Automakers sign emissions deal with Canada, say nyah-nyah to Cali

Major automakers signed a deal with the Canadian government yesterday that will have them voluntarily reduce their fleets’ greenhouse-gas emissions by roughly 25 percent by 2010. Though it takes the heat off them in Canada, where mandatory federal regulations had been threatened, it puts automakers in a tricky public-relations position in the U.S., where they are suing California over the state’s recent adoption of greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles. There are important differences between the Canada and California situations. While California’s limits basically demand improved fuel economy from autos, Canada’s deal simply calls for a total reduction of emissions tonnage, which gives automakers more flexibility. Also, the Canadian deal is countrywide, while California’s standards threaten the auto industry with a patchwork of state-by-state regulations. But still, the “optics” are bad, as they say in the PR biz, allowing people like Roland Hwang of the Natural Resources Defense Council to say things like, “Americans shouldn’t have to cross the border to buy cleaner cars like prescription drugs.” Zing!