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New standards bode well for electric cars

As a Baltimore County lawmaker and statewide environmental advocate drove a demonstrative lap around a Charles Village block in an electric car Wednesday, whatever sound made by the Nissan Leaf was drowned by louder vehicles rumbling south on St. Paul Street.

Environment Maryland organizer Sam Feigenbaum (left) talks with Del. Dana M. Stein, D-Baltimore County, at Wednesday’s event.

The fuel efficient cars don’t make much noise. But by 2030, an Environment Maryland organizer says the cars’ drivers could be cheering at the gas pump.

A Natural Resources Defense Council analysis projects that Obama administration’s standards for carbon pollution and fuel efficiency will result in $1.2 billion in annual driver savings starting in 2030, with most of those savings accruing through less frequent trips to the gas station.

Regulations are expected to require the average new car or light truck to run 54.5 miles for every gallon of gasoline burnt, about double the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks driven today. Carbon emissions are expected to be reduced by 5.7 million metric tons — about the equivalent of taking more than 860,000 of today’s vehicles off the road.

“President Obama’s new clean car standards will be a historic leap forward in the effort to tackle global warming and move Maryland and the U.S. off oil,” said Sam Feigenbaum, an organizer for Environment Maryland.

Feigenbaum was joined outside the advocacy group’s Baltimore headquarters by Del. Dana M. Stein, a Baltimore County Democrat who is among the biggest environmental boosters in the General Assembly.

Stein pointed to recent extreme weather events, such as June’s vicious storm that knocked out power in some areas for more than a week, and the ensuing record-high temperature days, as proof that lowering carbon pollution remains a desperate need.

“[The] clean car standards represent a triple win for the American people,” the delegate said. “They will reduce our dependence on oil imports, help fight global warming and reduce the cost of driving.”

The standards, expected to be released in the next several weeks, come as gas prices are on the rise. In Maryland, the average price for a gallon is $3.51, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Gov. Martin O’Malley asked the legislature to consider applying Maryland’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline during the 90-day regular legislative session.

But lawmakers, already being asked to raise income taxes on individuals earning more than $100,000 a year and couples earning more than $150,000, had no appetite for another tax increase, especially with already-high gas prices.

Before the summer was hijacked by issues surrounding casino gambling, a special session to discuss a gas tax to fund the Transportation Trust Fund was suggested by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s. The tax question could be raised again during the regular legislative session in 2013.