State air regulators consider new approaches to cut global warming |

State air regulators consider new approaches to cut global warming

SACRAMENTO – When Californians take their vehicles in for a tune up, smog check or oil change, the job should include fully inflating their tires.

That one simple step could prevent an estimated 200,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year from going into the air, according to a new proposal that state air regulators are weighing to help California meet its global warming goals.

Making tire inflation a mandatory regulation is among five new early action measures that would take effect by Jan. 1, 2010 to help California reduce greenhouse gases by an estimated 25 percent by the year 2020.

“There (are) a wide variety of things we can be doing right now to help us meet our goal of rolling back emission levels to 1990,” Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Nichols planned to unveil the regulations Friday at a conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Palo Alto.

The announcement comes three months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Air Resources Board were criticized by Democrats and environmentalists for moving too slowly to implement California’s 2006 landmark global warming law. The law, known as AB32, requires regulators to take so-called “early action measures” to start reducing greenhouse gases.

The board spent months earlier this year sifting through 72 proposals from interest groups, businesses, environmental, public health groups and industry representatives. But it eventually adopted only three — a ban on do-it-yourself coolant cans for air conditioning systems, creating new standards to lower carbon emissions in fuels and capturing more of the methane that spews from landfills.

The dispute exploded in July when former board chairman Robert Sawyer, whom Schwarzenegger had fired for not being aggressive enough on global warming, released a voice mail transcript in which a Schwarzenegger aide asked the board to adopt only three early action measures.

Schwarzenegger appointed Nichols, a Democrat and former secretary of the Resources Agency, July 3 to replace Sawyer.

Environmental groups said Thursday they were encouraged that the board planned to reconsider a wider scope of global warming regulations.

“It’s really heartening to see how much progress California is making,” said Devra Wang, director of California Energy Programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “At this point I think we have a robust list.”

The Air Resources Board plans to hold public workshops this month on the five early action measures and another six proposals that could also be implemented later.

The board is expected to vote on the measures at its October meeting.

If adopted, the early measures could reduce greenhouse gases by 2.8 million metric tons — the equivalent of about 604,000 cars being taken off the road in a single year. They would achieve roughly 2 percent of the state’s 2020 reduction goal, Nichols said.

Nearly half the reductions would come from retrofitting fuel-guzzling trucks and trailers with aerodynamic devices designed to make them more efficient. For example, adding an angled plastic shield to the front of a truck cab or installing wheel guards helps to move air around trucks and makes them about 5 percent more fuel efficient, said Don Anair, a vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

That translates into an estimated 1.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to board calculations.

“What ARB is proposing is that off-the-shelf technology be adopted today instead of waiting for new fuel-efficient trucks to hit the road,” Anair said.

Other regulations proposed for 2010 include requiring cargo ships docked at ports to turn off their engines and use electrical outlets for power, a ban on the chemical sulfur hexafluoride, used to make aluminum, magnesium and semiconductors, and more stringent rules on emitting the potent greenhouse gas perfluorocarbon, which is used to make microchips and circuit boards.

Measures that could be adopted after 2010 include: Improving energy efficiency at cement manufacturers as well as changing how cement is made, and improving compliance with rules limiting how long trucks and buses can idle. The board also plans to monitor and recover refrigerants such as the potent gas hydrofluorocarbon and research how to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer.

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