Buried deep within a 62-page draft proposal is a plan by House Republicans to reward carmakers for adopting advanced collision-avoidance technology by easing pollution rules through greenhouse gas credits. The proposed swap was hailed by the auto industry, defended by the drafters and rapped by House Democrats.
“There is a direct link between reducing crashes and reducing CO2 emissions,” Mitch Bainwol, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a Washington-based lobbying group. Auto industry representatives told a hearing on the proposal that greenhouse gas emissions would be cut back because there would be fewer crashes. Their reasoning was that accidents cause congestion that dumps millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose Republican staff wrote the proposal, slammed the bill as a mistake. “This bill essentially creates a congressionally sanctioned defeat device,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and the committee’s ranking Democrat. Pallone was referring to the defeat device that Volkswagen used to game regulators into thinking that its diesel vehicles met U.S. emissions standards. The automaker told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month that it had used cheatware to fool regulators into believing that its vehicles met emissions standards. The House panel is investigating the automaker’s use of the defeat device.
Under the committee proposal, automakers would receive credit for three grams of CO2 per mile for any vehicle that had three advanced safety systems. If those systems were to communicate with other systems on the road, the credit would be doubled. Republicans maintained that the credits would be an incentive for automakers to deploy advanced collision-avoidance technology. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., committee chair, defended the proposal. “This is a life-saving endeavor,” He said the approach “incentivizes automakers to invest in safety technology that will save more lives,” Automotive News said in a report yesterday.
Automakers, though, have already agreed to start deployment of collision-avoidance systems in the next few years. Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which oversees automotive safety, said the industry is already adopting safety technology. That technology includes automatic emergency braking and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. It needs no new incentives. “Save lives, prevent injuries – that should be the highest incentive that anybody needs to add advanced technologies,” the agency chief said.
The plan, enthusiastically supported by the auto industry, would grant relief from upcoming EPA standards. Under EPA rules, emissions must be reduced to 163 grams per mile in model year 2025, down from 218 grams in 2018, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The proposed plan would represent about four to nine percent of that gap.