By Lloyd Frazier
I grew up in California. I remember when California required smog control devices on automobiles starting in 1974. They really started a few years before that, but I distinctly remember the 1974 models coming out with ‘Smog Pumps.’ It was a disaster for the auto manufacturers. Several states started following California’s lead by passing their own smog control legislation. Auto manufacturers scrambled to design systems that would comply with California’s law. It took several model years before smog control was refined and did not take its toll on the performance and reliability of cars and light trucks. Not very many memorable cars from the late 70’s are collectable partly because of those requirements. If you want to restore a car from that era, you are better off placing a new crate engine with the latest technology under the hood.
Now, in 2007, a federal judge handed a major defeat to the auto industry by ruling that California can regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. So what does this mean for the consumer? Will we have another bout of badly engineered, quick fix, work-around’s until technology catches up? Probably not. The European Union set stricter CO2 standards and the automobile industry is quite healthy there. The newest models of cars and trucks are pretty clean at the tailpipe. There is a stumbling block, however. Even though carbon content can be reduced through fuel blending and engine technologies, you still get a constant amount of carbon emission per gallon from the end result. What California should really be saying is that it wants cars to be more fuel efficient. Increased mileage is the real solution. Adding more complexity to a cars engine to decrease CO2 from the same gallon of gas is ludicrous. There are a lot of problems with CAFE standards, but it makes better sense than adding more junk under the hood. Maybe this will be the final straw that pushes alternatives into the mainstream. GM promises the Chevy Volt and Toyota is “toying” (excuse the play on words) with a plug in version of the Prius. Several other manufacturers are also on the verge of breaking into mass manufacturing of electric vehicles. Hydrogen technology is just around the corner, too. Well, as the old adage goes: As California goes, so goes the rest of the country.
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