CO2 around the world
The National Government is watching what Australia does with its CO2 standard. National will review the effect of the ETS transport tax around the middle of next year but won’t report its findings until after the 2011 general election.
Across the ditch, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labour government – if it returns to office – says it will look at a mandatory CO2 target of 190gr/km by 2015, reducing further to 155gr/km in 2024.
A Tony Abbott-led Liberal coalition government is likely to adopt a similar proposal, given the plan already has qualified support from the Australian car industry which has floated its own figure of 195gr/km. Both political parties have left room for negotiation with the Australian car industry, specifically Holden, Ford and Toyota, says website GoAuto. The final figures might not change much, but, as has happened in Europe, there could be allowances based on factors such as vehicle mass. In Europe, the EU is phasing in a 130gr/km limit for passenger cars by 2012 – and has set a limit of 95gr/km by 2020 – but the initial target for each carmaker varies according to the average weight of their vehicles. That means that the makers of bigger cars, such as the prestige English and German brands, might only have to reach, say, 140gr/km, while small-car specialists such as Fiat will not have the same luxury. Among the criticisms levelled at this approach is that it discourages carmakers from reducing vehicle mass and could even prompt some to build bigger and heavier cars to receive a less demanding CO2 target.
While New Zealand’s and Australia’s CO2 figure is moving in the right direction, other countries are moving at a much faster rate. At the end of last year – the most recent finding – New Zealand’s CO2 fleet average was 204gr/km; Australia’s was 222gr/km. Both findings were better than the US figure of 256.6gr/km but well behind Britain (149.5gr/km), Europe (145.9gr/km, taken across 21 countries) and Japan (131.2gr/ km). For its part, Suzuki – a specialist maker of small vehicles – says it has the cleanest cars in the country, claiming its vehicles emit an average 165.6 grams of CO2 gas per kilometre (according to a survey carried out in 2010).
The rating is lower than the government’s proposed 2015 standard of 170g/km. However, close behind are VW (165.9) and Honda at 178. Meantime, vehicles capable of running on biofuels such as E85 ethanol are likely to get room to move from mandatory fuel efficiency standards in Australia.
Although the volume of CO2 emitted from the E85 car’s tailpipe is little different to those of cars running on fossil fuels, proponents of ethanol argue that up to 50 per cent of CO2 is either recaptured in the growing of plants such as sugar cane or sorghum or uses carbon that would otherwise be emitted as methane.