December 01, 2006
Ellis files anti-smog bill

One of the pieces to the clean air puzzle for Houston is tightening emissions standards for motor vehicles to match the tougher-than-federal California requirements. State Sen. Rodney Ellis has filed just such a bill for the 80th Lege.

[Ellis' bill] would require all new cars sold in the state after the year 2008 to meet the standards of California's Low-Emission Vehicle program.

"Senate Bill 124 is critical to help Texans comply with the law and ensure healthy air for its citizens," Ellis, D-Houston, said at a Capitol news conference on the bill, which has garnered support from the mayors of Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.

The proposal also represents the state's first significant global warming legislation as the California rules also limit greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2004, California added carbon dioxide to its list of regulated tailpipe emissions. The state requires a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2016.

Ellis predicted his bill would face a battle royal in the Legislature next year, but said he thought Texas citizens favor the idea.

I believe Ellis is absolutely correct about the first part of that statement. The second part remains to be seen, because I feel confident that there will be a widespread marketing campaign against his measure. The question is how much support there will be after a few weeks of negative (and mostly likely misleading) "issue ads" on the subject.

"We don't believe there's any environmental benefit to Texas adopting California's environmental standards," said Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "But we do think there will be significant costs to consumers and will impose an added bureaucracy."

Ellis' bill will be watched closely by both sides for the effect it could have beyond Texas' borders. If Texas were to switch to California's rules, more than half the country's population would be subject to that state's regulations.

"It's possible that Texas could be a tipping point, and, frankly, make Detroit do something that's smarter than what they're doing right now," said Jim Marston, Environmental Defense's regional director in Texas.

It's unclear how much the smog rules would cost consumers because many automakers already produce vehicles that comply with both federal and California rules. However, the new carbon dioxide provision, which Texas likely must also adopt if it goes along with the California rules, could prove costly to consumers.

Under the rule, each auto manufacturer must reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of its vehicles sold in a state by 30 percent, from 2003 levels, by 2016. That will require selling more fuel-efficient vehicles, and developing sport utility vehicles and trucks that consume less gasoline.

Environmentalists estimate the increased costs of developing these technologies at about $1,000 per vehicle. Auto manufacturers put the cost closer to $3,000.

Generally speaking, the first thing you should do is disregard every gloom-and-doom statement that will emanate from an auto industry flack. These guys have bitched and moaned about every regulation imposed on them since the dawn of time. They fought against seat belts, they fought against air bags, they fought against fuel efficiency standards, and when they lost those fights they turned around and made the features they were forced to add selling points. The whole thing is a big heaping pile of FUD, and should be taken as such. Once we're all straight on that, we can have the real debate.

UPDATE: On a related note, here's some info on the lawsuit against the EPA over the regulation of greenhouse gases and California's specialized guidelines. Thanks to Jim D. for the pointer.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 01, 2006 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

What a joke: I cannot get emissions-related repair parts for my current Detroit-made vehicle, either from the original manufacturer or from third party suppliers - and I am quite a parts scrounger for various antique cars too, many of which happen to burn cleaner than new cars.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on December 1, 2006 4:05 PM

Anyway, you may display an unreasonable bias against car manufacturers implying that they are a scapegoat for whatever it is you are trying to promote.

They fought against seat belts

Incorrect: Tucker decided against installing them for 1948 because of the negative public perception - that their cars would be viewed as unsafe. Ford and GM first offered them in 1956 along with "crash pads" (padded dashes) in their own safety blitzes to try to steal sales away from each other. The Feds didn't require belts until I think about 10 years later - car makers were already installing them by then.

they fought against air bags

Incorrect: Oldsmobile offered it as an option in 1974 but few customers wanted to pay $200 more for it so it was withdrawn and, like the seat belt, installed when the government required it I think about 15 years later.

they fought against fuel efficiency standards

Surely you jest. There are books and books written about the auto industries recognition of the merits of fuel economy. A cursery overview would include Ford's continuation of the 4-cylinder option after the introduction of the V-8, the dimuitive 60 hp V-8 and Edsel's introduction of the 6-cylinder to Ford's objection - all of this in the 1930's. Don't forget Chevrolet's campaign emphasizing their 6-cylinder "for Economical Transportation" as well as the Mobilgas Economy Run competitions of the '50's. American Motors and Studebaker exploited the economy market in the late '50's with their Rambler and Lark, forcing the big three to offer their economy compacts Corvair, Falcon and Valiant in the '60's. There are volumes to be said here about the auto industry's recognition of this market.

You may want to debate the differences between the terms "economy" and "efficiency". But if you consider the times, the technology and the culture of the periods I refer to above, they would have been essentially one in the same for the manufacturer, the public and government.

Not to say the domestic auto industry has its problems. I am not a part of the auto industry, but, there is indeed a big heaping pile of FUD in your last paragraph and it has just been passed back to you.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on December 1, 2006 7:05 PM

Strama filed a similar House Bill yesterday.

Posted by: muse on December 1, 2006 9:28 PM

Charles Hixon: I am not a part of the auto industry, but, there is indeed a big heaping pile of FUD in your last paragraph and it has just been passed back to you.

Hmm, is it possible that just as people should be wary of (mis)statements from auto-industry flacks with a perspective, maybe people should also be wary of (mis)statements from lefty bloggers with a perspective? :)

Posted by: Kevin Whited on December 2, 2006 10:01 AM

What a sweet, fictional glossing-over of auto maker's lack of regard for public safety. Here is what a cursory bit of Googling turned up, just on the issue of air bags:

Congress and the Department of Transportation have sought to require air bags for passenger
vehicles for 30 years, due to the overwhelming evidence that they would save thousands of lives.
Air bags have saved well over 6,000 lives thus far.1
• Auto manufacturers fought a long and desperate war against air bags from 1969 until 1988,
despite evidence that they were technically feasible and would save thousands of lives. The
Supreme Court found in a 1983 suit over the Reagan administration’s revocation of the air
bag standard that “the automobile industry waged the regulatory equivalent of war against
the air bag and lost - the inflatable restraint was proven sufficiently effective... the industry
was not sufficiently responsive to safety concerns.”
• The auto industry claimed that air bags were “dangerous,” that they would be impossible to
test in time to implement, and that inadvertent deployment of the bags could occur. A Ford
advertisement raised the prospect of “driving along at 60 m.p.h. and suddenly having an
enormous pillow thrust in your face,” a possibility that NHTSA said had never occurred after
millions of miles of testing.
• The industry even tried to claim that there was a concern about “the noise generated by air
bag inflation” as a way of stalling air bag standards.
• A GM memo to OMB stated their position that “consumer resistance will be so great and the
use of the restraints will be so low that the safety benefits will not justify the costs of this
controversial regulation.”
• Finally, once the industry was forced to put air bags in cars, they callously used outdated
systems that killed over 200 smaller individuals, including children.
• A 1998 law is forcing the industry to use safer “advanced” air bags, a rulemaking that the
industry has since tried relentlessly to further water down. Through the course of the
rulemaking, the industry has won the elimination of many safety tests from the rule,
including some that would offer more protection for children and small-statured women.
The industry is currently trying to block a safety standard requiring side curtain air bags, which
would protect passengers from head injury in the event of a rollover or side impact crash.
[all above from Public Citizen]

Posted by: Locutor on December 5, 2006 12:52 PM