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Federal Legislation Would Change Clean Air Act to Bar States from Setting Greenhouse Gas Standards for Vehicles
5 June 2007
Legislation under discussion in the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce would, if eventually enacted, amend the language of the Federal Clean Air Act to block states from establishing standards to limit the emission of greenhouse gases from automobiles.
The discussion draft of legislation submitted by Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Chair Rick Boucher (D-VA) would prohibit the head of the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing the waiver required for a state to impose auto pollution standards if the new requirements are “designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The issuance of a federal waiver is a well-established process with decades of legal precedent in California’s setting of its own, more stringent emissions regulations. The issuance of the waiver is also the next step in California’s quest—now 18-months old—to proceed with implementing its greenhouse gas limits on new light-duty vehicles beginning in 2009. Eleven other states have adopted the California regulations. (Earlier post.)
Specifically, the new legislation under discussion would amend Section 209(b)(1) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7543) to read (new language is in boldface):
...No such waiver shall be granted if the Administrator finds that-
the determination of the State is arbitrary and capricious,
such State does not need such State standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions,
such State standards and accompanying enforcement procedures are not consistent with section 202(a) of this part, or
such State standards are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A hearing by the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on the discussion draft is scheduled for Thursday, and will be webcast. The legislation will also be considered for inclusion in energy legislation scheduled for markup during June by both the Subcommittee and the full Committee, according to Boucher.
The draft is meant to stimulate discussion on several critical issues affecting US energy security: the production of alternative fuels and the infrastructure required to deliver them; the impact of motor vehicle use on energy consumption and supply; and the need to recognize the interdependent relationship between fuels and vehicles by treating them as a system.—Representative Boucher
Among the other proposals included in the Discussion Draft are:
Implementing an Alternative Fuels Standard (AFS) that would begin in 2013 and mandate the use of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuel by 2025. In addition to corn-based and cellulosic ethanol, the bill would encourage and support the development of coal-to-liquids synthetic fuels as well as natural gas and electricity.
The bill establishes compliance value multipliers for each alternative fuel to determine the extent to which each fuel satisfies the volume obligation. Corn ethanol, for example, has a compliance value of 1.0, while gas-to-liquids and coal-to-liquids fuels have values of 1.5. In the early years (2013-2015), cellulosic ethanol has a compliance value of 2.5. This drops to 1.0 in the longer term. Electricity and gaseous hydrogen have values of 2.5 from 2013 though 2020, then dropping to 1.0. Butanol makes it on the list as well, with a value of 1.3 for the entire period.
Establishing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The LCFS is based on the volumes of the AFS. Twelve billions gallons of the alternative fuel required by that standard are to have a carbon intensity equal to 80% of the carbon intensity of gasoline. Of the remainder of the alternative fuel required by that standard for a given year, 50% will have a carbon intensity equal to 50% of the carbon intensity of gasoline; and 50% will have a carbon intensity equal to 25% of the carbon intensity of gasoline.
Developing programs to assist retailers in the installation or conversion of fuels infrastructure to alternative fuels use.
Mandating an increase in fuel economy to 36 mpg US by model year 2021 for passenger cars and 30 mpg US after model year 2024 for light-duty trucks. In addition to expressing standards in terms of miles per gallon, the bill would also require the expressions of standards in average grams per mile of carbon dioxide emissions. Automakers would have to increase the production of dual-fueled vehicles (e.g., flex-fuel vehicles) from 45% of new vehicles in 2012 to 85% in 2020.
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