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Friday, September 17th, 2004

California’s ARB makes bad diesel laws

The new ~8 m.p.g. International CXT monster-pickup is an insult to anybody with lungs. You have to figure that people needing to tow 40' trailers should own the tractor already; seen in this light it becomes clear that the typical CXT customer won’t have utility in mind. The only enormous load he’ll have to tow is his own ego.

Fortunately, I thought, I’ll never actually see one on the road in California. CA has adopted stricter vehicle-emissions standards than are mandated by the feds. (Five states in all have adopted these “CARB” standards: CA, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine.)

Jetta Wagon diesel, illegal in CaliforniaFinding a concise statement of the actual regulation has proven impossible, but I can say for certain what one result is: I cannot buy a new diesel Volkswagon in California until 2006. I can’t buy one out of state and bring it here, either (although there might be a workaround).

What’s magic about the year 2006? Cleaner diesel fuels will be universally available then. New low-sulfur formulations will allow auto makers to equip diesel vehicles with better emissions-control devices, but until such fuels are widely available, current diesel vehicles don’t meet the 2004 emission standards — using standard pump diesel, anyway.

But I can burn cleaner diesel today. In fact, that was my plan: put a biodiesel tank in the yard and have the fuel delivered monthly (because it’s not otherwise available locally). Biodiesel is one of the cleanest-burning liquid fuels on the market and is significantly cleaner than either regular diesel or gasoline. And, as a non-petroleum fuel, it’s renewable. We needn’t drill through wildlife refuges for it. We needn’t risk spilling it from ocean-bound tankers. We needn’t export billions of dollars per day to the Middle East to secure supplies of it. We can grow it ourselves.

The ARB, understandably, doesn’t care if a few green individuals might take personal responsibility for their own vehicles. Managing such exceptions would be impossible.

But you’d think that if a ~40 m.p.g. VW can’t pass CARB rules, a monster truck wouldn’t have a prayer. As it turns out, it doesn’t need to. The CXT is exempt.

Let’s recap:

VehicleWeightEst. MileageStatus
2005 VW Passat3,000 lbs38-46 mpgillegal in California
2005 Int’l CXT14,500 lbs6-10 mpgbuy yours now!

If I’m understanding this correctly, this is the ultimate stupidity of the current regulations: exceptions for ultra-heavy vehicles have to be made so that over-the-road trucks and construction vehicles can stay in operation. But this loophole essentially rewards vehicle makers for marketing huge trucks as passenger vehicles. The bigger the truck, the fewer emissions rules apply.

posted to channel: Personal
updated: 2004-09-20 18:16:22

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