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The state’s goal is simply to provide information to new-car buyers. “Consumer choice is an especially powerful tool in our fight against climate change,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the powerful California Air Resources Board. The stickers also point consumers to a state website, DriveClean, that highlights the cleanest vehicles on the market.
But educating consumers can be a slow process. The new stickers are “the government’s and special-interest groups’ way of trying to get the public interested” in greenhouse-gas emissions, said Aaron Bragman, a research analyst at Global Insights of Troy, Michigan, which analyzes the auto industry for a variety of clients.
“It’s not a response to a public outcry for such information,” Bragman told HybridCars.com. “While it’s common in Europe to have greenhouse-gas emissions information on vehicle stickers, those consumers are taxed on the vehicle’s emissions, so it’s much more relevant.” In the end, Bragman concluded, “Americans are still far more interested in the MPG rating than the CO2 output” of any given vehicle in a showroom.
At the moment, the “green sticker” rule applies only to cars sold within California, which has the largest car market of any single state. As with many other regulations, including limits on vehicular greenhouse-gas emissions, California has taken the lead in rulemaking.
Last December’s energy bill requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create a rating system so consumers can easily compare fuel economy, alternate-fuel capability, exhaust emissions, and greenhouse-gas impact “at the point of purchase.” Thus far, no rules have yet emerged from the EPA, which now posts some of that information on its website—requiring consumers to research such data before entering the showroom.