20190419 earth day op ed

Lyft chief policy officer: We're facing a climate crisis while the government looks the other way

Updated 11:41 AM ET, Mon April 22, 2019

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

Anthony Foxx is Lyft's chief policy officer and former secretary of transportation under President Obama. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

Perspectives Anthony Foxx

For nearly 50 years, Earth Day has encouraged nations across the globe to turn their attention to the growing crisis facing our planet.

As the effects of climate change continue to take shape — from extreme weather events to an increasingly warming climate — cities and businesses have stepped up their efforts in protecting the planet and making communities more livable. But it's not enough.
We can do a lot on our own, but we need strong federal leadership. It's time for the government to join us and back policies that make clean energy the focus of how the world does business.
Take fuel efficiency standards. In 2012, the Obama administration outlined a plan to limit fossil fuels and their impact on our environment through smart, targeted fuel efficiency standards. These standards were designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, creating lasting economic and social benefits to American families through cleaner air and lower prices at the pump.
Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to roll back these standards, simply because they believe it could increase the cost of new vehicles being produced. And the federal government is now refusing to negotiate with the state of California — which sets its own emissions standards — despite the fact that 14 states, representing about a third of the US market for cars and trucks, have already adopted California's standards.
While fuel-saving technology used in electric vehicles and hybrids indeed raises the cost of cars and trucks up front, drivers would recoup those costs with fuel savings in the first month of car ownership under higher standards — and savings would continue for the life of the vehicle. Anyone with a vehicle could save up to $5,000 over the life of a car and up to $8,000 over the life of a truck due to lower fuel costs.
The environmental and health consequences of rolling back the standards are dire as well. The rollback could create an additional 2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to as much carbon pollution as 480 million average American cars emit in a year. With more than 100 million Americans still living in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, freezing the standards would freeze progress in combating premature death, asthma attacks and lung cancer due to vehicle emissions.
    I joined Lyft because I am invested in American cities. As a former mayor and transportation secretary, I share Lyft's vision to redesign our cities around people, instead of cars, and make seamless, affordable and sustainable mobility available to all. Last month, Lyft voiced our strong support for fuel efficiency standards by filing an amicus brief in federal appeals court as part of a lawsuit to block the EPA's destructive action to kill them. And we decided to make every ride carbon neutral not because it's good for our short-term bottom line (in fact, it's costing us millions of dollars), but because climate change poses an urgent and growing threat to our cities, making city life more expensive, unhealthy and dangerous for everyone.
    But Lyft is just one part of a growing movement that includes citizens, cities and companies that believe we can achieve a healthier and more prosperous future for our communities by supporting a clean energy economy and strong climate action.
      Shouldn't our own government share this vision? We should stand up and demand real federal leadership on behalf of our planet — on Earth Day and every day.