California air regulator linked to car and oil firms

Dan Sperling, second from right, at press conference with Gov. Schwarzenegger in January.

It is barely two weeks since the California Air Resources Board disappointed electric car advocates when it voted to lower the number of Zero Emission Vehicles required by its program. The cost to the car industry was cited at the time as a prime reason for the reduction.

Today the spotlight returns to the powerful California agency with an article in the LA Times that exposes the links between Board Member Dan Sperling's UC Institute and auto and oil companies. Sperling, a one-time advocate of electric cars, says he saw the effects of advocating positions at odds with the preferences of industry.

"I lost funding [for the institute] from the Detroit car companies for many years, and I realized I should not be taking those policy positions unless it was really well-grounded," he said. Well over half of the private contributions to the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis come from the car and oil industries. Most of its funding comes from the government, including CARB.

Sperling has become a forceful advocate for the Gov. Schwarzenegger's hydrogen highway project and the automakers' preferred zero-emission vehicle type: those with hydrogen fuel cell. The powerful Board has been the center of controversy since the previous Chair, Robert Sawyer, was fired by Gov. Schwarzenegger last year.

[Source: Los Angeles Times, photo source: UC Davis]

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