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Standards will limit tailpipe emissions

Nationwide rules will raise the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 34.1 mpg, in the federal government's first action to curb greenhouse gases under the Clear Air Act.

April 02, 2010|By Margot Roosevelt

Eight years ago, Fran Pavley, an obscure California assemblywoman and former civics teacher, proposed something that no government had ever done before: a law to slash the carbon dioxide spewing from auto tailpipes, a major source of climate change.

Thursday, after an epic struggle in which California and other states battled car manufacturers and the George W. Bush administration on global warming to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first nationwide regulations to control greenhouse gases from vehicles took effect, modeled on Pavley's law.

"I'm very gratified," said a beaming Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), now a state senator, who attended a news conference with environmentalists at Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A. "This will reduce air pollution, reduce consumer costs at the pump. . . . These new technologies pay for themselves in a very short time."

The standards, negotiated by the Obama administration with the states, auto industry, Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department, will raise the fleet-wide average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 34.1 miles per gallon in 2016, an increase of 7.7 mpg from today, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 26%. The tighter standards could drive up the average price of vehicles by $926, but officials say that will be offset by savings of $3,000 in overall fuel costs.

Nationally, transportation accounts for 28% of the greenhouse gas emissions scientists say have begun to disrupt Earth’s climate. Only electricity generation produces more.

The rules mark the first time the federal government has curbed global warming emissions under the Clean Air Act, and environmentalists credited California's pioneering fight to regulate such emissions from cars. Congress is considering legislation that could curb future state efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, as well as EPA's authority to do so under the Clean Air Act.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Assn., criticized the tailpipe rule as "harmful," adding that it could "lead next year to the regulation of stationary-source emissions of greenhouse gases. Such misguided and flawed policy has the potential for devastating consequences to American consumers, businesses, jobs and the economy."

California has adopted the nation's most sweeping climate legislation to slash the state's carbon footprint 15% by 2020. Emissions from power plants, factories and other industries would be capped, and firms could trade pollution permits to lower costs. Northeastern states have a regional cap-and-trade program for utilities.

"The clean car standards issued today show the extraordinary value of state leadership and EPA action under the current Clean Air Act," said David Doniger, climate policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Current state and EPA authority should be preserved, not preempted, in any new law."

margot.roosevelt@latimes.com

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