September 25, 2004


California Backs Plan for Big Cut in Car Emissions: If the plan survives legal challenges, it would force automakers to increase sharply the fuel efficiency of millions of vehicles. (DANNY HAKIM, 9/25/04, NY Times)

Industry officials said the plan would lead them to restrict sales of large sport utility vehicles and high- performance sports cars in the state. Regulators, including the state's staff of engineers, sharply disputed that and said the industry already had much of the technology to comply on the shelf or, in the case of gas-electric hybrid cars, on the road.

With seven other states in the East following California's lead on air quality regulations, the plan could potentially affect about 30 percent of the market. That would present automakers with tough choices about whether to build different vehicles for different markets or develop a unified nationwide strategy to meet the demands of California and the other states.

A representative from New York reiterated on Thursday the state's support for California's measure.

But the plan still faces an expected legal challenge on multiple fronts from automakers and could also be blocked by the Bush administration. For years, the industry has tied up previous state efforts to regulate air quality, but regulators say that they have learned from those battles and that they believe they will prevail in court.

Automakers, in sometimes combative testimony, strongly opposed the measure, saying it would be far more expensive than the state projected and that regulators are straying far beyond their traditional role of curbing local air pollution.

The industry also dismissed as unproved the board staff's presentation of a broad overview of scientific evidence on the health effects of global warming.

The regulation would require the industry to cut roughly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide and other emissions scientists have linked to climate change trends. The standards would phase in from the 2009 to the 2016 model years, with each automaker's annual new car and truck offerings required to meet increasingly stringent limits.

But the industry said critics sharply underestimated the costs of meeting the standard. The board's staff projected that the regulation would add about $1,000 to the initial cost of an average new vehicle but that gasoline savings over time would more than make up for that. The industry said it would cost an extra $3,000, much more than the potential fuel savings.

The board's staff gave some ground, but not much, modifying its cost savings projections to $2,142 from $2,691 - fuel savings minus higher upfront costs.

Anyone wanna bet they sell the same number of SUV's just making them lighter and more efficient by using composites to replace steel? It'll be more expensive initially but we've got more money than we know what to do with, which is why we're all driving SUVs in the first place and they'll save money in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2004 8:43 AM

The other element of great significance here is that it is happening in other states, and one can assume the people involved in various states are in communication if not concert with each other.

In other words, they are telling the Federal Government, "if you will not act, we will".

Vive la revolucion'!

Posted by: Andrew X at September 25, 2004 9:13 AM

I believe the auto industry is on solid ground when it argues California doesn't have this authority.

The CARB is out of control and needs some adult supervision.

Posted by: J Baustian at September 25, 2004 11:48 AM

Anybody wanna bet that we simply keep our old pickups and SUVs (the ones that can actually haul and tow a useful payload) that much longer? That's called the "jalopy effect", oj. Particularly with so many diesel pickups on the road (they can go 250 -300K if you take care of them; then you get the engine rebuilt & start all over.) Which is what I plan on doing.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 25, 2004 12:29 PM

Wait until Californians go to the dealers and discover that the only cars for sale look like the ones I saw in Copenhagen. They'll have to hitch a trailer to bring home the groceries from a trip to Sam's Club.

Posted by: ray at September 25, 2004 5:21 PM

Concerning the "hard decision" about whether to sell different models in the highly regulated states and the rest of the country: I think that's what's most likely going to happen. An ever proliferating variety of styles and vehicle types has been a trend in the auto industry for a long time.

And conerning whether the technology to comply already exists - check this out:
Gas/electric hybrid technology goes truckin' for 2005. Here's a look at the hybrid sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks that will debut for 2005, including the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV, Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV, Lexus RX 400h SUV Hybrid, and the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra Hybrid Pickup Truck."

Posted by: ralph phelan at September 25, 2004 8:50 PM

The composites to make them lighter but stronger exist too--we'll just have to spend some upfront money

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2004 8:54 PM

First. I have long believed that there are no technological fixes for resource allocation and use problems. Here is an except of a story that illustrates why:

Miserable on the Job?
It Could Be the Lighting

By Jared Sandberg

June 11, 2004

The fax machine may be maddening and the computer may promote hostility, but no office gear can put you in a funk as quickly as fluorescent lighting. . .

Commercial builders love fluorescent lights because they're so efficient. They run on about a quarter of the electricity that incandescent bulbs require, and they last roughly 10 times as long. The problem is, most office workers end up getting a lot more fluorescent light than they need, pretty much canceling out that efficiency. Many companies also leave their lights on all night long, probably because no one can find the switch. It's an example of how corporations, as they attempt to maximize efficiency, often minimize it instead.

"The lighting in most offices is much brighter than it needs to be, especially with computers," producing glare and eyestrain, says James LaMotte, a professor of optometry at the Southern California College of

"People apply efficient lighting stupidly," adds Naomi Miller, who runs her own design firm and formerly worked at Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute's Lighting Research Center. "There are a heck of a lot of offices that are very badly lit."

Third. The CA proposal, like its cousin CAFE, will have very little effect other than allowing politicians to posture and preen. Such rules affect only new cars bought after they go into effect. Since the automotive fleet in the United States turns over at about 7% a year ( See Statistical Abstracts of the United States Tables 1035 and 1085) it would take about 15 years for the whole fleet to be converted to vehicles of the new type in the ordinary course. (In California you don't have highway salt and rust forcing the issue)

However, because the vehicles conforming to the new rules will be more expensive than the ones they replace, the replacement cycle will be stretched out and the beneficial impact of the rule, if any (see above), will be delayed for a long period of time.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 27, 2004 1:50 AM


> Anybody wanna bet that we simply keep our old pickups and SUVs
> ... that much longer?

Our '94 Suburban (the only car we've ever bought new) is in amazingly good shape at 150k. Move over Volvo! Forget about the Moon and back, we're trying for Mars...


> whether to sell different models in the highly regulated states
> and the rest of the country:

Well, they did it before, didn't they?

Posted by: Kirk Parker at September 27, 2004 4:28 AM


We have a long time.

Posted by: oj at September 27, 2004 8:45 AM