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Europe seeks to limit car emissions

Automakers that exceed standards would face fines under the EU plan, which Germany says would hurt its economy.

December 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

BRUSSELS — Automobile manufacturers will have to limit car emissions in Europe by 2012 or face big fines under a European Union plan.

The plan, released Wednesday, needs the approval of the 27 EU governments to take effect.

It quickly drew fire. Environmentalists said it was too weak. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it would hurt her country's economy. And automakers, which employ 2.3 million people in the EU, said it might force them to locate elsewhere.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas acknowledged that the regulations could add 1,300 euros ($1,874) to the price of a car. But he said that would be offset by the 2,700 euros ($3,892) drivers would save in fuel over the lives of their cars.

"Passenger cars account for about 12% of overall EU carbon dioxide emissions and emissions from transport are continually increasing," Dimas said. "The aim of the legislation is to reduce CO2 emissions from cars in order to help fight climate change."

Merkel said that Germany -- home to high-end automakers such as Daimler, BMW, Audi and Porsche -- wanted emissions reduced but believed that "the path that was chosen is not economically beneficial."

"We think that industrial policy is being made here at the expense of Germany and German automakers, and so we are not satisfied with the result," she said.

German statistics show that BMW and Daimler would have to cut average emissions by about 25%. The proposal would force automakers to reduce average carbon dioxide emissions from new cars sold in the EU from about 160 grams per kilometer to 130 grams starting in 2012.

"I think it's a very fair proposal," Dimas said.

Dimas had first proposed a tougher limit of 120 grams. That was scaled back because of opposition from the German government and the car industry.

California, which is leading U.S. vehicle emission cuts, is seeking to limit emissions to 128 grams per kilometer by 2016. However, the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday denied the state's request for a waiver to allow it to implement its own standards.

Under the EU plan, makers of gas guzzlers, like sport utility vehicles or luxury cars, could pool their fleets with those of companies making of lower-emitting cars to meet the 130-gram target. That was seen as a partial cave-in to lobbying by German carmakers.

And manufacturers like Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini, which make high-end luxury racers and sell fewer than 10,000 cars a year, would be exempt.

The plan calls for fines for automakers whose fleets' average emissions exceed the limit. The fines would start at 20 euros ($28.83) per gram per kilometer, multiplied by the number of cars sold. It would rise to 95 euros ($136.95) by 2015.

Statistics from Germany and the EU show that many automakers, including Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., would face fines unless they reduced emissions significantly. Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Mazda Motor Corp. and Volkswagen would also have to make cuts.

The proposal is part of the EU's push to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 20% from 1990 levels over the next 13 years.

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