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Countdown to requiring low rolling resistant tires in California begins

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The California Energy Commission (CEC), in cooperation with the Integrated Waste Management Board, has approved work on a study that will serve as the basis for an eventual tire fuel efficiency reporting system and minimum efficiency standards.

A key concern to both of these agencies is that future fuel economy improvement does not come at the expense of tire life.

The 18-month, $400,000 contract with Smithers Scientific Services Inc. will examine tire characteristics such as longevity, safety and ease of recycling. It also will establish a database of findings. The study was authorized by Assembly Bill 844, which was signed into law in 2003.

The study will be the basis for adopting low rolling resistance tire regulations, which will rely heavily on industry and public input. The legislative proceedings are expected to start in July 2006.

Assembly Bill 844 gave the CEC authority to adopt fuel efficiency labeling and ratings standards for all replacement tires sold in the state beginning in 2008. The law also requires that rolling resistance data be made easily accessible to anyone purchasing tires.

There are concerns about the implementation of the law, however.

"If all the provisions of the law are carried out in the timeframe specified, retail tire outlets in California will be forced to sell only tires with acceptable fuel efficiency ratings beginning in 2008," wrote Bob Ulrich, editor of Modern Tire Dealer, in the magazine´s September 2004 editorial.

According to the CEC, about 300 million gallons of fuel could be saved if consumers use fuel efficiency information as they make their decisions about replacement tires. According to Ulrich, legislation discouraging vehicle owners from driving on underinflated tires -- the number one cause of fuel inefficiency -- would have the same effect. "But you won´t see that bill in your state legislature anytime soon.

"Simply, such standards will limit what tire retailers can sell, and affect their ability to service their customers."

Once work on the study is completed, the information will be available on the CEC´s Consumer Energy Center Web site: www.consumerenergycenter.org.

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