New Car Emission Standards – A Step in the Right Direction or Too Much Government Control?

A typical conversation between Tim in used part sales and one of our valued customers . . .

Customer: Hello, I am looking for a 3.0l engine for my 2000 Toyota Camry and I was wondering what you have in stock?

Tim: California or Federal Emissions?

Customer: I live in Massachusetts.

Tim: Yes Sir, it doesn’t matter where you live, we need to know the emissions standards for your Toyota Camry, Federal or California? You can find this information under the hood on an emissions sticker or engine ID plate.

Customer: Well I purchased the car in Indiana and my wife has been driving it for two years and we’ve never been to California . . . .

Okay, maybe I exaggerated a little bit at the end but at least once a week we get a phone call along these lines. People are looking for their own engine parts and then they are thrown for a loop when we ask them if they have  Federal or California emissions.

I don’t blame people for being confused; it doesn’t make sense that the engine of a vehicle would be built two different ways, one to meet the standards for a single state the other for the entire nation. And to add to the confusion both California and Federal vehicles can be found in all parts of the country. In fact it seems that the various standards have created a lot of distress within the automotive manufacturing industry as well. President Obama explained some of the challenges presented by the different standards yesterday in his address in the Rose Garden:

Car companies might then face three different sets of overlapping requirements, one administered by the Department of Transportation, one administered by the EPA, and still a third administered by California and 13 other states. This proposed national policy, under the leadership of two agencies – and bringing together 14 states, 10 companies, as well as auto workers and environmental groups – changes all that. The goal is to set one national standard that will rapidly increase fuel efficiency – without compromising safety – by an average of 5 percent each year between 2012 and 2016 . . .

Some people are upset that the new fuel efficiency regulations do not mandate the inclusion of hybrid technology, but I do not think that hybrid is right for everyone. I believe that with a higher national standard that innovation will lead the way to produce fuel efficient vehicles with different kinds of technology. How this innovation is funded is a whole other issue, not one I am about to discuss this afternoon.

So will setting a national standard be a good thing in the end? Well, it would seem that for the environment and the efficiently of producing parts to meet one standard instead of several would be beneficial. But there are a lot of car-enthusiasts that feel like a part of our “American Freedom” is being taken away.

Well, that does bring up a good point. What about the sports cars, those designed for speed and recreation and maybe not daily driving? Will these nationwide emission standards affect the production of these vehicles?

And then what about safety standards for vehicles? Will we be compromising our safety for the sake of fuel efficiency? President Obama says that safety will not be compromised but it’s hard to understand that when the safety of a vehilce is directly related to it’s weight and weight is directly related to fuel efficiency how it could not have an effect. When I think of it this way I am terrified to think that the government could in inadvertently (or deliberately) affect our safety for the sake of fuel economy and I fear for my unborn children.

There are a lot of indications that sport cars, SUVs and even pick up trucks will be harder to get in the future and that the owners may be forced to pay a luxury tax. That signifies to me that the standards are only enforced to the common-folk, middle and lower class and that the right to disregard fuel economy and/or safety can be purchased. This doesn’t feel right either, if I agree to give up my SUV for a more fuel efficient vehicle why should the next guy be able to buy his way out of it. Well, because he has more money, that’s why.

So does the government regulation really help to improve our overall fuel consumption as a nation or just increase disparity between classes?  I personally feel that a nationwide emission standard is a step in the right direction toward a more environmentally responsible American made vehicle however I wouldn’t want to see a tax imposed on vehicles with lower gas mileage or a compromise in safety standards. I hope that a new kind of American dream car can be created, without compromising our right to safety or the choice for recreation.

At least we know what one benefit will be when the new standards stake effect, when you call us in 2020 looking for a engine part for your 2012 vehicle Tim won’t have to ask you “Is that California or Federal?” Huh?

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