subject: Car makers forced to boost fuel efficiency posted: Thu, 20 Dec 2007 12:14:21 -0000
- there are no compulsory pollution standards in Australia
- Australian cars emit 231g/km of CO2; European cars 161g/km
- compulsory standards are coming, and they will cost lots of money
- Australia lacks the infrastructure to support a car-free lifestyle
- Australia therefore must build the infrastructure
The international car industry seems to be rattled by moves in the
United States and Europe to force manufacturers to make cars more
Governments overseas see the change as an essential part of the
effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
But in Australia there are no compulsory pollution standards for
manufacturers. Australia's key scientific expert on emissions in the
transport sector is warning that this will have to change.
Transport is the world's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas.
When the burn-off from one litre of petrol mixes with the atmosphere,
more than two kilograms of CO2 is created.
US President George W Bush has just signed a Bill which will increase
the federal standard for car-makers. Vehicles will soon have to get
15 kilometres to the litre.
"One of the most serious, long-term challenges facing our country is
dependence on oil, especially oil from foreign lands," Mr Bush said.
"It's a serious challenge and members of Congress up here understand
the challenge, and so do I, because this dependence harms us
economically through high and volatile prices at the gas pump.
"Dependence creates pollution and contributes to greenhouse gas
Fines for car makers
At the same time, the European Commission is proposing fines for car
manufacturers whose cars exceed certain pollution levels.
European Automobile Manufacturers Association spokesman Ivan Hodac
says it will lead to more expensive cars.
"If they miss the target by five grams, it means a penalty of 1.5
billion euros. This is unheard of in the European Union," he said.
The new law would limit European cars to 130 grams of CO2 per
kilometre by the year 2012.
David Lamb from the CSIRO says that is a good target and would
require a cut of about 30 grams on current levels. But Australian
cars pollute more than European cars do.
"New cars sold in Europe last year averaged 161. The equivalent
figure in Australia was 231 grams per kilometre," he said.
Mr Lamb, the leader of the CSIRO's low emission transport team, says
Australian car manufacturers are not required to make their cars meet
any pollution standards.
"Up to now we've had no legislation that compels cars, that
legislates, mandates for specific targets. They've been voluntary
targets," he said.
"There is a voluntary target that the industry, that the car makers
in Australia agree to.
"They say they agreed that the average car sold would meet a 6.8
litres per 100 kilometres fuel consumption."
Obligation to toughen rules
Given the way Europe and the US are heading, Mr Lamb expects
Australia will have mandatory standards before long.
"I'm absolutely certain we will because if we did not, we would be so
out of step with what the rest of the world is doing," he said.
"We would be obliged, we would be leaned on by the other nations to
adopt such standards. And besides which, the sort of vibes I've been
feeling recently is that we want to get up onto the leadership in
terms of environmental responsibility. We don't want to be at the
Mr Lamb says it's getting to the stage where it would be
irresponsible of Australia not have mandatory standards.
"That's the way I feel but I don't make the rules," he said.
But it's not just Australia's cars that could be more efficient. Mr
Lamb says Australian drivers need to change their habits.
That means not buying a heavy vehicle like a four-wheel drive if you
live in the city, and reducing time on the road.
"If I will need to buy a loaf of bread, is it fair to the rest of the
world for me to jump in my car, start up a cold engine, accelerate up
the street, which is when the emissions are far worse than if I was
just cruising on the highway, to go and buy a loaf of bread?" he
There's no word on mandating pollution restrictions for car
manufacturers in Australia, but the Federal Government is offering
the industry $500 million to develop low-emissions vehicles, if the
manufacturers put in $1.5 billion.