Clearing the Air Carefully in California
California is sticking to its goal of requiring the sale of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs). But with its ruling last week, the state's Air Resources Board has again whittled down that goal. Some other states, primed to follow California's example - as well as officials in other countries - may be wondering if the antipollution leader is beating a retreat.
After all, the requirement was originally for 10 percent of new cars sold in the state to be zero-emissions. A couple of years ago it slid to 4 percent - and, as of last week's regulatory decision, to 2 percent by 2003.
But there are good reasons for the scaling back. The technological breakthroughs hoped for in the early 1990s, when California's plan was first conceived, haven't come. Battery-powered cars still get too few miles between charges - 150 at most - to satisfy many customers.
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