CARB lets automakers slide on zero-emissions ‘mandate’

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 4/15/2008

The California Air Resources Board is fleshing out ways to regulate greenhouse gases from six sectors, including transportation. This pie chart shows that 74 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from passenger vehicles, while heavy duty trucks, buses, motor vehicles and others combine to emit about 20 percent. (Source: CARB December 2007)

The California Air Resources Board agreed last month to weaken its requirement that major automakers put zero-emission vehicles on the road between 2012 and 2014, frustrating environmentalists.

CARB, however, did agree to require the six largest automakers to sell about 60,000 plug-in hybrid cars in the Golden State as they develop zero-emission engines.

On March 27, CARB members decided to cut the number of electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles sold by automakers from 25,000 to 7,500. The 25,000 number was reached in recent years after CARB famously pushed back a previous mandate for zero-emission vehicles – as shown in the documentary film “Who killed the electric car?”

Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Chrysler LLC and Nissan Motor Co. must comply with the rules.

CARB officials say the plan to limit zero-emission vehicles or ZEV, will help advance plug-in electric/gas hybrid technologies that offer more immediate availability.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist, has met with CARB officials on behalf of truckers.

Rajkovacz said while CARB has driven increasingly restrictive emissions measures at the trucking industry, the agency has avoided tough measures for California’s largest single greenhouse gas pollution source: passenger vehicles.

“It’s not politically palatable to go after 35 million Californians,” Rajkovacz said. “It’s a whole lot easier to go after a few thousand truck drivers. Unless you start putting restrictions on the 35 million car drivers, you’re not solving the problem. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound.”

OOIDA leaders aren’t the only ones with that opinion.

Representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists have said CARB’s move was “a step backward” for ultra-clean cars.

“CARB just made it harder for the state to do what it needs to do to meet its goal: put the cleanest vehicle technology on the road,” said Spencer Quong, senior vehicle analyst for the scientists’ environmental group.

CARB officials, however, said last month’s change will lead to more immediate gains in emissions cuts from vehicles.

“Today’s decision will lead to more green auto choices for consumers now while keeping the pressure on the automotive engineers to continue fine tuning the technologies that will yield an all electric-drive vehicle fleet for California in the near future,” CARB Chairman Mary Nichols stated in a news release.

GM is working on a hybrid it plans to start selling by 2010, according to The Associated Press.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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