Obama Re-Evaluates State Emissions: Is One Standard Needed?

By David Thomas  on January 27, 2009

https://www.cstatic-images.com/stock/765x765/68/1198090100-1425510005168. Yesterday, President Barack Obama ordered the EPA to re-evaluate the request of California and 13 other states to set and regulate their own emissions standards on cars.

To many, this is a clear-cut issue, with California’s supporters saying they have the right to set emissions how they see fit for their state because factors like congestion and pollution are much different from one state — like California — to another — like North Dakota.

Environmentalists see this is as a win because stricter emissions standards mean less pollution and presumably higher-mileage vehicles. Automakers and other industry supporters say it will be too costly to design cars for different markets within the U.S.

So, who’s right? Well, neither and both.

Hold on, we have to pull out our soap box for a second: The problem we have in the U.S. is that there’s a federal guideline for fuel efficiency, called CAFE, which the president recently agreed to strengthen, with tougher requirements coming as soon as next year. We also have mileage ratings issued by the EPA, which show up on new cars’ window stickers. These are not the same as the CAFE numbers, yet the EPA uses a sizeable budget determining these important figures that car shoppers use every day.

The EPA also has an “air pollution score” it assigns all new vehicles, although it doesn’t take greenhouse gases into account.   

New emissions standards set on a state-by-state basis would add yet another regulation.
So instead of setting three or four different standards, wouldn’t it be easier to implement one national one? That way, states with huge budget problems, like California, wouldn’t have to take on the expense of regulating something as unwieldy as emissions. It would also help greatly if the formula were cleaner than the current CAFE ratings.

Recently, we here at Cars.com came up with the True Mileage Index, which showed just how fuel-efficient various automaker lineups truly are. It was a tough task, but it opened our eyes as to how far away we really are from 30-mpg averages.

We’re not against cleaner cars, we’re all for them. But adding layers of government regulations instead of perfecting the ones we already have seems like an unnecessary move. 

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Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David