Europe’s car emissions debate

The World

Barcelona is a seaside city, but on many days the offshore breezes aren’t enough to clear away the brownish pollution that hangs in the air. In a street corner during morning rush hour, a newspaper vendor says he knows who’s to blame. He says, �this pollution is due to all but cars and busses passing by. Sometimes in the morning the exhaust makes it difficult to breathe. Sometimes the air is like some polluted fog, there are just too many cars on the road.� The European Union thinks it can reduce such pollution by making cars run cleaner. It has proposed requiring new cars to emit 20% less carbon within the next four years. This man is the EU’s Environment Minister. He says cars that pollute less burn less fuel and that will translate into savings for consumers at the gas pump, �The proposal will also be good for the competitiveness of the car industry. This regulation will help competitiveness by stimulating innovation, investment and development. Also it will create high quality jobs.� European car makers don’t think so. Their association says some 12 million people work in the automotive sector in Europe. The association’s big revenues come from premium brands, BMW, Mercedes, big gasoline burners, and its spokeswoman says EU politicians aren’t giving the industry enough time to bring cleaner but more costly technologies to market, �The cost of production would rise tremendously, those costs cannot be transferred to the consumer. It would mean that production would leave Europe.� And she says jobs would be lost. So car makers are pushing for what they call a combined package to reduce carbon emissions. It includes measures to reduce traffic and to introduce more biofuels for cars on the road today. the industry has promised a long fight over the EU’s plan. For European leaders there’s something bigger at stake. 187 countries just agreed in Bali to hammer out new protocols to succeed the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. The EU wants to establish some street credentials, as it were, before those negotiations began. If the EU can’t lead by example its leaders say getting the rest of the world to reduce carbon emissions will be that much harder.

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