In general, experts said the standard demands a technology "evolution," not a "revolution." But with EPA and California now involved, that could change after 2016.
California is the only state that can set its own tailpipe emissions standards. Other states can follow its lead. For four decades, its regulations have driven technology advances in the auto industry, such as catalytic converters to the first viable all-electric vehicles.
More 'forcing' rules by 2016?
The state's goal, for example, of electrifying a portion of its vehicle fleet by the late 1990s and early 2000s was a big stretch that didn't work out as planned, but it pushed manufactures to spend research and development money and develop General Motors Corp.'s famous EV1, said Belzowski. And today's national greenhouse gas standard only emerged after a decadelong fight and a deal struck last year to head off California's rules.
Already, California is discussing new greenhouse gas standards that would take effect after 2016 and take the nation sometime into the 2020s. This time, environmentalists hope EPA and the Transportation Department get into discussion early.
Mesnikoff said EPA's greenhouse gas regulatory authority also brings new leverage that can go beyond the Transportation Department's traditional authority.
Automakers, she said, can't pay EPA a fee that buys them out of compliance. EPA, like California, can issue "technology forcing" standards that take a longer-term planning horizon. DOT is stuck issuing new fuel economy rules for five-year periods and so must listen harder to what the auto industry says is possible.
And less than in the past, the government will no longer have to take manufacturers at their word on that. With stakes in two of the "Big Three" automakers of Detroit, the federal government is more privy to the companies' research and devolvement plans, Belzowski noted.
That leaves environmentalists hoping for an even more stringent iteration that pushes technology shifts, including more hybrids and an advanced electric vehicle push. "Our hope and expectation is that this is anything but the end," Mesnikoff said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500