A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, voided the new regulations for 2008-2011 model year vehicles and told the Transportation Department to produce new rules taking into account the value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The court, siding with 4 environmental groups and 13 states and cities, also asked the government to explain why it still treated light trucks — which include pickups, sport utility vehicles and minivans — more mildly than passenger cars.
Under the rejected rule, the average fuel economy of light trucks was to rise to 23.5 miles a gallon in 2010, up from the current standard of 22.5 m.p.g., but still well below the current standard for passenger cars of 27.5 m.p.g.
The ruling, which is likely to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, represents a major setback for both the auto industry and the White House at a time of growing public concern over the rising price of gasoline and the issue of climate change.
Lawyers specializing in environmental issues said on Thursday that the decision had significant implications beyond the automobile industry’s struggles over fuel-economy standards.
The New Yorker
The Financial Page
Fuel for Thought
by James Surowiecki July 23, 2007
In the auto industry, there’s one thing you can always count on: if a new environmental or safety rule is proposed, executives will prophesy disaster. In the nineteen-twenties, Alfred Sloan, the president of General Motors, insisted that the company could not make windshields with safety glass because doing so would harm the bottom line. In the fifties, auto executives told Congress that making seat belts compulsory would slash industry profits. When air bags came along, Lee Iacocca told Richard Nixon that “safety has really killed all our business.” A few years later, when Congress was thinking about requiring fuel-economy standards, auto executives warned that instituting such standards would create “massive financial and unemployment problems.” And now, with Congress debating a bill to raise fuel-economy standards, for the first time in almost twenty years, the Chicken Littles are squawking again, forecasting doom for Detroit and asserting that making higher-mileage vehicles is technologically unfeasible and economically suicidal.
Of course, much of this is simply stonewalling by executives determined to keep meddlesome politicians out of their business. But sometimes the industry’s fears have been founded on real market research. In the case of safety glass, G.M. believed that consumers weren’t prepared to pay more for cars with safety glass, so Sloan worried that it would be hard to recoup the cost of installing it. Similarly, when, in the mid-nineteen-seventies, G.M. offered front-seat air bags as an option on Cadillacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles, they didn’t sell. Fuel-economy standards present the same difficulty: although there are plenty of affordable models that get good gas mileage, over the past two decades some of the most powerful and least fuel-efficient vehicles on the market—S.U.V.s and pickup trucks—have also been among the best-selling. Thirty years ago, so-called “light trucks” accounted for about a fifth of all auto sales. Today, even with a recent slowdown, they account for more than half.
Inside the walls and barbed wire fence that largely hides the nondescript facility beside Newtown Creek in Brooklyn, a handful of trailers sit in a cluster surrounded by smaller buildings that belong to Exxon Mobil.
It is not much to look at, but Exxon Mobil officials say the operation is slowly eliminating the contamination that has been deep underground in the Greenpoint neighborhood for decades. The operation, and the contamination, stem from an oil spill that occurred more than half a century ago and has been described as more than twice as large as the Exxon Valdez disaster, which released 11 million gallons of crude oil off the Alaskan coast.
The Brooklyn spill, which resulted from an industrial explosion in 1950, released an estimated 17 million gallons of oil and oil products, polluted the soil, left traces of toxic chemicals in Newtown Creek, led to years of community and environmental outcry and became the basis of several continuing lawsuits.
Nearly eight million gallons remain beneath the Exxon Mobil property and nearby properties along Kingsland Avenue, though the contamination cannot be seen or smelled. How long it will take to get rid of the remaining material is unclear. “We’ll be here until the job is done and done right,” said Barry Wood, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil.
2 Iranian Gas Stations Burned Over Rationing
By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN, June 27 - Angry drivers set fire to at least two gas stations overnight in Tehran after the government announced that gasoline rationing would begin Wednesday just after midnight.
The state television news said Wednesday that "several gas stations and public places had been attacked by vandals." While there were some reports that a large number of gas stations had been set on fire, only two fires were confirmed.
The government had been planning for a year to put rationing into effect but held off because of concerns that it could cause unrest. Some officials indicated it might have been started now because of the threat of stronger economic sanctions by the United Nations over Iran's nuclear program.