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Obama Announces Emissions Regulations

We photograph the current auto emissions inspection procedure at Ralph's Shell Station in Manassas, Va.  Photo shows inspection techjnician Colin Daniels inserting a sensor probe into the exhaust pipe of a 1996 Toyota.
We photograph the current auto emissions inspection procedure at Ralph's Shell Station in Manassas, Va. Photo shows inspection techjnician Colin Daniels inserting a sensor probe into the exhaust pipe of a 1996 Toyota. (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post )

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Charles Territo
Sr. Director of Communications, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
Tuesday, May 19, 2009; 3:30 PM

President Obama today proposed tough standards for tailpipe emissions from new automobiles, establishing the first nationwide regulation for greenhouse gases. The proposal also raises fuel efficiency targets to 35.5 miles per gallon for new passenger vehicles and light trucks by 2016, four years earlier than required under the 2007 energy bill.

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Charles Territo, senior director of communications at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, was online Tuesday, May 19, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the announcement, how it will be implemented and industry reaction.

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Charles Territo: Hi, this is Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. I'll be on today to talk about President Obama's announcement on emissions standards. I look forward to your questions.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: What happened to the idea of increasing the price of petroleum? Then things take care of themselves without interference (although inspecting vehicles' emission systems would remain a good idea). It seems silly to me to mandate mileage standards while gas is cheap. People were buying high-mileage cars a year or so ago without anybody making them do it (when gas was $4+ a gallon).

Charles Territo: Good question. Ultimately gas prices play a huge role in consumer buying preferences. When gas prices are high fuel efficient vehicles are very popular. When prices fall so do fuel efficient vehicle sales.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the quick response to this news. Since 1990 auto makers have made big strides in engine management that have allowed them to make cars and trucks bigger and more powerful, and so fast that customizers and writers have been killed testing them. Top speed supercar tests for car mags are now mostly done by race car drivers. This same technology could have been used to greatly increase mpg at the same size and good performance as 1990.

As far as small car safety goes, this big increase in size of especially trucks and SUVs has forced people into SUVs in self-defense. We need to keep the pressure on to reduce the size of personal use pickups and SUVs to make the roads safe for good mpg cars. The first SUV, Cherokee, was about 3,400 lbs, with an I-4. The Insurance Institute proved that small cars with the right side airbags can stand up to big SUVs in side crash tests. It is just misguided to drive a flip-prone big SUV for safety, and then not wear your seatbelt.

As far as cost of more efficient cars, a Corolla does not cost more than a Buick Lucerne. Smaller, more fuel efficient cars are more affordable, ditto for the now defunct compact pickup. A "mid-size" Dakota or Tacoma pickup is bigger than a 1968 Chevy. A new F-150 has the same load and towing capacity as yesteryear's F-250 or F-350, with of course similar mpg, weight and size.

Charles Territo: Not sure if there is a question in there but I would say that manufacturers are always striving to bring cleaner safer and more fuel efficient vehicles to market in all categories of vehicles.

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Washington, D.C.: The Obama administration is saying this will raise the price of a car by $1,300 by 2016. What fuel efficient technologies will $1,300 buy?

Charles Territo: That figure is an estimate. Not all vehicles will need to have additional technologies added to meet the standards.

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Fairfax, Va.: Can/will the auto industry comply and come up with more fuel-efficient cars and trucks as the president announced today?

Charles Territo: We will do our best.

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Denver, Colo.: I assume that the new fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon is based on pure gasoline. By 2016, the U.S. will be consuming 22 billion gallons of renewable fuels per the Renewable Fuels Standard from EISA.

Energy efficiency will always be less expensive than creating more energy -- renewable or conventional.

Charles Territo: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/how_tested.shtml

This link provides some insight into how vehicles are tested for fuel economy.

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Washington, D.C.: One of the Post reporters just blogged that the debate over a bill to cap U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions is finally moving in a House committee. How long will the whole process take?

Charles Territo: The whole process could take months, maybe even years but the as of today the section the deals with mobile source emissions (sec. 221) is effectively taken care of. 17% down, 83% of emissions to go.

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washingtonpost.com: How Vehicles Are Tested (www.fueleconomy.gov)

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Washington, D.C.: Why not just make all cars capable of running on ethanol? I hear the technology is MUCH less expensive ($100 instead of $1,300 per car) and we increase our energy independence and address global warming.

Charles Territo: That might make sense if there were an ethanol infrastructure in place. http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/locator/stations/

is a good to site to see how much investment needs to be done in alternative fuel infrastructure.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: New technologies? How about a VW Golf diesel, for example? They already exist, and are all over Europe.

Charles Territo: Diesel offers 25-40 percent in fuel economy and in represents 50 percent of fleet. Currently there are 8 models available in the US but more are on the way. You can expect to see many more in the near future.

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washingtonpost.com: Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (U.S. Dept. of Energy)

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Alexandria, Va.: Will the U.S. auto industry survive this recession? Can they recalibrate their manufacturing plants fast enough to make the changeover to smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles?

Charles Territo: This is a difficult time for all manufacturers. The good news sales seem to have bottomed out. The bad news is that the bottom is 7 million fewer units than just 2 years ago. The hope is that as the economy strengthens, buyers will return to the showrooms but there are no guarantees.

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Bethesda, Md.: What does this new legislation mean for existing car, truck and SUV owners?

Charles Territo: Not much except that depending on how old your vehicle is you might have some different choices next time you go to buy a new one. If you want to find ways to reduce co in current vehicle visit www.ecodrivingusa.com. Also keep an eye on the cash for clunkers legislation in Congress. If it passes, you might be eligible for up to $4500 from the feds on a trade in.

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Washington, D.C.: I've read that the U.S. automakers have asked for this so that the government would give them a national standard so they could make investments in cleaner vehicles. Can you explain please?

Charles Territo: A National Program Avoids Conflicting Government Regulations: Automakers need to follow one roadmap at a time as we increase mileage and reduce CO2. We need the clarity and certainty of one program and one timeline. It's much more cost effective to introduce technology to meet new standards if you only have one standard to meet.

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washingtonpost.com: EcoDrivingUSA

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Annapolis, Md.: Do the car manufacturers blame the president for the financial situation the Big Three are in now?

Charles Territo: President of AIG? Sure. But seriously, the current problem is not a product crisis but rather a credit and consumer confidence crisis. There is plenty of blame to go around but it's hard to find a reason to blame the President for this one.

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Bethesda, Md.: At the current CAFE penalty levels, there is very little incentive to comply with the increased mileage requirement, as compared to simply paying the penalty, which many luxury foreign manufacturers do today. The penalty -- for each car failing the mileage requirement by 1 mile -- is only $55. So, if you have a fleet of cars getting only 15 mpg when the CAFE standard requires $35 -- you only have to add $1,000 or so to the car price to pass on the penalty. But a $1,000 price increase is a lot less costly than buying the hybrid for $5,000 more. Aren't the penalties too weak to make a manufacturer really incur substantial expense (like building hybrids) to increase mileage?

Charles Territo: Actually very few manufacturers actually pay penalties. CAFE compliance is measured not by what products you offer but by what you actually sell. Whether a manufacturer meets or exceed a given standard is in many dependency on what products consumers buy.

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Monument, Colo.: Why has this taken so long?

Charles Territo: Good question. The election of President Obama provided an opportunity to get beyond some of the stale debates of the past and work towards real solutions. At the end of the day all stakeholders recognized the benefits of working together. We all shared the same goals we just had different versions of mapquest leading us to the destination.

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College Park, Md.: Would the auto makers have stepped up manufacture of fuel-efficient vehicles on their own had not the financial meltdown occurred? Many think Europe and Asia are way ahead of us in building hybrids, etc., and that it's the U.S.'s fault for not going whole hog in producing what the world was leaning toward. Can you comment?

Charles Territo: Already are stepping up. The 35 hybrids and clean diesels on dealer lots today started on manufacturer drawing boards years ago during years when the industry was experiencing record sales. This industry is a battleship, not a speedboat. It takes time to perfect and cost effectively implement new technologies. Europe is leader in diesel, Japan is a leader in hybrids mainly because the policies of their governments promote those technologies.

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Chantilly, Va.: Explain the California role in all this. Why was Schwarzenegger at the White House today for the announcement?

Charles Territo: In 2002 California passed a law mandating a reduction in Co2 emissions from autos. To do implement their law CA needed a waiver from the EPA. The Bush admin denied the waiver. The Obama admin agreed to reconsider the denial. Today's announcement takes elements of all the California program, EPA ghg program and federal fuel economy program and creates a NEW national program for GHG/fuel economy.

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Washington, D.C.: Will Chrysler survive?

Charles Territo: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/28/AR2009042801241.html

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Charles Territo: Gotta run. Thanks for the chat. Love to do it again sometime. For more information about the Alliance visit www.autotalliance.org.

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washingtonpost.com: Chrysler's Fate Still Shaky Despite Deals (Post, April 29)

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washingtonpost.com: Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

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