Four years ago California enacted a law requiring automakers to reduce average fleet greenhouse emissions by 30 percent in a decade. Within a week of being sworn in, President Obama delivered a signal by taking a step closer to backing tighter standards, a move earlier resisted by the Bush administration.
In a February 4 article the BBC's Rajesh Marchandani analyzed whether the technology required is feasible and if drivers would pay it.
California, the nation's largest state in terms of population, has more cars than any other and authorities believe that they are a major contributory factor to global warming and should be targeted in an effort to cut greenhouse gases.
According to Marchandani, "Part of its (California's) plan includes tough new fuel efficiency goals--new cars would have to average 42 miles per gallon, more than twice what most vehicles on America's roads manage."-
Marchandani witnessed a test conducted in a laboratory in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte by the state's Air Resources Board. The BBC reporter observed the testing of a Chevrolet Blazer, a fuel hungry SUV.
"In 20 minutes,"- the reporter related, "it spewed out more than 40kg of carbon dioxide, which equates to around 17 mpg fuel efficiency, far short of the levels California wants."-
A Smart Car was also tested, a lightweight model popular in Europe and beginning to be seen on American roads. In a shorter test it emitted 800g of carbon dioxide, equatable to 36-38mpg. That performance is higher than federal standards approved by the previous Bush administration but lower than California's requirement.
The only car that exceeded 42mpg was a specialty-adapted Toyota Prius. Its boot was taken over by a much larger battery. The Prius is not currently available to buy. This begs the question: When will the new technology be feasibly available?
Supporters of green technology believe that such automobiles will be available by the time the standards kick in in 2016.
John Swanton, an air pollution specialist at the Air Resources Board, estimates that the new technology will add approximately $1,000 to the cost of a new car. Under this estimate drivers should recoup that money in between two and three years due to lower fuel usage.
The costs are disputed by automakers. They estimate that the additional cost could actually reach $5,000 for cleaner cars.
In the view of the BBC's Mirchandani, "The eventual figure may be somewhere between the two. But it is a difficult decision for cash-strapped consumers."-
On a February 3 National Public Radio Broadcast, Charles Territo of the Auto Alliance, as quoted in the Auto Blog Green website, repeated that group's opposition to the state-by-state or even two-tier regulatory system:
"At this difficult time for the industry, and for the economy as a whole, what we need is certainty and consistency, not confusion and chaos."-
With California's freeways and highways spewing noxious carbon dioxide, with lung ailments awaiting those exposed to too much of what is becoming too typical, and with this tendency spreading to dense population areas in other parts of the nation, sweeping change is needed.
On the same NPR broadcast California Attorney General Jerry Brown asserted "that the automakers came begging for a government bailout after people stopped buying their big vehicles, but they continue to fight rules that call for smaller, cleaner vehicles."-