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THE DEATH OF DIESEL?
Stricter Emission Rules for New Cars
September 19, 2000
A number of new and amended rules aimed at reducing the nitrous-oxide and particulate-matter content of emissions are expected to take effect in 2002. The Environment Agency has finalized a policy that will result in law changes designed to tighten regulations governing vehicle exhaust emissions. The Transport and Construction Ministries also plan to introduce restrictions on special-purpose vehicles, such as cranes, which are exempted under the present regulations. Japan is making rapid progress toward the reduction of NOx pollution.
Companies Must Draw Up Action Plans
In 1992 these issues prompted the government to pass a law requiring the reduction of vehicle NOx emissions as a way of reducing NOx pollution in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kinki region. These restrictions applied mainly to small diesel trucks weighing less than 2.5 tons. Because of subsequent growth in the numbers of medium- and large-sized diesel vehicles, however, the law failed to curb pollution, and the Environment Agency began to evaluate possible amendments.
The new amendments will have several effects. First, diesel vehicles will be required to meet the same standards as gasoline vehicles. In practical terms this will be impossible for diesel trucks under 3.5 tons or diesel passengers cars, so it effectively amounts to a ban on sales of new diesel vehicles. Second, owners of large diesel trucks will be required to replace them, after a grace period, with vehicles that comply with the new regulations. Third, companies operating fleets of 30 vehicles or more will be required to draw up plans to reduce NOx and PM emissions by reducing vehicle use or switching to low-emission vehicles, and to submit those plans to central and local government agencies. These measures had been rejected when the present law was passed because of opposition from industry and other government departments.
The Environment Agency will draft the amendment bill by the end of 2000 after studying a report from the Central Environment Council, which has been deliberating on the changes. The bill will be submitted to the next ordinary session of the Diet, to be convened in January 2001, for passage into law.
Suit Prompted New Legislation
One reason for these rapid moves to tighten NOx emission standards was the government's defeat in January 2000 in the Amagasaki pollution suit, in which the court issued an injunction against the emission of NOx. Other factors include the Tokyo metropolitan government's campaign against diesel vehicles and hardening public attitudes toward pollution caused by vehicle emissions.
Faced with these aggressive moves against NOx pollution by central and local governments, manufacturers are working through research and development to discover ways to cut NOx emissions through means other than the elimination of diesel vehicles. Examples include improved exhaust-gas cleaning technologies, and the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas alternative to gasoline, which has higher NOx emission levels. These efforts are likely to intensify. Vehicle operators, which have hitherto resisted the switch to low-pollution vehicles for cost reasons, will now be required to meet numerical NOx reduction targets and are therefore likely to take a more positive stance toward the introduction of cleaner vehicles.
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.