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November 11, 2007

California's auto standards would save Canadians $37 billion


OTTAWA - $37 billion dollars: That is the amount Canadian motorists could save over the next decade if car manufacturers were forced to meet California's fuel consumption standards for new cars, suggests a new report released by an environmental consultant.

The study, produced for ClimateforChange.ca, said consumers might face additional costs to purchase cars with better technology, but that those expenses would be offset by significant savings in reduced fuel costs, economic spinoffs and a decrease in the greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to global warming.

"The gas savings translate directly into consumer savings at the gas pump, allowing consumers to use that money to save, invest or spend those dollars on other goods and services, building Canada's economy," reads the report that was written by Dan Becker, a former policy expert at the Sierra Club in the U.S. "The technologies that automakers use to save gas, such as more efficient engines, advanced transmissions and sleeker aerodynamics, cost less than the energy saved over the life of the vehicle."

The savings are based on gas prices remaining at $1.00 per litre, but consumers would benefit more from the tougher standards if the price at the pumps increased, Becker explained.

"It is also important to stress that the more stringent the auto emissions standard, the more energy saving technology will be added to the vehicles," said the report. "It takes more workers to manufacturer and install this technology, which creates new autoworker jobs. It will also help make Canadian auto plants more competitive with those in Europe and Asia currently producing better technology vehicles that are very popular with consumers."

In a new ad campaign, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association says that "a provincial patchwork of standards" could hurt consumers and auto jobs in Canada because it would disrupt an existing North American system that offers lower costs and speeds up the development of newer vehicles. The industry association is urging provinces to co-operate with them, along with the federal government and consumers to develop a single North American standard.

Nearly 20 American States are planning to adopt or are in the process of adopting the California standards which call for a 30 per cent improvement in the emissions of new cars sold between 2009 and 2016. At least four provinces, representing nearly half of the Canadian market have also indicated they plan to adopt the tougher standards, but the federal government in Canada is still in the midst of consultations.

Becker said that car manufacturers are going to be forced to improve their product since provinces and states are already moving forward on their own, without waiting for their respective federal governments.

"If you add up the combined population of those 19 states, it's the majority of the U.S. car-buying public," said Becker in an interview. "You have a similar situation in Canada looming, where the provinces are about to make the federal government irrelevant on this issue.

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