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What. The. F*ck. Clean Air Act (2005)?
September 4, 2007 6:08 PM   Subscribe


 
I admit this sounds pretty ridiculous. Could someone debunk?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:11 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, I was just going to ask you the same thing.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:15 PM on September 4, 2007


The hell . . .?
posted by nola at 6:15 PM on September 4, 2007


What the fuck is wrong with people who write these articles? Central unanswered question: Why?

Why write the article at all if you're not going to answer the question that everyone reading it is asking themselves?

Lazy.
posted by odinsdream at 6:16 PM on September 4, 2007


There is a difference between greenhouse gasses like CO2 and smog-producing gases like nitrous oxides and (I think) ozone.

You can have a car that gets great gas mileage, and is therefore great for helping to stave off global warming, but is horrible as far as reducing local smog. In fact, the VW turbo diesel Jetta has this property. Good for on global warming, bad for local air quality.

If there are really are restrictions like this in place, and it's not just a misunderstanding (which wouldn't surprise me) it's probably to prevent these smog reducing cars from going to 'waste' by running in places where there isn't much smog. If they get lower gas mileage, then the result could be to increase greenhouse gases over all.
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on September 4, 2007


Reminds me of that MSN story about certain SUVs weighing more than 5000lbs, but they weren't being cited for driving on residential or other weight-restricted roads.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:21 PM on September 4, 2007


I tried to figure out what is up, and all I can find is other posts full of complaints on this article.
posted by smackfu at 6:23 PM on September 4, 2007


As long as we're speculating, is it a technicality? Perhaps if a manufacturer spends tons of money getting the car certified for those markets with laws tougher than the federal laws, they don't need to spend tons of money getting the car certified for the (weaker) federal laws -- but on a technicality, if they don't get it certified for the federal laws, they can't sell 'em in those markets without the stronger laws?

A bit convoluted, but feasible. Not based on fact or anything, though, just a guess.
posted by davejay at 6:24 PM on September 4, 2007


If this is true - it just completes the picture of an US of A that doesn't care about green technology and legislating it's dependency on oil into law ...
posted by homodigitalis at 6:32 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Most likely the companies are getting all sorts of tax credits and subsidies for releasing these products. They also want first dibs on all the vehicles. This is not an unusual deal for the manufacturer. Let's say the states have deals with the automotive companies that they get so much tax credit and subsidies if they promise to sell the first 100,000 vehicles in that state. This assures that the states footing the bill receive the vehicles first. It works out great for both the manufacturer and the state. The state gets to meet its admission requirements and the manufacturer gets all sorts of deductions.

But you might ask, why don't they just release the cars everywhere and don't make a deal with the states? The article claims that the gas mileage isn't improved in these vehicles and there's a cost premium. They assume that consumers will not pay a premium with no tangible benefits. They are probably right. Let us say their optimistic models say that 10% of Volvo buyers nationwide will pay the premium. Let us again assume that that would add up to a 5% increase in sales versus selling exclusively in those states. In that case the financial incentives offered by the states eclipse the marginal increase in sales.

This is terrible journalism by the way.
posted by geoff. at 6:34 PM on September 4, 2007


Say, does anyone know whether the Nissan Sentra CA was successful, back in 2000 or so?

I bought a 2000 Sentra in Chicago, where the CA wasn't available, and only found out about it when I moved to Los Angeles. It was identical to a "normal" Sentra (gas mileage, performance, etc.) but had a couple of improvements (and a slight cost premium) to keep the air cleaner.

Most notable (to me) was a radiator coated with a chemical that cleaned the air passing through it, such that it actually removedsmog as you drove.

Personally, if I hadn't already purchased a "normal" version, the premium would have been worth it to me. If that car was a failure or a success (relative to other Sentras), perhaps one could extrapolate to how well these other cars will do in the days ahead.
posted by davejay at 6:42 PM on September 4, 2007


So it looks like this columnist is the only guy who's written about this, he includes no concrete information or any way to find the relevant section of law, and there's no way to contact him (although there is a forum attached to the article with 600 vapid threads in it, I don't think the author is reading it.)

I'm filing this guy under "crank" until I see something with more facts and less outrage-mongering.
posted by hattifattener at 6:44 PM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hey, here's some text about the CA, although I couldn't find sales figures. This is from USA today, on an old article that doesn't load very well:
Sentra's one gee-whiz model is for California only, because it needs the low-sulfur gasoline available there to perform properly.

That tech showpiece is Sentra CA, a clean-air version available late next month. Nissan claims it is "the cleanest gasoline-fueled car in the world." The fuel system is so tightly sealed that almost no fumes leak. Today's cars have such little tailpipe pollution that evaporation is a relatively big villain. CA adds clean-burning and exhaust-scrubbing technology, and a so-called smog-eating radiator like on Volvo's S80. Nissan figures Sentra CA pollutes less in a 20-mile commute than a conventional small car does parked at the curb all day, oozing fumes.

CA is $15,319, including automatic transmission. That's just $500 more than a similar GXE mid-level Sentra. Best news: CA drives like any other Sentra. After you shell out the price difference, there's no other penalty.
posted by davejay at 6:44 PM on September 4, 2007


So why aren't PZEVs in every showroom? The main reason, as you might guess, is cost. Although Subaru charges $200 for the option, some estimate that it costs as much as $1,500. If Subaru passed on the entire expense, it could hinder sales and slow the automaker's compliance with ultra-low-emission laws.

Most PZEV builders don't even offer them outside the hot-air – er, clean-air – states because they don't want to multiply their losses. Subaru says it's one of the few manufacturers that make PZEVs available everywhere.

posted by 23skidoo at 6:44 PM on September 4, 2007


Air pollution is a declining problem in first world cities (undoubtedly due in good part to US States willingness to regulate), the real game now is greenhouse emissions. And those cars are as fuel inefficient as the regular models, so aren't very exciting in terms of their greenness.

In fact, with the reduction of global dimming, their cleanliness may end up being a problem!
posted by wilful at 6:47 PM on September 4, 2007




There is a difference between greenhouse gasses like CO2 and smog-producing gases like nitrous oxides and (I think) ozone.

To provide a relevant science note, you cannot reduce the amount of CO2 generated by burning x amount of gasoline without finding a new chemical reaction to burn gasoline with. (Well, technically, I guess you could by designing for incomplete combustion, but that's not a real option.) So reducing greenhouse gas rather than smog requires efficiency increases to use less gasoline for a given distance.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:53 PM on September 4, 2007


More info on a poorly written, yet interesting article.
posted by caddis at 6:55 PM on September 4, 2007


23skidoo Thank You For Debunking!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:55 PM on September 4, 2007


Yeah, there's a lot of confusion here. The caption of the picture, for instance, seems to equate PZEV with hybrid, but PZEV is just a California Air Resources Board administrative classification, and plenty of standard internal combustion cars fall under it.

wilful writes "Air pollution is a declining problem in first world cities (undoubtedly due in good part to US States willingness to regulate), the real game now is greenhouse emissions. And those cars are as fuel inefficient as the regular models, so aren't very exciting in terms of their greenness."

I don't have time to dig up all the background and details, but California AB 32 rolls greenhouse gases into the state's existing (and highly successful) air pollution-control regime. So the state that has set the standards in auto emissions for the past 20 years is now directly addressing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. I think this is a Big Deal.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:03 PM on September 4, 2007


and I have your 100 mpg SUV, which feeds power back into the grid at night, right here.
posted by caddis at 7:09 PM on September 4, 2007




Here's a very thorough analysis/debunking/correction of the columnist's claims.

umm. anyway, thorough debunking? hardly, but it is more info at least.
posted by caddis at 7:33 PM on September 4, 2007


$15,319, including automatic transmission
How much for a car with a proper transmission?

Snark aside, after skimming caddis's and WCityMike's link above, my guess as to what is happening is that the automakers are contractually keeping the green cars from their dealers in particular states, and are trying to shift the blame to the government.
posted by exogenous at 7:37 PM on September 4, 2007


Thanks for that, WCityMike. Still not entirely clear, but better than the FPP link.

Davejay's mention of low-sulfur fuel is a reasonable hypothesis, but then the problem isn't that you can't buy the cars in other states, you just can't buy fuel for them.
posted by hattifattener at 7:40 PM on September 4, 2007


This is missing the most important question (as asked on Slashdot):

WTF is a Partial Zero?
posted by anthill at 8:10 PM on September 4, 2007


It's zero emissions except for the occasional oil spills.
posted by smackfu at 8:42 PM on September 4, 2007


WTF is a Partial Zero? thank you anthill, maybe i'm not crazy afterall. my head about exploded trying to parse that particular bit. marketspeak oy.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:51 PM on September 4, 2007


So, since this post is propagating falsehoods, can we delete it now?
posted by knave at 8:51 PM on September 4, 2007


California at one time was going to mandate that 10% of the cars sold there be Zero tailpipe emission (I can't remember when, some time in the 2007-2010 area). Realising this wasn't going to happen they set a lesser standard: PZEV.
posted by Mitheral at 8:56 PM on September 4, 2007


Partially Zero is the numerical possibility of being partially pregnant or something being partially destroyed or partially dead.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:11 PM on September 4, 2007


wilful:The local PBS affiliate showed the documentary 'Dimming the Sun' earlier tonight.
posted by acro at 9:11 PM on September 4, 2007


Partial Zero: sometimes it runs with zero emissions. Some hybrid vehicles are PZEV because they will sometimes turn off the internal combustion engine and run just on the electric motor. Not all hybrids are partial zero because some keep the engine on at all times. Those are Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, or something like that. PZEV is kind of a mind-bending term because it was completely inscrutable before I was told what it was, but now that I know what it means, I can't think of a clearer term. Weird.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:35 PM on September 4, 2007


not to be a pain in the ass (I truly know zilch about cars, not being a car owner) but have the hybrid companies been working to also reduce the net 'footprint' of their vehicles; i.e. toxicity / recycling of battery components, the net effect of energy used in production, blahblahblah... because last I checked (granted it was awhile ago) the sum total environmental impact of a hybrid vehicle wasn't actually less than that of conventional vehicles.

please note dear conspiracy theorists, I am in no way affiliated with big oil, the republicans and/or any other associated fundamentalist loons. I do, however, despise cars and pretty much everything they stand for. in my idle daydreams they all just inexplicably vanish.

/adjusts tinfoil hat.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:00 PM on September 4, 2007


Llama-Lime writes "Partial Zero: sometimes it runs with zero emissions. Some hybrid vehicles are PZEV because they will sometimes turn off the internal combustion engine and run just on the electric motor"

There are many standard internal combustion cars that are PZEVs. See my link above to the CARB website. PZEV has nothing to do with the car "sometimes" running with zero emissions: they're regular cars, with regular engines. It's just a CARB administrative classification. Don't try to parse it any further than that.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:37 PM on September 4, 2007


And just when I thought I had it figured out...

-1 on accuracy points for today.
posted by Llama-Lime at 11:51 PM on September 4, 2007


Just to pick up one point, these cars aren't 'highly environmentally-friendly', they're just less environmentally damaging.
posted by biffa at 1:32 AM on September 5, 2007


Everyone needs to watch Who Killed the Electric Car?, like, now-ish.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:57 AM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I had high hopes for the author, Lawrence Ulrich. But I'm afraid "Dirty Secret: Green Cars Automakers Won't Sell You" just doesn't have the same ass-kicking thrash power as "...And Justice For All".
posted by Greg Nog at 5:45 AM on September 5, 2007


Reggie - I just saw that movie two nights ago. You're right; it's a must see.
posted by King Bee at 7:17 AM on September 5, 2007


"Partial zero" means that the tailpipe emissions meet SULEV standards, while additionally, the car has zero fuel-system vapor emissions.

You can be SULEV without being PZEV, if you have the tailpipe emissions requirements met, but not the fuel system ones. However PZEV implies {SULEV+fuel vapor}.

Not really sure what the pollution effects are of fuel vapors; I think they're a major greenhouse contributor.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:00 AM on September 5, 2007


Kadin2048 writes "Not really sure what the pollution effects are of fuel vapors; I think they're a major greenhouse contributor."

Chronic exposure is carcinogenic, too.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:21 AM on September 5, 2007


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