California may issue greenhouse-gas order to automakers
Sep. 22California is expected this week to order automakers to cut "greenhouse gases" from passenger cars, trucks and SUVs, becoming the first state in the nation to try to combat global warming.
Beginning in 2009, new vehicles sold in California would have refined catalytic converters, newly designed air-conditioning systems and a host of engine changes that would result in greater fuel economy and less carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emitted from the tailpipe.
"Cars are going to be cleaner, they're going to run better, they're certainly going to operate better in their lifetime. But the technology is going to cost more upfront," said Jerry Martin, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, which will vote on the rules during a two-day meeting that starts Thursday in Los Angeles.
The board estimates the changes would add about $1,000 to the sticker price of an average vehicle.
Automakers oppose the proposed rules, saying the cost increase would be closer to $3,000 per vehicle and would not provide a measurable drop in air pollution.
"They didn't identify any improvement in air quality or a single health benefit from this expensive regulation," said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents Ford, BMW, Toyota and six other carmakers.
The group has said it expects to fight the rule in court.
Opponents also have said the state is trying to set fuel economy standards for vehicles, which only the federal government can regulate. They also protest the proposed limit on carbon dioxide, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regard as an air pollutant.
But environmental groups have pushed hard for the regulations, which they hope will spur similar greenhouse gas limits in other states.
"California is already the international leader in smog control technologies," said Dr. John Balmes, division chief of environmental medicine at San Francisco General Hospital and a volunteer with the American Lung Association of California. "Now we must become the leader in technologies that reduce global warming pollution, and slow the warming process of our planet."
The rules are intended to cut greenhouse gases by 30 percent by 2016 under a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2002.
California vehicle emissions are about 2 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions and less than 1 percent of worldwide emissions.
Some researchers have said a slight increase in average temperature could potentially lead to more smog, as ground level ozone is formed when pollutants react in sunlight.
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