Automakers Gear Up for California Climate Fight

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

By Harry Stoffer
Automotive News / June 14, 2004

WASHINGTON — California's plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in the state would add more than $1,000 to the cost of the average new vehicle by 2015, officials say.

The cost would come from greater use of fuel-saving technologies.

California air quality officials say consumers would offset that expense in part by saving money on gasoline.

The average transaction price of a new vehicle is about $26,000.

California regulators want automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. That goal can be achieved, the regulators assert, through technologies such as cylinder deactivation, direct-injection fuel systems, variable valve lifters and more efficient electrical components.

The California Air Resources Board, or CARB, is responsible for writing the new rules. The board also is looking at changes in vehicle air-conditioning systems.

Automakers vow to fight the rules if they conflict with federal fuel economy standards. Such a clash appears inevitable.

“We would challenge any rule inconsistent” with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program, says Charles Territo, an Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokesman. The alliance represents the Big 3 and six import-brand companies.

Industry officials say California cannot reduce vehicle emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming without also regulating fuel consumption. They insist the federal government alone is responsible for mandating fuel economy.

The state's proposed regulation, applied to current CAFE standards, would require cars to get almost 36 mpg instead of 27.5. Light trucks would have to average about 27 mpg instead of 20.7.
The California proposal would have national and international implications. Several northeastern states that have adopted California's clean air rules also could embrace its greenhouse gas plan.

Carbon dioxide is a chief byproduct of the combustion of gasoline and other fuels. Many scientists say its accumulation is gradually trapping heat near the earth with potentially devastating effects.

Details of California's air quality plan are to be made public this week. A public hearing is set for July 7.

California's government enacted a law in 2002 that directed CARB to adopt the climate-change rules this year. They are scheduled to take effect with the 2009 model year