- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Commission proposed binding rules yesterday to force automakers to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from new cars sold in the European Union by 2012, arguing that the tough measure was crucial for fighting global warming.

The plan faces strong opposition from the auto industry, and EU officials acknowledged it would likely lead to a rise in the sale price of new cars.

It foresees lower emissions limits of nearly 210 grams of carbon dioxide per mile for new cars sold or imported into the EU by 2012. Average emissions are now around 260 grams per mile.

EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen urged governments to offer subsidies and tax rebates to buyers who seek out more environment-friendly cars.

“We have to be clear about this: This is something which would considerably increase manufacturing costs per car,” he said, but added that extra costs “will be more than balanced by the fact that cars will have greater fuel efficiency.”

The plan also calls for increased use of biofuels and cleaner fossil fuels, meant to reduce car emissions by 25 percent, even lower than the 210-gram objective, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said. It also calls for added research to get a 153-gram-per-mile level by 2020.

“If action is delayed, it will cost far more,” Mr. Dimas said.

The United States does not regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from vehicles, although the government and several states are looking into proposals, said John Millett, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency.

California has adopted a plan, which the auto industry has challenged in a lawsuit, for incremental decreases in carbon-dioxide emissions, beginning with cars made in 2009. Cars and light trucks made that year would be limited to 323 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. By 2016, that figure would drop to 205 grams per mile, a 30 percent reduction over cars made in 2002.

EU officials argued that the new rules, if backed by EU governments, would keep Europe’s ailing car industry viable in the long-term, amid growing cheap imports from Asia.

“The EU car industries are at the core of our economies,” said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. “By positively taking up the climate-change challenge, they will preserve and enhance their competitiveness in the long term.”

EU officials have said automakers have failed to meet voluntary caps on car emissions set with the commission nine years ago, when they pledged to reduce average emissions from new and imported cars to 225 grams of carbon dioxide per mile by 2008.

Although emissions have been falling, EU officials say they have not gone far enough.

However, original plans pushed by Mr. Dimas were watered down amid heavy lobbying from the car industry and Germany, home to Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler and BMW.

Mr. Dimas had called for a 193-gram-per-mile limit by 2012, but was opposed by Mr. Verheugen and the car makers.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the new plan as an “ambitious goal, by which Europe will become a worldwide pioneer.”

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