The Need for Standardized Emission Controls

By Daniel Dillon - February 9th 2009

As of January 2, 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued by The State of California in the hope of overturning a denial for a waiver under The Clean Air Act to set stricter Emission Control standards.  There are potentially another 13-15 States ready to join California in this lawsuit.  What this means is that the Automakers, who are struggling to stay alive, will have to make several different Emission Control Systems for new vehicles so that they can be sold to the States that have adopted the new California Standards or the Federal Standards.

For many years, there have been Federally Certified Emission Control vehicles and California Certified Emission Control vehicles.  In the 1980s there were some real differences in these Emission Controls, but as time has passed, the Federal Vehicles became much less common and the real differences in their Emission Control Systems are basically zero. (For more, see our Check Engine Light article.)

If California wins this suit, it would create a wide chasm between a Federal Emission Control System and a California Emission Control System.  The difference would be up to a 35% gap in the motor vehicle Green House Gas Emissions produced by either vehicle. The California Air Resources Board, or CARB, is the governing body that developed the tighter limits and is one of the parties behind the suit.

Why not just have a single Standard that has been scientifically verified?  A case in point is the "California Fuel" blend that requires a different type of gasoline to be sold in California than is sold in the other 49 States. According to Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore Labs (Dr. Bill Wattenburg), there is no scientific benefit from the Oxygenates put in the California Fuel.  Actually there has to be more fuel consumed to develop the same energy (i.e., mileage) as the Federal Fuel, so more gasoline has to be burned per mile which defeats the entire purpose of the Oxygenates.

The same was true for the MTBE that was put in the gasoline for 10 years.  It actually turned out to be quite harmful.  There are many wells in California, such as in Napa County where I was born, that are too polluted for use and have been capped off.  The MTBE deposits from vehicle exhaust emissions settled in the water supply and this has been studied and verified by the Lawrence Livermore Labs.

Why can't the State and Federal Governments agree on Standardized Emission Control Systems?  Then they could go after the real collosus of Green House Gas Producers, which is the constant addition of huge Coal Fired Electrical Power Plants being built in and around California as well as the rest of the world.  The proposed change to the Auto Emissions is positive but will yield a reduction of .6% while the Coal Fired Plants produce more than 50% of the Green House Gases.

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