SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The head of California's air quality board
on Thursday called proposed rules that would require automakers to
build less-polluting cars and trucks by 2025 a historic move for a
California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols said she
hopes the rules to require that vehicles emit about 75 percent less
smog-producing pollutants will "lead the nation and the world."
The new standards, which also include big cuts in greenhouse gas
pollutants, would begin with new cars sold in 2015, and get
increasingly more stringent until 2025.
"We can't afford to wait. We have to act on these issues now,"
she said at the panel's meeting. "Our projections show continued
growth in population and vehicle miles traveled, which will affect
air quality for years to come."
The state's smog emissions standards are often more strict than
federal ones, which means other states often adopt them as their
Fourteen other states, including Washington, New Jersey, New
York and Massachusetts, have adopted California's current emissions
goals, which is why the new regulations could have a wide-ranging
Of those states, 10 also adopted the zero-emission vehicle
standards as well.
The new package of regulations, which could be voted on as early
as Thursday, would also require that one in every seven new cars
sold in the state in 2025 be a zero emission or plug-in hybrid
The new rules will continue the state's first-in-the-nation
greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks, which went
into effect in 2009. This time, the greenhouse gas reduction
element was designed with federal regulators so that it will match
national standards expected to be passed later this year.
"When we did the first greenhouse gas standards, it was war,"
said Tom Cackette, deputy director of the board, referring to legal
challenges from auto dealers and business groups after the state
passed the initial greenhouse gas emissions limits.
"They sued us in two federal courts. Fortunately, from our
viewpoint, they lost. Over that time, with the increase in gas
prices, the shake-up in the auto industry brought new management
which looked at the future. Where's our future? It's not profits
next quarter but how do we make a sustainable business."
In addition to new smog and greenhouse gas emissions limits, the
regulations being voted on also includes a new zero-emissions
vehicle mandate. The goal is to have 1.4 million zero-emission and
plug-in hybrids on California roads by 2025. But the program also
looks ahead to 2050, laying groundwork for a goal of having 87
percent of the state's fleet of new vehicles fueled by electricity,
hydrogen fuel cells or other clean technologies.
"This regulation is planned over a 40-year horizon, and that is
extremely unusual," said board spokesman David Clegern. "But it
gives us time to put the pieces in place with no surprises. The
individual companies can plan for changes and develop the
technology, and over the long haul, it will shift us away from
reliance on petroleum."
The board's meeting comes just three days after federal
regulators met in San Francisco to hear public comment on the Obama
administration's national fuel economy standards, the most
far-reaching in history. If passed later this year, they would
require the average passenger car to reach a 54.5-mph standard by
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 13 automakers, CARB
and others worked together so that when the federal government
passes its greenhouse gas emissions limits later this year, they
will match California's and create one national standard.
Some automakers said the market for clean car technology is
already spurring the technology and innovation the regulations seek
"Yes, the cars will be lighter, compact, far more fuel
efficient. That's what the mandate will be. It's not enforced by
the government but really by the economics of the future," said
Michael Dobrin, a spokesman for Toyota.
Yet some auto dealers have argued that the government's emphasis
on strict pollution controls will result in much higher prices for
Forrest McConnell, director of the National Automobile Dealers
Association, testified during the federal hearing Tuesday that
tightening fuel efficiency standards will result in unaffordable
"We all want better fuel economy, but it is not free. By adding
$3,200, if not more, to the average cost of a car, over seven
million Americans will be priced out of the market, fleet turnover
will be reduced, and public policy benefits will be delayed,"
Other dealers say consumer demand for electric and hybrid
vehicles is not what the board hopes it is.
The California New Car Dealers Association says hybrid vehicles,
which have been marketed and sold for 13 years, only make up 2.1
percent of the national market, and 4.1 percent of California's
market. They say the goal of making one of every seven new cars
sold in California a zero-emission vehicle in roughly the same
amount of time is unrealistic.
"Rather than setting vehicle manufacturers, new car dealers,
and alternative vehicles themselves up for another predictable
failure, (the board) should adjust the mandate to reflect a goal
that is realistic and attainable," said Jonathan Morrison, the
state dealers' association's director of legal and regulatory
The air board's research and environmental advocates dispute
those cost increase estimates, and say increases in hybrid and
other sales continue to rise as more cars hit the market. They
argue that fuel cost savings will make up for any vehicle price
"Our research shows a $1,400 to $1,900 car price increase, but
over the life of the vehicles, the owners save $6,000 in reduced
fuel and maintenance costs," said Clegern.