Why a single global emissions standard is good for everyone

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Clean air is clean air no matter what continent it blows over.

Too bad government regulators around the world can't agree on a simple single CO2 and NOx standard for gasoline and diesel engines.

During an auto industry conference in Traverse City, Mich., this month, Chris Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, was asked about the possibility of the United States and the European Union agreeing to a uniform set of emissions standards.

He was not hopeful that the European Union and the United States would ever adopt identical standards. That's too bad.

Because if the United States and European Union could develop a tough but realistic standard for CO2 and NOx emissions, and get China onboard, the rest of the world likely would follow.

One set of global emissions standards would pay big dividends for the world's automakers and for new-car buyers. The benefits include:

• Lower component costs because of higher production

• Less engineering complexity

• Simplified manufacturing

• Faster product development

• Higher quality

• A slower rise in vehicle sticker prices

Don't just take my word for it.

Here's what Bob Lee, head of engine, powertrain and electrified propulsion systems engineering for Chrysler Group, says on the matter:

"The impact of disparate emissions and fuel-economy standards is one of the industry's best-kept secrets. Variation divides engineering resources and slows the development process, which drives up cost. A single set of standards, accompanied by a corresponding harmonization of test procedures and test cycles, would benefit the industry and, more importantly, consumers.

"Such a regulatory approach would yield greater efficiency and inspire more innovation. Arguably, the greatest obstacle to achieve commonization would be the rationalization of the mass-based vs. footprint-based approach."

To the EPA's credit, it has helped simplify emissions for automakers by working with California to adopt one national standard for the United States. And now Canada and the United States have the same emissions standards.

But I am amazed that the auto industry doesn't demand top negotiators from the United States, European Union and China sit down and come up with a tough, but achievable set of regulations, based on science and technology, that everyone can meet.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.

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