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California’s new gas emission standards shift gears for auto industry

By Jake Greenberg
Originally published in The Daily Bruin

California lawmakers passed new regulations last week that experts say will cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third over the next four decades.

Bringing automobile makers into the discussion, however, marks a major shift in gears from past procedure.

The California Air Resources Board teamed up with major automobile companies like Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and Nissan to pass the new emission standards.

“It’s a positive sign that the (automobile) industry and lawmakers are coming together to make these regulations,” said Glen MacDonald, director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “The result is a compromise that improves the environment but doesn’t cripple the auto industry.”

One of the biggest goals of the new legislation is to promote the production of electric and hybrid cars. By 2050, nearly 90 percent of California vehicles will be either electric or hybrid, said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

Additionally, California is scheduled to reduce its smog-forming pollutants emissions by 75 percent by 2025, he said. This will be relatively easy, he added, because vehicles already emit 99 percent less smog than they did in 1990.

These goals are based on studies and projections produced in part by UCLA researchers over the past few years, MacDonald said.

Car companies should play a part in creating the regulations because they will be producing the new vehicles responsible for those emissions, he said.

“It’s a positive sign that the (automobile) industry and lawmakers are coming together to make these regulations,” MacDonald said. “The result is a compromise that improves the environment but doesn’t cripple the auto industry.”

The Air Resources Board has based the laws on estimates it believes California is capable of meeting, Clegern said.

“These are serious projections based on realistic predictions,” he said.

Concerns about greenhouse gas emissions often focus upon automobiles’ effects on the environment. Currently, 38 percent of greenhouse gases emitted in California come from transportation, said David Peterson, the project manager for the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation’s sustainable mobility and energy projects. Peterson specializes in making electric vehicles more available to families and in studying the technology behind them.

These greenhouse gases are potential contributors to global warming and other environmental issues, he said.

One potential drawback of the new regulations is the initial increase in cost for a low- or zero-emission vehicle because of the increased cost of producing them. The price over time, however, is actually lower than owning a traditional vehicle, Clegern said.

The initial cost of a low- or zero-emission car is about $1,400 to $1,900 more than a traditional one. However, people will generally save about $6,000 within the first five or six years of owning the vehicle because of lower maintenance and fuel prices, Clegern said, based on the board’s statistics.

This is not the first time California has passed impactful regulations aimed at improving the environment. California plays a serious role in promoting environmental causes such as clean air, MacDonald said.

“California has been the first to adopt many of the environmental laws that the entire country now follows, and which have further spread to the rest of the world,” he said. “California’s laws have become the global standard.”