Cleaner air for Minnesota

By Henry Charlton

Currently more than half of the air pollution in Minnesota is caused by automobile emissions, and one fourth of our state’s contribution to global warming comes from the vehicles we drive. Our inefficient cars and the pollution they produce are hurting both our health and our environment. However, there is something we can do.The Minnesota Clean Car Act is a piece of legislation that would ask automakers to reduce the emissions that new vehicles produce by 30 percent before 2016. This act has been called the “win-win-win” act for a reason: if this legislation is passed, the air that we breathe would be healthier, the environment would suffer less from our carbon emissions, and people would be able to spend less on gas, as their cars would use fuel more efficiently. Acts containing the same standards have already been passed in 14 other states, and we need to make Minnesota next!

This act would only start placing restrictions on new automobiles produced from 2012 onwards. The technology to make these efficient cars and trucks already exists and is in use, so it really shouldn’t be hard to implement. Also, cars and trucks would have different standards, making the goals reasonable for both types so that this act will not prohibit the sale or manufacture of any type of vehicle, but rather make new automobiles cleaner and more efficient.

Most of the opposition to this act is coming from the automotive industry since they are opposed to having more restrictions placed on the production of their vehicles. The opposition claims that the restrictions will force the price of cars to increase, and that it will hurt both consumers and the industry. It may be true that cleaner cars tend to have higher price tags, but there is a growing demand for cars that use up less fuel. Consumers are willing to pay more for cars that will save them money in the long run.

Opposition has also been encountered from the ethanol industry. This is mostly based on misinformation, as this act would actually promote the use of E85 fuels. Since clearing up some of the specifics of the act, Minnesota’s alternative fuel community is now largely neutral, if not supportive of this act. This act will not hurt ethanol sales, and is actually rather likely to help them.

This piece of legislation is essential to providing a cleaner and healthier future for our nation. The 14 states that have already passed these measures already make up more than 50% of the new car market in the United States. If we can get Minnesota to join these states, then the standards will become as good as nationwide since car manufacturers will be required to meet these standards for a vast majority of its consumers.

This truly is a non-partisan issue; the restrictions are not too harsh for the automotive industry to handle. They opposed requiring seat-belts, and they’ll oppose this legislation too; however, once it gets passed they will instead focus on meeting these new standards and ensuring a healthier, cleaner, and perhaps cheaper future for all of us.

In order to make sure that this act gets passed, the Macalester MPIRG chapter has been doing all it can to persuade legislators to vote yes. On Thurs., March 5 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m,, MPIRG will be attending a lobby day, and any students who wish to participate may join. If you are interested in attending this lobby day and helping with passing an essential piece of legislature, email [email protected] for more information.