most notable example are our vehicles. After the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1963, the California Air Resources Board sought to cut the killer smog of the Los Angeles region by passing regulations that required the manufacturers to add crankcase emission controls. That was the first step.
In succeeding years, CARB increased the demands to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions, including that the pollution controls must still perform as new when the vehicle has clocked 100,000 miles. The automotive industry screamed that such regulations would kill their business and result in huge layoffs and plunging sales. None of that happened.
The CARB regulatory demands led to the vehicles we have today, which are estimated to be 95 percent lower in emissions, while getting much better fuel mileage. Some manufacturers now offer warranties as high as 100,000 miles and 10 years. My wife’s Hyundai Sonata hybrid, with such a warranty, gets 30 mpg around Charleston and can get over 50 mpg on level Interstate highways.
Cars in the 1950s were lucky to get 15 mpg and came with 90 day and/or 4,000 mile warranties. Chrysler shocked the industry in the 1960s by raising it to 12 months and 12,000 miles.
The coatings industry is another example of where regulations significantly cut emissions without damage to corporate profits.
While living in Southern California, I was retained as an engineering consultant by the South Coast Air Quality District, in Diamond Bar, to work with the furniture manufacturing and coatings industries to implement a rule requiring all coatings to be 100 percent free of Volatile Organic Compounds within five years of passage.
VOCs that are emitted as oil-based paint and other coatings were found to be contributing to the smog of California through the drying process. I’m sure you all have experienced the smell of paint drying. When you smell that, you are breathing in toxic pollutants.
Again, the industry fought the regulation, claiming that no such VOC-free coating existed. “It’s impossible” was the claim. They too were wrong. By year four of the regulation, a small lab in Northern California developed something we all now can use, VOC-free, water-based paints and coatings.
The coatings industry made the transition, has survived and is as profitable today as it was in the days of just offering oil-based coatings.
Today, we are seeing yet another transition to zero emissions in the automotive industry, with not just the development of hybrids, but now the emerging offerings of totally emission-free, electric-powered vehicles.
As is now unequivocally clear by scientifically measured evidence, the human-caused caused climate change crisis is demanding that we stop burning any and all fossil fuels to reverse this planetary threat to all life.
Transitioning to solar energy is proving to be not only a near-zero emissions system, but also a source of clean, safe job creation that is unprecedented. According to the departments of Labor and Energy, there are now twice as many jobs in solar energy alone, compared to the entire fossil fuel industry of coal, oil and gas. Solar power is growing rapidly, but still provides less than 3 percent of the nation’s energy. Coal has now declined to under 30 percent.
While fossil fuel energy providers argue that fewer employees is better business, putting profits over people, they ignore that solar energy is now down to one-third the cost of the lowest cost coal power plant.
The bottom line is, rolling back environmental regulations has no positive impact, not even on corporate profits.
Indeed, today the majority of auto producers now acknowledge the realities of the global climate change crisis, agree with the Obama administration’s tightening of mileage standards and California’s embracing of them. They have actually and formally objected to the Trump administration rollback of the Obama mileage standards.
And to illustrate what is coming, several automotive manufacturers are incorporating solar panels on their new vehicles.
Winnebago has announced a plug-in prototype EV-RV that is solely electric powered and can have an all-solar-cell roof for charging the system.
Hyundai has announced a new Sonata hybrid model with a roof and trunk lid made of solar cells so the car is continually charging the batteries as you drive, and when parked. They estimate it will get an additional 800-mile range on each tank of fuel.
GM has committed to offering only electric-powered vehicles by 2030.
We can and must get to zero emissions in all we do if we, our children and grandchildren are to survive. The transition will include exciting, clean and safe job-creating economic growth.