March 16-22, 2006
City Beat : ArticleTwo Minutes With Ted Leonard
AAA’s Pennsylvania executive director
Two minutes with Ted Leonard, AAA's Pennsylvania executive director
Ever since word got out that AAA was lobbying against the Clean Air Act in Harrisburg, many people have been crusading against the automotive group. The latest attack came in the form of a computer-animated cartoon on www.cleanair.org depicting AAA employees as vicious, fecal-slinging monkeys. Ouch.
Well, AAA says it's getting a bum rap, and wants to clear the air.
City Paper: What is AAA's official stance on the Clean Air Act?
Ted Leonard: AAA has supported that. Who is against clean air? The ongoing debate currently is how do we got there [to a state of clean air]. We are looking to find the most cost-effective way of doing so.
CP: There is a bandwagon filled with people against AAA because of what they believe are AAA's views on clean air. How do you feel about this misconception and its result?
TL: People who say AAA is against the Clean Air Act, that is just irresponsible. AAA puts on programs that help keep cars maintained. And November is Clean Cars Month. We have consistently been an advocate for cars being tuned up, which increases their fuel efficiency.
CP: What does AAA hope the Federal Tier II plan can accomplish that the California LEV can't? [There are two emissions plans under consideration: the current Federal Tier II and the proposed California LEV. Having determined that the two are similar when it comes to car emissions, AAA supported the existing program since it offers more choices to consumers.]
TL: We have always advocated for consumer choice. The California LEV program prohibits light-duty diesel vehicles under 8,500 pounds. These vehicles just would not meet the emissions requirements. The Environmental Protection Agency Web site shows that four of the top seven most fuel-efficient cars are diesels, right up there with the hybrids. Diesels are becoming more popular because of their fuel efficiency. In Europe, they mainly use diesels. Especially considering the cost of gas over there, they have to. And these vehicles are starting to take hold over here, although people begin to panic when they see a dark puff emerge from the tailpipe of these vehicles. But in fact they are much, much cleaner.
CP: Is AAA's decision to support the Clean Air Act with the exception of the California LEV in part due to the Auto Buying Program that AAA has set in place with many car dealerships?
TL: They are really unrelated. You can get a car that is manufactured toward your own specifications and can have either kind of model, the Federal Tier II or the California LEV.
CP: AAA has cited that larger cars are safer, which is one reason for supporting the Federal Tier II plan. But a recent study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reported that "SUVs in child-involved State Farm crashes increased from 15 percent in 1999 to 26 percent in 2004, while the percentage of passenger cars decreased from a high of 54 percent in 1999 to 43 percent in 2004." How would you respond to this?
TL: I'm not familiar with the study, but when child safety is concerned, many people improperly install and use child safety seats, which AAA is trying to correct through their Traffic and Safety programs and the rental of car seats.