California to Set Fuel Efficiency Standards

October 02, 2002

California Governor Gray Davis signed into law in July America's first fuel-efficiency standard to address global warming. Under this law, the California Air Resources Board will to set "economically feasible" emissions standards for gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2005 that take effect for all new cars sold after 2008.

The California regulations will likely have a large impact on new car design across the country because with its 35 million residents and fifth largest economy in the world, the state represents ten percent of the national market for new automobiles. Future cars may look the same but will have new technology such as low-friction tires; sophisticated, finely tuned catalytic converters; and changes in the coolants used in air conditioning systems. They will be more streamlined, aerodynamic, and might even use harder, lightweight materials such as carbon fibers. Carmakers, and ultimately consumers, will decide which are the best technologies for meeting the new standards. Governor Davis said about the effects of the new legislation, "I think you'll have more SUVs but less pollution coming out of their tailpipes."

Because of its traditional problems with smog and large market share, California is the only state that is allowed under to set its own emissions standards for vehicles. Transportation accounts for 58% of the state's emissions of greenhouse gases, according to the California EPA. Davis believes other states will follow California's lead, and that eventually the federal government will enact laws to decrease tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. Davis said he believes the dangers of climate change for coastal states such as California are very real. (See the California Energy Commission's list of climate change activities.)

For specifics about the California legislation, see Governor Davis' press release.