A bill just passed by the California Assembly requiring the use of energy-efficient replacement tires in the state may be far more burdensome for the tire industry than it's worth, sources said.
By a 48-29 vote, the bill passed the assembly in late session June 4. It would order the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to develop a statewide fuel efficiency program for replacement passenger and light truck tires. Sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the bill was introduced by Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael.
This program should ensure aftermarket tires are at least as energy-efficient, on average, as tires on new vehicles, the bill said. A fact sheet from Mr. Nation's office claims California could save about 300 million gallons of fuel annually if the bill becomes law.
Using figures it claimed came from a California Energy Commission study, the fact sheet said by using low-rolling-resistance tires, the typical consumer would save about $50 to $150 in gas costs over the 50,000-mile life of a set of tires. That would save a total of $470 million annually.
Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), said the tire industry has yet to see any data backing these claims.
``Would this bill save fuel? Probably. How much would it save? We don't know,'' she said, adding the bill would create more environmental problems than it solved.
``Whenever you decrease a tire's rolling resistance, you have to compromise its other qualities, such as treadwear and traction,'' she said. ``It wouldn't make the tire unsafe, but it would decrease its tread-life. Our estimate is that this bill would increase the generation of scrap tires in California by 10 to 20 percent.''
Ms. Wilson said she met several times with Mr. Nation and other assembly representatives about the bill. Also, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) sent a joint letter to California assembly members opposing the legislation.
Among other complaints, TIA and SEMA said the bill would create a 50-state standard, since it would be very difficult and expensive for tire makers to identify what tires sold only in California.
SEMA, TIA and the RMA all have taken action to mobilize California dealers against the bill. ``California dealers would be at a competitive disadvantage because the bill would effectively limit the range of tires sold in California,'' according to a release sent to California dealers. Because of this, California dealers would lose business to Internet and out-of-state dealers, it said.
The bill will go to the state Senate the week of June 9. It has a deadline of Sept. 12 to pass legislation this year. An RMA spokesman said Mr. Nation has indicated he is willing to work with industry representatives to draft a compromise bill to send to the Senate, ``but that remains to be seen.''