"Everyone can have a Hummer, now."

Toyota has announced that the 2004 Toyota Prius will be available in October, 2003 for an MSRP of $19,995. The new Prius is larger (now classified as a mid-size), yet still gets 59 miles per gallon in city driving, Toyota claims. The hybrid gasoline-electric Prius is classified as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emmission Vehicle (AT-PZEV), meeting the AT-PZEV standards written by the California Air Resources Board. According to Toyota, the new Prius, using California fuel, reduces total emissions by 90% versus the average vehicle.

If every car were like the 2004 Prius, the demand for Middle East oil would be dramatically lower, and the air would be dramatically cleaner. Why isn't every car like the 2004 Prius?

The Bush administration has refused to promote hybrid technology, which it could do by increasing mileage standards and encouraging low-emission vehicles. Instead Bush supports hydrogen fuel cell technology, which will not be a practical car technology until long after Bush's buddies are retired from the oil business. The Bush administration supported an auto industry lawsuit to overturn California's Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, but the lawsuit was recently dropped, allowing the mandate to proceed.

(Howard Dean, by contrast, would encourage hybrids with a 40 MPG fuel efficiency standard.)

With Bush in the White House and Congress in Republican hands, automakers will continue to make cars that use much more fuel and create much more pollution than is necessary with today's technology. Only the State of California, with its Zero Emission Program, is forcing the automakers to make more environmentally sound cars like the Prius. That's why the Toyota website states that the Prius meets California AT-PZEV standards.

The California standards have been supported by Gov. Davis and California Democrats. Last year, Davis signed into law a regulation to cut auto emissions of greenhouse gases.

Will Governor Arnold be as enthusiastic? Schwarzenegger has driven Hummers since obtaining a Humvee after the first Gulf War. He received a gift of a Hummer H2 at the 2002 debut party for the new H2.

California's auto emission standards, just unblocked by the dropped lawsuit, will be implemented with regulations written by the California Air Resources Board, appointed by the governor.

As Arnold said last year: "Everyone can have a Hummer now."

The recall election could have implications far beyond the borders of California-- all the way to the ozone layer.