IMAGE: SCHWARZENEGGER WITH HYDROGEN HUMMER
Ann Johansson  /  AP file
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions includes championing hydrogen. He topped off a Hummer modified to run on hydrogen at a special fueling station dedicated at Los Angeles Airport on Oct. 25, 2004.  At right is GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.
updated 5/9/2008 11:17:59 AM ET 2008-05-09T15:17:59

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met privately with seven auto executives over California's attempt to impose strict emission rules, but let it be known publicly that he told the carmakers to stop whining and start producing.

The Republican governor met Thursday with the executives, who requested the get-together. In an interview afterward, he said he told them "the train has left the station" and that they should stop challenging California rules that are intended to help slow the rate of global warming.

"I said, 'While you're whining, you should be creating new technologies. That's how you meet the date," Schwarzenegger told The Associated Press after meeting with members of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

The trade group, whose members include General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC, Toyota Motor Corp., BMW AG and Volkswagen Group of America Inc., is pushing back against California rules designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are part of the state's wider effort to address global warming.

California wants emissions to be cut by nearly one-third for all vehicles sold in the state by 2016. That's four years earlier than similar emission rules proposed by the federal government.

Auto manufacturers say the California benchmark can't be met on time, and they have successfully blocked them from taking effect for now.

It was the first time Schwarzenegger and auto executives have met after years of being at odds over California's tailpipe rules.

Bush administration blocking state
The industry sued California in federal court over a 2002 auto emissions rule, delaying the tougher standards. Although the state successfully defended the legal challenge, the rules have been blocked by the Bush administration, which has denied giving California the waiver from federal law it needs to implement them.

While neither side made any concessions Thursday, they agreed to work together on alternative ways automakers might help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Dave McCurdy, chief executive of the alliance.

He said automakers are exploring ways to promote driving techniques that save fuel. That might include paying for programs in California to synchronize city stoplights or help relieve traffic congestion.

"We think there are some positive steps we can take," said McCurdy, a former congressman from Oklahoma. "This is a journey. This is not the final outcome. We are committed to reducing CO2."

Schwarzenegger said he urged the automakers to create new technologies that would meet California's emissions rules and lead to cleaner-burning and more fuel-efficient vehicles for the global market. The auto alliance says California accounts for 12 percent of domestic auto sales.

Tougher than federal rules
The 2002 law adopted by California requires the auto industry to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016, equivalent to an average fuel-economy level of 35.7 mpg.

In addition, California regulators are moving ahead with plans to strengthen the auto rules and require the equivalent of 43 mpg by 2020 as part of a broader global warming law Schwarzenegger signed in 2006.

If those rules were adopted nationwide, it would be equivalent to taking 14 million cars off the road, according to the California Air Resources Board.

Under federal fuel-efficiency rules proposed in April, new cars and trucks will have to meet a fleet-wide average of 31.6 mpg by 2015. Passenger cars will need to achieve 35.7 mpg, while trucks will need to reach 28.6 percent.

The federal plan is expected to add an average cost of $650 per passenger car and $979 per truck by 2015.

The Bush administration has blocked California from enforcing its auto standards for years. More than a dozen states have sided with California and are challenging the administration in federal court.

The three remaining major-party presidential candidates have expressed support for California's efforts, something Schwarzenegger said he relayed to the auto executives Thursday.

"The writing is on the wall, so let's work together because that's the direction we're going nationally," Schwarzenegger said in the interview.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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