California paves the way in the US in greenhouse gas reductions

A bill that would impose new restrictions on exhaust emissions of cars and light trucks was given final approval in the Assembly in California this Monday, reports the US media. If this legislation is passed, the automobile industries will be forced to develop technologies to reduce greenhouse gases in exhaust emissions.

The decision was taken only a week after the decision of Californian Air Resource Board (CARB) to raise California’s particulate matter standards to possibly one of the strictest levels in the world (see related story) and confirms the active position of California in environmental matters.

To be enforced, the bill needs to be signed by Governor Gray Davies, which seems more than likely following his recent declarations that “if this bill is close to the form it was in when I last read it, I’ll be happy to sign it”, reports The Mercury News. Davies believes that it is time for states to take responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases.

The bill, rather than specifying by how much emissions should be cut, directs the CARB, to develop by 2005 a plan for the “maximum feasible reduction” in emissions of greenhouse gases from millions of sport utility vehicles, minivans, cars and trucks. This bill would authorize the state board to impose administrative penalties as an alternative to seeking out civil penalties for certain violations.

The final version of the bill does not, however, specify in what ways the emissions should be cut, leaving room for a number of alternative approaches. In all likelihood, the industry will have to design cars that consume less fuel and thus emit less carbon dioxide, by developing fuel-saving technologies such as hybrid engines that use gasoline and electricity, continuously variable transmissions or special starter-generators that shut off idling engines. The automobile industries are far from eager to invest in such expensive technologies and the research required to develop them. If the legislation goes through, it is likely to face a legal challenge by these automobile industries with the debate hinging on whether California can regulate carbon dioxide because of their special status under the Clean Air Act.

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