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Peter Lehner's picture

I am the Executive Director of NRDC. The position is my second at NRDC. Beginning in 1994, I led the Clean Water Program for five years, before leaving in 1999 to serve as the head of the...

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Finger-Pointing Continues on Gas Prices

Big Oil’s supporters in Congress have yet to come up with a credible plan to help get America out of the gas price crunch. Their latest effort, the Gasoline Regulations Act, is no exception. The bill merely uses gas prices as a cover to sneak through fundamental changes in longstanding clean air protections.  

The bill seeks to roll back a series of Clean Air Act safeguards, and delay implementation of recently issued standards that will protect the health of millions of Americans, on the pretext that the changes might have an effect on gas prices.

Never mind that this has all been studied before, in independent, peer-reviewed analyses, and the benefits of Clean Air Act protections have repeatedly been shown to outweigh their costs, in some cases by as much as 40 to 1.

Never mind that some of the safeguards that House Republicans are questioning were adopted under a law signed by George H.W. Bush, and that he identified these clean air protections as among his greatest statutory achievements.

Never mind that the bill takes away Americans’ right to clean air and allows more pollution from all sources–not just oil and gas–making it clear that the bill is really not about gasoline prices at all.

Instead of finding real solutions to the gas price dilemma, House Republicans are proposing what is essentially a defense of polluter’s rights, and another thinly disguised attack on the government’s ability to protect our health. Protections like the Clean Air Act are the only bulwark standing between us and the polluters. Attacking these standards in the name of helping the American people is disingenuous, at best.

There is a way out of the gas price crunch, which will benefit the economy, our national security, and public health. We must develop alternatives to oil, and give people choice in transportation. Since we cannot control the price of oil, we have to develop other ways to move around that don’t hold us hostage to oil companies.

New fuel economy standards passed by the Obama administration are helping get more fuel-efficient cars on the road, giving drivers the option to bypass the gas station and save $4,400 over the lifetime of their cars. In addition to better cars, we need better, more accessible public transit, such as light rail and bus rapid transit, which can carry more people to more places, quickly and comfortably. We need to build communities where we can walk or bike to work, school, stores, soccer practice or a friend’s house. And we need to develop clean, sustainable, alternative fuels that we can produce here in America.

All of these clean energy and efficiency initiatives are creating jobs and improving the quality of life for thousands of Americans. Our Clean Air Act protections do the same. Attacking clean air safeguards does nothing to help our pain at the pump, and it certainly won’t help anyone breathe easier.

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