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Congress should set auto standards, not pick technologies

If Washington wants a new generation of clean vehicles, Congress should follow California’s example and set tough emissions and efficiency standards rather than trying to pick winning technologies, argue Dan Sperling and Deborah Gordon in a post on the Oxford University Press blog. Sperling and Gordon are the authors of a new book published by OUP, “Two Billion Cars.”

Raising gasoline taxes is one way to fix the current crisis. Gordon and Sperling recently proposed a gas tax floor of  $3.50 a gallon in an op-ed for the New York Times.  But that appears to be off the table with the economy in tatters, they write. A good way to make things worse, they go on to say, is to throw subsidies at particular industries, such as corn ethanol, which they call “a fiasco.” Instead, Congress should set performance standards for near-zero emissions vehicles, and let industry figure out how to get there. That’s the approach Sperling and colleagues have taken in crafting California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

The auto bail out, volatile oil prices, conflicts in the Middle East, increasing fears of climate change, and intense competition are creating the perfect storm for transformational auto innovation. Washington must take the reins and steer entrepreneurs, engineers, and the public down the path to reinvent vehicles.

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