As Congress moves to clean up the nation's smog-clogged air, lawmakers are taking aim at not only the automobile but its fuel. And that means the days of gasoline's supremacy may end.
Among the series of amendments expected to be considered Wednesday by the House are two proposals aimed at making automobiles use cleaner and more environmentally friendly fuels or blends.Automobiles cause nearly half of the smog-producing pollutants that plague the nation's major cities. They also are the source of dangerous toxic emissions including a number of cancer-causing pollutants.
Tougher air-pollution controls included in the clean-air legislation now before the House and approved by the Senate earlier this year call for sharp reductions in emissions from cars and trucks. Automakers will have to install new emission controls to meet the new standards, and oil companies will have to produce cleaner fuels.
But some congressmen say neither bill goes far enough, at least in the nine cities where the smog problem is the worst and where motorists buy 22 percent of the nation's gasoline.
Among the amendments cleared for consideration by House rulemakers late Tuesday were proposals requiring:
-Production of 1 million cars a year by 1997 that burn fuels other than gasoline. The cars would be sold in nine cities with the worst pollution.
Auto-industry lobbyists, who oppose the proposal, argue the amendment calls for such stiff emission cuts that the cars could be run on only pure methanol or compressed natural gas. Supporters argue truly alternative fuel vehicles are needed to rid urban areas of smog.
-The sale of cleaner gasoline blends that have specific oxygen content in nine cities with the worst smog and 44 other cities that fail to meet carbon monoxide standards.
The requirements likely will be met only by selling a gasoline-ethanol blend of fuel. Despite a $1 million advertising and lobbying campaign against the measure by the oil industry in recent weeks, the measure is expected to be approved by the House. A similar proposal is in the Senate bill.
Among the other amendments that were cleared for floor consideration were proposals that would:
Extend the warranty requirements on pollution-control equipment on cars; impose air pollution regulations on offshore oil drilling platforms; direct a phaseout of ozone-damaging chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons; provide additional unemployment compensation for workers who lose their jobs because of new pollution controls; and require visibility controls for many national parks and wilderness areas.