California Challenges Obama Administration’s MPG Standard

Feb 03, 2010

California officials have threatened to pull out of a historic compromise with U.S. automakers and the Obama administration for a 35.5 MPG fuel economy standard by 2016 unless federal regulators side with the state on two key disputes.

The warning from California has triggered concern among Detroit automakers that the state could decide to enforce its own rules for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, setting off a wave of state-by-state laws rather than the national standards set by the Obama administration.

In a recent federal filing, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) said the Obama administration needs to address two concerns in the final version “to ensure California’s continued support.”

“What we wanted to do is convey the level of importance for these two issues,” said CARB spokesman Stanley Young.

The Obama administration is considering CARB’s comments.

“We’d be very disappointed if California or any other stakeholder were looking to back out or change the terms,” said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokesman Charles Territo.

CARB wants federal regulators to lower proposed credits for zero-emissions vehicles, which include hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

Environmental groups and CARB contend the credits are too generous and could allow automakers to shirk improvements in non-electric models. CARB also argues that electric vehicles contribute some greenhouse gases because they draw electricity from carbon-generating power plants.

California regulators also want the administration to reject a proposal from the alliance to ease the phase-in of the standards between 2012 and 2015, with a larger increase for the 2016 model year to reach the 35.5 MPG target.

Automakers said the change would ease the phase-in of new technology needed to meet the goals.

Photo courtesy of cliff1066TM under the Creative Commons License.