Magazine article Sierra

Taking It to the States; the Fight for Clean Cars Moves beyond Washington. (Lay of the Land)

Magazine article Sierra

Taking It to the States; the Fight for Clean Cars Moves beyond Washington. (Lay of the Land)

Article excerpt

As California drives, so drives the nation. To keep up with trends in the largest and most influential car market in the United States, all major automakers operate design studios in the Los Angeles area. What they've found is that Californians don't just want their vehicles to be stylish--they want them to be good for the environment too. And carmakers are fuming.

That's because California has done what Washington, D.C., won't do: cap the levels of greenhouse gases that can be emitted by cars and light trucks. Responding to the news that 40 percent of California's greenhouse-gas emissions are produced by vehicles, the state passed a bill in July that gives the California Air Resources Board sweeping authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change. The easiest way to reduce them is to make cars more fuel efficient--a move that's anathema to Detroit.

The legislation was cruising through the statehouse this spring when it seemed to hit a brick wall: an all-out media effort by carmakers, oil companies, and the United Auto Workers to discredit the bill. Trotting out cowboy-hatted celebrity car dealer Cal Worthington, the bill's opponents ran TV, newspaper, and radio ads suggesting that the air board was ready to raise gas taxes, penalize motorists for the number of miles they drive, or levy fees on gas guzzlers. (In fact, the air agency is prohibited from raising gas taxes, and the bill doesn't spell out specific actions to be taken--which just fueled the creativity of the spinmeisters. …

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