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US Senators Introduce Bill to Nationalize California Tailpipe Greenhouse Gas Standard

US Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (both R-ME) have introduced a measure (S.1073) that would require automakers to reduce new vehicle greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2002 levels by 2016. This would nationalize California’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas reduction standard. The EPA would be required to tighten the reductions every five years.

The bill also requires fuel suppliers to increase the percentage of low-carbon fuels—biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol E85, hydrogen, electricity, and others—in the motor vehicle fuel supply by 2015. This would reduce emissions from motor vehicle fuels by 10% below projected levels by 2030.

It’s clear that if we are serious about addressing the global warming challenge, reducing emissions from the use of motor vehicles must be a top priority. With more than 240 million vehicles on the road, this one sector alone produces 32% of all US greenhouse gas emissions. So, this legislation would slash emissions from this sector by 22% below anticipated levels by 2030.

—Senator Feinstein

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his support for this legislation and urged members of Congress to pass the legislation immediately. Earlier this year, Schwarzenegger ordered a Low Carbon Fuel Standard bill to require fuel producers in California to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases on a full lifecycle basis by 10% by 2020. (Earlier post.) 

Other components of the bill include:

  • By 2009, EPA must quantify the total emissions of each fuel, including emissions created during production, transportation, and end-use (or the lifecycle of a fuel).

  • EPA to develop a fuel labeling process to provide this information to consumers at the pump.

  • By 2015, require oil refiners and importers to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the entire motor vehicle fuel pool by 3% below 2007 levels. Each five years thereafter, fuel providers would have to reduce emissions of the motor vehicle fuel pool by another 3% below the current level in that year.

  • Establish a carbon-credit trading program to help fuel providers meet the emissions reduction target levels.

  • Require automakers to optimize vehicles that run on gasoline and low-carbon fuels to achieve better fuel economy when powered by low-carbon fuels. Currently, these vehicles are optimized to run on traditional gasoline.

  • Require automakers to use a green fuel cap for all vehicles powered by low-carbon fuels. This would alert consumers that these vehicles can use low-carbon fuels.

Senator Feinstein has also introduced legislation for a national cap-and trade program for the electricity sector (S.317); and increasing the fuel economy for cars, trucks and SUVs by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years (S.357). Two other bills, a national cap-and-trade program for the industrial sector and a national energy efficiency program are in progress.




The bill will be D.O.A. The big 4 (toyota included) will make sure of it. When peak oil does indeed arrive , the free market (consummers ) will demand lower fuel consumption vehicles ,The auto makers (free market) will respond, and co2 from transportation will drop with it. It all comes down to no action until the consummer wallet starts bleeding real money.


The dems have a fighting chance to get all of this through.Note the repubs aligned with the feinstein bill.Industry is beginning to call for legislation because they cant finance projects until carbon laws are determined.
I recall the stock price of tobacco companies surging upward after the gov forced a settlement that required them to pay billions.it was bad news but it clarified the business path in the future and allowed them to rebuild their business model to match the facts on the ground.
Also, keep in mind that global warming has reached a point of acceptance beyond a point where detractors can blithely dismiss it.Coupled to global warming is fuel independence and security.This can marry two crowds together that dont normally agree on much.It gives cover to pols to make concessions to the other party and still crow to constituents that they obtained results for either the planet or for god and country.
The legislation may not survive one hundred percent as proposed but the major thrust has areal chance of being pushed through this session.


I agree with lakewood90712

It all comes down to no action until the consummer wallet starts bleeding real money.

One of the obligations of government is to overcome the tyranny of the majority.

We can push the wallets open by simply paying ourselves a buck a gallon. Then reward people who do the responsible thing.

If 125,000/gvw < city mpg you get 4000 of the above bucks tax credit.

125000/3200 = 39 your compact car needs > 39mpg city.
125000/5800 = 21.5 your pos suv needs > 21 mpg city.

Oh Canada!


Canada just introduced this ironically..
You get $2000 off a Prius, $1500 off a camry hybrid and $1000 off a Yaris.
You gotta pay up to $4000 more for a big SUV e.g. loaded Escalade (negligable anyway at that price range)


I can recall people saying that they should just set goals and let the market decide how to get there. Less CO2 means less fossil fuel. If you want to get there with smaller engines and lighter cars, fine. If you want to get there with ethanol and plug hybrids, fine. National security, trade imbalance, cleaner air, energy independence..lots of good reasons to do this. Most people want to know...can I still buy that big SUV we have been looking at?


I read an article recently (sorry, don't have the reference) by a auto columnist which stated that the decrease in fuel mileage in a car with a mix of ethanol and gasoline is significantly greater than one would expect from the percentage of ethanol therein. According to this author, the existence of the ethnaol actually decreases the efficacy of the gasoline portion of the mix. This conclusion was based upon carefully measuring gas mileage from gasoline only, E10, etc. If true, this has implication when one is determining the grams of co2 per mile from ethanol laced fuels. One cannot simply apply a reduction of 30%, for example, to the ethanol proportion in determining the expected overall decrease in gas mileage.

Unfortunately, the author didn't explain very well the reason for this phenomenon.

Does anyone here have any thoughts on this? Does it make sense from a scientific standpoint?


Leaving it up to the consumer is a non-starter. Recent surveys have shown that the effect of high gas prices on consumer behavior towards economizing is already wearing off. Gas usage in the US has INCREASED since the price spikes. Consumers may like to complain but eventually they are conditioned to paying more. When will some of you get through your heads that this is not only about peak oil? Hence, GREEN Car Congress not Foreign-policy Car Congress or Free-market Car Congress.



The consumer is the ONLY entity that will get the auto companies to do ANYTHING! Any government regs will have special intrest holes in them IE gm's bs cafe jive with E85 and flex fuel.

As my uncle used to say "Money talks and bullshit walks."

What is not GREEN about giving people a financial incentive to buy and use more efficient cars?

Stan Peterson

wonderful! Now CO2 has been defined as a pollutant to be regulated.

Now since H2O accounts for 80+ per cent of the GHGs, when are CARB and the cloacal cavities politicians going to propose regulating water vapor emissions?

I welcome all attempts to roof over the oceans to prevent H2O fromn getting into the atmosphere AND CREATING GLOBAL WARMING...

As an unintended consequence I wonder how Senator BoxHead proposes to overcome the unintended droughts occurring from preventing rainfall since evaporation will be eliminated ?

Oh I know a new Rain Tax to fight the droughts. Of course How stupid of me.



This is not helpful. Political ranting may be best suited to another site in another place. I do not have control over this site, but if I did, such comments would be removed.


Tony - I should have been more clear but I am also for market based solutions. My post was mostly in response to Lakewood's post. I believe that the effects of higher prices on consumer behavior may be short lived and not able to achieve the level of change needed.

Overall, this bill is a start and definitely better than subsidies to specific industries and corporate handouts that others in Congress have proposed. These types of "solutions" mask the true price of goods and therefore distort the market. Clean coal and corn based ethanol anyone?


Please forgive Stan, he lives in a cave and for some reason his TV is stuck on Fox News.


Require automakers to optimize vehicles that run on gasoline and low-carbon fuels to achieve better fuel economy when powered by low-carbon fuels. Currently, these vehicles are optimized to run on traditional gasoline.

Something is very unclear to me here. What, exactly, is a "low carbon fuel" anyway? Generally the lower the carbon content, the lower the energy density. This is why diesels can be 30% more efficient than gasoline engines without adding a hybrid powertrain. Lower carbon doesn't seem to be better.

Ron Fischer

Last few year's fuel price increases didn't reduce fuel consumption in the US because underlying cost structure did not change: gasoline is still heavily subsidized, regardless of whether its price doubles. The real way to deal with this is to shift road and gasoline infrastructure support OUT of general tax funds and INTO registration and fuel taxes. WE ALREADY pay to subsidize road support and fuel prices, we just do it every week in our paychecks. Move those charges to registration and the pump. Net change: zero. Encouragement to buy more efficient vehicles: priceless!


The "low-carbon" wording is pretty silly but judging from the context of the summary the author probably meant "closer to carbon neutral". I haven't been able to find the actual text of the bill so for now I'll give the legislative aide who wrote that the benefit of doubt.



Although his tact and delivery may be questionable, Stan's point should not go unheeded. Retaliating with insults about living in caves, and mockery of the Fox News channel are no more constructive than his comments.

Although I agree that cleaner-burning fuels are a good thing, and industry should make all attempts to minimize the pollution impacts of their products, over-regulation, environmental or otherwise, undermines the capitalistic foundation on which our country has thrived for generations.

Indefinitely tightening regulations such as this one are likely only the beginning of the onslaught of legislation that is to come. These standards should be encouraged, and perhaps promoted through the use of incentives, but the government should allow the laws of supply and demand to control what automakers produce. If a consumer has a choice between two vehicles, identical in all but emissions, most consumers will pick the lower-emitting vehicle.

Regulating chemicals such as CO2 is the first step into legislative absurdity, and potentially (although I hope not) the first step toward an Ayn Rand-ian socialism in which the government regulates away that which they find undesirable, regardless of market and economic consequences. I am not of the crazy doomsday sort, but the increasing frequency of over-regulation has begun to seriously concern me.

Water is indeed the primary contributor to the greenhouse effect, and the amount of CO2 emitted by humans relative to the amount of water and CO2, CH4, SO2, etc emitted by natural means is staggeringly small. Regulating it in vehicles will not make any significant difference, and is being done more for political gain than scientific relevance. Furthermore, it will have vastly more negative effects down the road for our nation's already struggling automotive manufacturing sector, and economy as a whole than it will have positive effects on the environment.


I believe the ethanol penalty is addressed in the optimization portion of the bill.
Besides protecting from the tyranny of the majority reps will resist the tyranny of the minority.If they ram deaconian measures through they will have to retire due to ill health.The voters will get sick of them and toss them.
If GREEN car congress does not entertain REALITY congress it will busy itself with intellectual debate on the politically impossible and become an exercise in futility.
You may have to accept incrementally arriving at the green goal you desire.The pols have to turn the ship of state and public sentiment and both take time.Jerk the wheel to hard and you will roll the ship over and lose the common ground just recently achieved.



You raise valid concerns but I do not believe consumers can choose that which is better when they are not given the choice. In an idea world, given two cars equal in all but emissions, I would hope the lower emission car wins in the market place. In the real world, manufacturers have no incentive to make the lower emission vehicle and therefore consumers have no choice.

Regarding regulation, the EU has much more regulation and fears of becoming Big Brother have fortunately not come true. =)

CO2 regulation is only harmful in our current market structure because so thus far there has been no cost associated with the emission of CO2. Put a cost on it and then of course the market will respond. That's where government regulation steps in. Once again, the market can only respond if there is a cost, altruism doesn't buy very much on the market.

Regarding the snipe on Stan, he has a history contributing mostly right-wing rhetoric but I concede it was unnecessary.

BTW, as far as I know, Ayn Rand was libertarian not socialist.



Almost forgot. Regarding the protection of the US auto industry. Being a believer in the free-market, I don't feel erecting artificial supports to maintain the status quo is in the best economic interest of the country. Green technology will bring new jobs much as the semi-conductor and service industries have in the not so distant past. Once upon a time the auto industry played the same role in replacing the status quo and creating new jobs.

No one said the warming effect of our atmosphere in general was bad. It's what allowed life to develop in the first place. It is bad when it is out of control due to unnatural circumstances so comparing the natural cycle of H20 to CO2 generated by human activity is disingenuous.

john galt

The requirements for seat belts, air bags, and minimum crash worthiness for automobiles sold in the United States was not driven by consumer choice or bleeding wallets. It was a government policy decision that was enforced. This has saved numerous lives and has not resulted in bankruptcy of the major automakers. They are quite capable of this based on their keen ability to mismanage by hubris. So, all this talk about green house gas emission regulation must be directly linked to consumer wallets is pure drivel. A bit of common sense goes along way. If emissions are reduced at the tailpipe of any ICE, lets not forget small engines on tractors, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, motorcycles, etc., it is obvious, based on the megatons of environmental and climate change scientific research, that everyone will be better off, now and in the future. Greed and conservative protection of the status quo is viable only in the short term, and only as long as a majority of simple thinking people continued to be suckered by polarizing platitudes. Either you for me or against me, eh?



I think we share quite a bit of common ideological ground, and I appreciate your response.

As for altruism not buying much, I do agree with that... or else the the wealth in this country would be distributed very differently. I suppose my main point is that, over time, market powers will come to adapt to social trends without requiring government meddling, and that meddling can, and often has historically, caused more harm than good. Although unfettered capitalism can get out of control in its own ways, an overregulated manufacturing sector can wreck serious havoc on an economy.

Europe does not have the Big Brother watching them yet, and I don't anticipate that anytime in the near future. That's more of a communist idea, however, whereas socialism is a more real threat, given the voting and judging habits our elected (and non-elected) officials have displayed.

Finally, my reference to Ayn Rand was with regards to the fictional "Atlas Shrugged" country about which she wrote, and not about her personal beliefs, which I do understand are (refreshingly at times) libertarian.


>> I suppose my main point is that, over time, market
>> powers will come to adapt to social trends without
>> requiring government meddling

Great discussion Mike. The line above seems to be where we differ. I don't believe there is time left to wait for consumer sentiments to change especially with big oil still waging a campaign of disinformation and automakers dragging their feet. The US as a whole dropped the ball after the first oil shock. If the move 25 years ago towards conservation continued then may be a market based solution would have been in time but at this point I don't see that happening any more.


>> So, all this talk about green house gas emission
>> regulation must be directly linked to consumer wallets
>> is pure drivel.

I agree, it is drivel and a distraction from the greater problem that affects everyone regardless of income. Unfortunately most people only understand $$ and a catastrophe that may happen in 50 years is beyond their comprehension. Hence the need for financial disincentives to polluting the environment on a wide-scale that only government can provide.


The idea that politicians can be bought out by the oil companies is not always true. More than anything else, politicians want votes and having a lot of money is the best way to run a good campaign thus staying in power. However, if a politician feels that he/she will lose a significant number of votes by not complying with public demand, then money takes a back seat.

tom deplume

What the government can do to guide the market to create solutions is to ration fossil fuels. Jimmy Carter offered the idea of a gradually declining oil import quota which I see as a good start on cutting GHGs. As America withdraws from the global oil market the 3rd world may get a break in oil prices for a while as they implement renewables. Rationing of natural gas may occur quite naturally as American supplies are used up in the near future. Coal ought to be scaled back as quickly as renewables can be ramped up. If the cost of carbon sequestration is forced on the utilities then the cost effectiveness of wind, solar, etc will lead to greater investments in renewables. Will this happen? Not likely.

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