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Fuel emission standards

07/30/02 12:00AM By Madeleine M. Kunin
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(Host) Commentator Madeleine Kunin has some thoughts about why the federal government lags behind the states in fuel emission control.

(Page) California has taken a significant lead in showing the nation how we can tackle global warming. Recently, the California legislature passed a bill that would limit carbon dioxide emissions that have long been recognized as the main villain of global warming.

A New York Times editorial says: "The bill is unquestionably the most important step taken in this country to control greenhouse gas emissions ."

The bill mandates, but does not spell out in detail, that cleaner cars be on the road by 2009. Governor Gray Davis is expected to sign the legislation, which affects all cars and trucks that contribute 40% to greenhouse gases in California.

Why is it that the tail is wagging the dog on this significant issue? Global warming is a national and international issue and requires American and global leadership.

There is a belief among many Americans that we are running out of time. If we don't act now, the problem will get worse with each passing day. With California leading the way, it will create significant results.

California is not just another state; it is as big as - or bigger than - many countries. They know that global warming is a serious threat to life on earth as we know it. We cannot even fathom all the consequences.

We now know that temperatures have already risen, and, if we do nothing, these temperatures will continue to rise sharply, causing rising sea levels, heat waves, and far-reaching changes in plant, animal and human life.

President Bush continues to scoff at these reports, including one that was produced by his own administration, which clearly stated the problem.

He dismissed its finding by saying cavalierly that the report was written by "bureaucrats," thereby ignoring its significance.

Perhaps the states take action before the federal government does because they are closer to the people.

Rather than hanging out with oil company billionaires who whisper sweet nothings in the president's ear, state legislators mingle with a more diverse and representative crowd. Quite simply, they are closer to the people than the administration and the Congress.

This first step taken by California is meaningful because once manufacturers build cars and trucks to meet California's standards, they will be available in other states.

What California proves is that when there is a national leadership vacuum on a vital issue like global warming, it is eventually filled by the states.

While Vermont would have a small impact if it followed suit, it would have a big impact in proving that the states can show the nation how to begin to solve a tough global problem.

As California goes, so can Vermont.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

Madeleine Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.
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