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Court Clears Path for Cleaner Cars in Minnesota

September 14, 2007

St. Paul, MN - A Vermont federal court ruling could reverberate in Minnesota. This week's decision allows states to enact tough standards, developed by the State of California, designed to reduce global warming pollution and increase the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks. Christopher Childs with the Minnesota Sierra Club says the standards would have a huge impact here.

"Our transportation sector is responsible for almost a third of our greenhouse gases and, of course, vehicles emit other pollutants as well. So, if you clean up the cars, you'll be dealing not only with the carbon dioxide, but also with methane and nitrous oxides. Those are also greenhouse gases."

Car manufacturers have tried to stop other states from adopting such "Clean Car" programs, saying it will raise vehicle prices and hurt the American automotive industry. The Vermont court rejected those arguments, and Childs says such initiatives would actually result in lower transportation prices.

"Folks should understand, as consumers, that any increase in vehicle price from the institution of these standards would be more than offset by the savings, primarily because of the increased fuel economy that would be part of this. Over the life of the car, you would actually save a bunch of money, several thousand dollars, with these standards."

Childs estimates the stricter standards would reduce global warming pollution from new cars 30 percent by 2016. Legislation to enact the higher standard for Minnesota is pending in the State Legislature.

State Senator John Marty has a bill to require new vehicles sold in the state to have a 30 percent reduction in global warming emissions by 2016. He says the new ruling lets Minnesota go beyond federal standards.

"This legislation would make Minnesota cars much more clean. It would reduce the greenhouse gases emitted. The benefits to consumers are not only that they're helping reduce global warming, but it also makes the cars much more efficient. And, in times of high gas costs, it's very nice to see that."

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Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MN