- Automakers Cripple Car Talks
- Horseshoe Crabs in Extreme Peril
After a year of stonewalling, the Big Three automakers (Chrysler,
GM and Ford) sabotaged presidentially commissioned talks aimed at
reducing greenhouse gases from cars and light trucks. Activists
say automakers "blew up" the advisory sessions, informally known
as "Car Talks," by trying to cut increased fuel economy standards
from its final report.
"The auto industry has no shame," said Dan Becker, the Club's
global warming and energy director, and presidential appointee
to the panel representing the Sierra Club. "By blocking the
commission's recommendations, they've placed polluter greed
before planetary health."
Ironically, the end of Car Talks came as the preeminent panel of
atmospheric scientists reported their conclusions that global
warming has begun and that pollution from cars, factories and
power plants is the major cause.
Formally known as corporate average fuel economy, CAFE standards
are set by either Congress or the President for cars and light
trucks sold in the United States. Mandated by Congress in
response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, CAFE standards have
remained largely unchanged since 1985. Activists say these
standards have saved the United States 3 million barrels of oil
daily and purchasers of new cars an average of $3,300, but that
progress is still needed -- especially since technology exists to
produce safe cars with far better fuel efficiency.
Despite automaker obstructionism, Car Talks' environmental
representatives formed a coalition with state and local
government officials and businesses to file a majority report to
the president. The report recommends raising CAFE standards to 45
miles per gallon (from 27.7 mpg. for cars and 20.7 mpg. for light
trucks) as part of a policy package that includes promoting
alternative transportation and cleaner-burning fuels. "The report
demonstrates that CAFE cuts more greenhouse pollution than
anything else we can do," said Becker. "That's why Sierra Club
calls CAFE the Ôbiggest single step to curbing global warming.'"
While the Big Three fought a stronger CAFE at Car Talks, they
also lobbied Congress to limit existing standards. Republican
whip Tom DeLay of Texas introduced a one-year CAFE freeze in the
transportation appropriations bill that sailed through the House.
The unusual alliance of Sens. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Slade
Gorton (R-Wash.) and Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) killed the freeze in
the Senate. But the conference committee restored the rider by a
Emboldened CAFE opponents are now back for more. H.R. 2200 in the
House would repeal the president's power to set CAFE standards.
"The auto industry seems unconcerned by global warming and our
addiction to oil," said Becker. "But we can't let them win. Only
public support can keep CAFE moving."
To take action: Call your representative and urge him/her to
oppose H.R. 2200. Emphasize that CAFE works, and should be
strengthened, not weakened -- especially given that the
presidential commission's new report says increased CAFE
standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions, save consumers money
at the pump and keep oil imports down.
For more information:
Contact Ellen McBarnette, Ann Mesnikoff or
Dan Becker in the Washington, D.C., office at (202) 547-1141.
Time may be running out for one of the Earth's most resilient
species. A harmless, slow-moving relative of the spider, the
horseshoe crab has been lumbering about the world's oceans and
beaches for some 250 million years. The crab plays a vital role
in the life cycles of migratory birds and threatened loggerhead
sea turtles. It has also proven key to AIDS, cancer and
Alzheimer's research. But overharvesting in North America is
decimating this ancient species, and the repercussions of its
loss could be profound.
The largest concentrations of horseshoe crabs occur in the
Delaware Estuary. During May's full moon, hundreds of thousands
of horseshoe crabs move ashore to mate and lay more than 100
tons of eggs. These protein-rich eggs sustain vast numbers of
migratory shorebirds coming from as far away as Tierra del Fuego
and give them energy to reach their final breeding grounds.
Wildlife biologists estimate that without this food supply, up to
80 percent of some populations of shorebirds passing through the
estuary would face obliteration. Because the crab is also a major
food source for juvenile loggerhead sea turtles,
environmentalists are concerned that its loss would precipitate
the loggerhead's extinction along the Eastern seaboard.
Today, horseshoe crabs are important to epidemiological research
and are bled for an agent found in their highly oxygenated blue
blood, then returned to the ocean alive.
Yet the overharvesting of crabs for eel and conch bait has
brought horseshoe fisheries to near-collapse. In 1990, there was
a spawning population of 1,240,000 crabs in the Delaware Estuary.
Today, there are fewer than 350,000.
"An eeler will pay as much as 85 cents per crab for bait and then
ship his catch to markets in Europe and Japan," said Tim O'Connor
of the Sierra Club Atlantic Coast Ecoregion Program. "Ironically,
the horseshoe crab has been named a national treasure in Japan
and is protected against the kind of abuse that is going on in
the United States."
O'Connor said time is critical because the winter horseshoe crab
harvest is fast approaching. "The horseshoe crab has been saving
us for a long time now," he said. "It's time to return the
To take action:
Write the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service urging them
to make horseshoe crab survival the highest priority and to
develop a long-term management plan. Address letters to: Jack
Dunnigan, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1776
Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20036; Tel: (202)
289-6400; Fax (202) 289-6051; e-mail
Dick Schaffer, National Marine Fisheries Service, Universal South
Bldg., 1825 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20235; Tel:
If you live in Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia or Delaware, please
ask your governor for an immediate moratorium on horseshoe crab
harvesting until a long-range protection plan is implemented.
For more information:
Contact Tim O'Connor at (302) 697-7466;
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