UCSB’s California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) is bent on changing the world, one car at a time. Last Friday, the student organization held a car show and press conference to emphasize the growing demand for zero-emission vehicles in California and across the nation.

The car show featured the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, both electric vehicles available in the Santa Barbara area.

Speakers, including Representative Lois Capps; Hillary Blackerby, senior field representative for Assemblymember Das Williams; Michael Chiacos, Sierra Club transportation chair; Robin Tidd, Santa Barbara Graham Chevrolet representative; and Matt Gilliland, CALPIRG vice-chair, discussed economic and environmental prospects associated with a growing green automotive industry in America.

“It’s all about what’s in the best interest for our country,” said Capps, who highlighted the national security, economic, and health benefits of clean energy vehicles. She suggested that implementing rigorous vehicle emission standards would spur U.S. production and domestic labor opportunities while simultaneously reducing America’s “dangerous oil dependence.” Quoting the American Lung Association, Capps further maintained that these kinds of strong emission standards in California could save the state $7.2 billion in health-care costs alone.

Following Capps, Blackerby acknowledged California’s role in promoting the development of the nation’s green fleet, commending the state for its “groundbreaking environmental reforms.” She praised the state’s innovative work with clean energy vehicle policies like California’s AB 32, which set the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction standards, and the state’s upcoming white sticker carpool lane policy, which will allow all electric and natural gas fueled vehicles access to the diamond lane regardless of the number of passengers. Blackerby expressed optimism about what she thinks this kind of “limitless potential” could mean for America’s future.

Up next, Chiacos addressed the local impact of green automotive technology. Santa Barbara, he explained, ranks fourth of 180 city markets in Southern California Edison’s entire service territory for upcoming electric vehicle models; to prepare for and promote this influx of electric cars and trucks, the city plans to install 50 charging stations. For the nation to achieve this level of clean energy vehicle adherence seen in Santa Barbara, Chiacos maintained the federal government must continue to raise fuel efficiency standards.

Like Chiacos, Tidd focused primarily on Santa Barbara’s involvement in the green vehicle movement, discussing the city’s growing demand for electric cars — a demand so high, she claimed, that both the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt have waiting lists.

Concluding the press conference, Gilliland stressed the role of students, whom he labeled the “next generation of car buyers,” in achieving energy efficiency standards for the future. CALPIRG, he said, is calling for the California Air Resources Board to implement policies that put one million “near zero-emission” cars on California roads by 2025 — what he claimed to be a very reasonable goal considering the state’s past in achieving fuel efficiency standards. Gilliland demanded action among the future policy makers of America to realize these kinds of ambitions. “This incredible strength [of the green vehicle industry] started partly because of government incentives and standards,” he said. “Let’s build on that success.”


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