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Context of 'July 2002: Study Finds that a Fifth of All CO2 Emissions Come from Cars and Light Trucks'

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Presidential candidate George W. Bush unveils an environmental plan that would require power plants to reduce emissions of four main pollutants. If elected, Bush says he will propose legislation requiring “electric utilities to reduce emissions and significantly improve air quality.” Specifically, he promises to “work with Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, consumer and environmental groups, and industry to develop legislation that will establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon dioxide.” (Bush 9/29/2000) Bush will break that promise within two months of taking office (see March 1, 2001, March 8, 2001, and March 13, 2001).

Environmental Defense, a New York-based advocacy group, publishes a report concluding that a fifth of all carbon dioxide emissions in the US come from cars and light trucks. The group also found that after decades of steady decline, since 1990, those emissions have begun to increase, dramatically. The study blames the increase on the higher number of light trucks, sport-utility vehicles, and minivans that are on the road. (Pianin 7/31/2002)

The Environmental Protection Agency rules that carbon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming, cannot be regulated as a pollutant. EPA General Counsel Robert Fabricant writes in his 12-page decision, “Because the [Clean Air Act] does not authorize regulation to address climate change, it follows that [carbon dioxide] and other [greenhouse gases], as such, are not air pollutants.” His ruling reverses the position taken by the Clinton administration in 1998. Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is pleased with the decision. “Why would you regulate a pollutant that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breathe? That’s not a pollutant,” he says. Melissa Carey, a climate policy specialist for Environmental Defense, disagrees. “Refusing to call greenhouse-gas emissions a pollutant is like refusing to say that smoking causes lung cancer. The Earth is round. Elvis is dead. Climate change is happening.” (Borenstein 8/29/2003)

The attorneys general of 39 states ask Congress to turn down a Defense Department request for exemptions from environmental laws (see April 6, 2004). Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar argues that there is no evidence that the proposed exemptions would facilitate training or improve military readiness, as the military claims. Salazar notes that existing laws allow the Pentagon to apply for waivers from the laws, adding that if Congress grants the exemptions, it could limit states’ ability to conduct investigations and oversee clean-ups of munitions-related contamination on 24 million acres of military lands. (CBS News 4/20/2004)

Environment California releases a report concluding that carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically since 1960. The study was based on data collected by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The report’s major findings include the following:
bullet Between 1960 and 2001, US carbon dioxide emissions increased by 95 percent from 2.9 billion to almost 5.7 billion metric tons.
bullet The steepest rates of increase in carbon dioxide emissions during that period occurred in the Southeast and Gulf South, which grew by 163 and 175 percent, respectively.
bullet Texas was the leading polluter of carbon dioxide in 2001. In that year, the state was responsible for 12 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Between 1960 and 2001, the state’s emissions increased 178 percent from 240.7 million to 668.5 million metric tons.
bullet During the period under review, carbon dioxide emissions more than doubled in 28 states. The increases were highest in Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, and Arizona. (California 6/2006 pdf file; Environment California 6/20/2006)


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