California sets tough new clean car standards

Jeremy Hance
January 30, 2012

The U.S. state that takes climate change most seriously—California—has unanimously approved new rules dubbed the Advanced Clean Cars program to lower carbon emissions, reduce oil dependence, mitigate health impacts from pollution, and save consumers money in the long-term. According to the new standards, by 2025 cars sold in California must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent and smog emissions by 75 percent. The program will also require 15.4 percent of all cars sold in California to be zero or near-zero emissions by 2025.

"[The Advanced Clean Cars Program will] cut dangerous air pollution, create new jobs and drive investments in the fast-growing clean energy economy," said Erica Morehouse, an analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in a press release. "Because this program will be done in parallel with national standards, all Americans will reap the many environmental, health and economic benefits this program offers."

Several large automakers—Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, and Nissan—also supported the new rules. While some have opposed the regulations because they would drive up the price for a new car, the board said higher costs would easily be made up by the new vehicles consuming less fuel and other benefits.

"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," board spokesman David Clegern said as reported by the AP. The regulations, which took 3 years to develop, are expected to cut oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day by 2025.

California, whose regulations are often tougher than the federal government's, has long been in the driver's seat on U.S. emissions and smog regulations with ten states to date adopting California's smog rules as their own.

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Notes to ponder

NASA claims that the government could slow down worldwide global warming by cutting down on soot emissions. Studies by NASA show that cutting down on soot would not only have an immediate cooling effect, but would also put a stop to many of the deaths caused by air pollution. When soot is formed, it typically travels through the air absorbing and releasing solar radiation which in turn begins to warm the atmosphere. Cutting soot emissions would be an immediate help against global warming, as the soot would quickly fall out of the atmosphere and begin to cool it down.

Cutting back on soot emissions would buy us time in our fight against global warming. Soot is caused by the partial burning of fossil fuels, wood and vegetation. Soot is known to contain over forty different cancer causing chemicals, and a complete cut would offer untold health benefits worldwide.

Environmental conservation has always been a topic for lengthy discussions, but up until recent times, global warming and climate changes were vague subjects, with no hard proof. Not surprisingly, the previous lack of attention to these issues have created a very gloomy outlook on our future. So, considering all this, what could be the biggest contributor to climate changes through global warming? Transportation - the man-made iron horses, flying machines and sea monsters, so to speak.

The question we have now is how green is our transportation? The majority of the worlds' vehicles are fueled by oil (petrol, diesel and kerosene). Even if they rely on electricity, the stations used to generate this electricity use fossil fuels for power! Excluding vehicle manufacture, transportation is responsible for 14% of the artificially created greenhouse emissions, mostly carbondioxide.

Automobiles, trains and planes are all responsible for this problem, but cars are the highest impact-makers. They release approximately six times more carbondioxide than a plane and seven times more than sea vessels.

What is Air Pollution?

Air pollution is somewhat difficult to define because many air pollutants, at low concentrations, are essential nutrients for the sustainable development of ecosystems. So, air pollution could be defined as:A state of the atmosphere, which leads to the exposure of human beings and/or ecosystems to such high levels or loads of specific compounds or mixtures thereof, that damage is caused. With very few exceptions, all compounds that are considered air pollutants have both natural as well as human-made origins.

Air pollution is not a new phenomenon; in Medieval times, the burning of coal was forbidden in London while Parliament was in session. Air pollution problems have dramatically increased in intensity as well as scale due to the increase in emissions since the Industrial Revolution.