Why the Biden Administration Must Cut Climate Pollution on our Roads

September 28, 2023Noé Granados

The following blog post is adapted from testimony given by RAC legislative assistant Noé Granados at a National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration hearing on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards on September 28, 2023. This testimony was presented as part of Power for Purpose: The Reform Movement's 2023 Campaign for Climate Justice. Join our campaign by urging the Biden administration to finalize strong standards limiting air pollution.

I am Noé Granados, a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the legislative and advocacy office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 850 congregations encompass more than 1.8 million Reform Jews across North America, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents over 2,000 Reform rabbis. The Reform Jewish Movement is the largest and most diverse denomination of Judaism in North America.

Our tradition teaches us the biblical imperative that while we "fill the earth and master it" (Genesis 1:28), we must also "till it and tend it" (Genesis 2:15). In a world where rapid progress often collides with ecological responsibility, these verses serve as a meaningful guidepost. We have been blessed with the capacity to experiment, push boundaries, and use all the gifts of inspiration to survive and thrive in this God-given world. As such, we want to ensure that technology is used to empower people. These values underscore our belief in the importance of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

Raising fuel efficiency standards would make a significant environmental impact. Cars and light-duty trucks account for more than 20 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 45 percent of all oil consumption, making the transportation sector the number one source of climate and air pollution in the country. If these standards were finalized as proposed, the NHTSA says that it would prevent more than 900 million tons of CO2 emissions - the equivalent of taking more than 233 million vehicles off the road from 2022 through 2050.

Furthermore, improving fuel efficiency standards can help improve health and save lives. Emissions from vehicles contribute to both ozone and particle pollution, which can cause a myriad of health issues such as heart attacks, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, premature deaths, and more. A 2021 study in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region found that pollution from light-duty trucks, which includes SUVs, was responsible for 2,463 premature deaths in 2021 - the greatest number of premature deaths out of all vehicles.

Our advocacy for the CAFE standards is also guided by our strong commitment to justice and equity as we move towards clean transportation. We are concerned with the disproportionate burden vulnerable and disadvantaged communities face regarding vehicle pollution. On average, communities of color in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic breathe 66 percent more air pollution from vehicles. Enacting strong CAFE standards will help ensure a more just future for communities of color and help protect all of God's creation.

As Reform Jews, we are conscious of how pollution can affect our communities and congregations, especially those in urban centers. Guided by our biblical imperative to choose life and care for the Earth, we view these CAFE standards as part of our broader mission to renew, rejuvenate, and protect our Earth. As such, we urge the quick finalization of the strongest possible CAFE standards.

Act Now: Urge the Biden administration to finalize strong standards limiting air pollution.

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