Automakers are gearing up to take California’s landmark new vehicle-emissions law to court, even though they could face a public opinion backlash by doing so. Industry reps say they are “very confident” that the courts will agree with their argument that California is encroaching on federal jurisdiction by trying to set its own fuel-economy standards. The law, signed by Gov. Gray Davis (D) on Monday, does not specifically call for better fuel efficiency — just for reduced carbon dioxide emissions — but automakers say it would leave them no other choice than to boost the efficiency of vehicles. “The only way to produce less carbon dioxide is to combust less fuel,” said Eron Shosteck, spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the main industry trade group. Honda, which just won preliminary state and federal approval to sell fuel-cell vehicles in California, is the only major manufacturer not in the alliance and has not yet decided whether to join the lawsuit.

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