This week we welcome a guest blog post from Christina Krost, Outreach Support in Southern Illinois, who traveled to the headquarters of Ford Motor Company to testify with faith leaders from our national affiliate, Interfaith Power & Light, calling on Ford to support the Clean Car Standards. They delivered a 12-foot scroll listing the names of 1,000 faith leaders and 3,500 people of faith who also want Ford to uphold its commitment. Read why green automobile technology is a personal issue for Christina.
This week I took a train from Carbondale and a plane from Chicago to talk about automobiles in Detroit. Specifically, I testified at the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule on behalf of Interfaith Power and Light and United Methodist Women. As a person of faith, I believe it is my moral obligation to oppose policies that endanger the health of families and communities.
The transportation sector is the single largest and fastest growing source of carbon pollution in the U.S. Cars and pickup trucks account for 47 percent of oil used in the United States and nearly one third of our greenhouse gas emissions. Research indicates that The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule will result in an additional 2.2 billion metric tons of global warming emissions by 2040. This is equivalent to keeping 43 coal-fired power plants online.
Weakened standards that increase air pollution would worsen symptoms for the 24 million Americans — including 6.3 million children — who suffer from asthma. Pollution from the transportation sector is deeply tied to issues of racism and environmental injustice, as low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to be impacted by their proximity to interstates and highways.
These weaker standards will contribute to the rising global average temperature, which is directly tied to natural disasters such as droughts, wildfires, catastrophic hurricanes and other forms of extreme weather. Vulnerable communities face an extra burden in instances of natural disasters and disaster response, like rising food prices and water shortages. We’ve seen these patterns recently with the hurricanes and flooding in North Carolina and the wildfires in California. The current strong standards are the most effective policy we have to address global warming.
This fight is personal to me. Growing up in Metro Detroit, my grandfather, Joe, was proud to tell his grandkids of his career at Ford’s Paint and Vinyl Plant in Mt. Clemens where he worked with his brother, Jim. As family lore goes, Uncle Jim suggested taking some cord out of a vinyl trim piece that ended up saving Ford millions of dollars. Jim was rewarded with a new car. My grandfather, Uncle Jim, and his 4 other brothers had a combined 240 years of seniority when they retired from Ford in the late 80s.
Recently, my family of 5 ditched our minivan in favor of a Ford Flex. It’s the nicest car we’ve ever owned. My family owns another Ford, too, a C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. After exhaustive research, we chose the C-Max because it was a way we could reflect our love of God and neighbor in our buying habits.
You see, my family and I now live in southern Illinois, deep in coal country. We see and experience firsthand how clean air standards affect coal workers and the entire region. Illinois has a bad track record on environmental justice, locating most of our coal fired power plants in low income communities and communities of color. So when I reduce my energy consumption and improve my fuel economy, I can reduce the health impacts I have on my brothers and sisters in the grips of polluting coal plants.
We are proud to own a plug-in, almost as proud as Bill Ford was when he was on stage with President Obama when the new Clean Car Standards were announced in 2011. These standards nearly doubled average fuel economy of vehicles, with a goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025, and are the most significant policy the U.S. has to cut carbon pollution.
But now, Ford has changed its tune and claims it needs greater “flexibility” in meeting the standards. And the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to weaken the standards. Ford’s reversal is clearly not based on any real technical or financial challenge in building the cleaner cars they promised. Ford has received billions in loans from U.S. taxpayers to engineer the advanced vehicles of tomorrow. And recent government and industry reviews have shown that automakers can comply with the standards.
It is unconscionable for Ford to renege on its commitment to cleaner cars now. That’s why I traveled to Detroit: to ask Ford to put people and planet over profits and stand by its promise.