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NSF Study Group Asks Delay Of Auto-Emissions Legislation

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An author of a National Science Foundation report supporting the extension of federal deadlines for air-pollution control standards on automobiles, said yesterday that it would be "unwise and impractical" for Congress to force the automotive industry to adopt currently-designed emission-control devices for next year's cars.

Greg K. Ingram, assistant professor of Economics, said that Congress should not promote the manufacture of the catalytic converter "simply because its the only technology now available to control car exhaust."

Ingram was a member of a study group of professors from several major universities, which released a report last Thursday recommending a delay until 1980 in implementing federal standards.

The standards call for 90 per cent reduction is air pollutants emitted by new automobiles. John F. Kain, professor of Economics, was also a member in the study group.

Ingram said that the catalytic converter, which eliminates many of the harmful substances from exhaust fumes before they are released into the air, may itself become a health hazard by emitting potentially dangerous sulfates into the environment.

"Ironically we might be adopting a hazardous technology in order to prevent exhaust emissions which by themselves may not be as harmful," Kain said.

He added that by delaying the deadline for setting the federal pollution-control standards, auto companies would "have the chance to investigate less expensive and more promising technologies than the ones we have now."

The Clean Air Act of 1970 mandated a 90 per cent cut in carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions for 1975 cars. It also set a 1976 deadline for a similar cut in harder-to-control nitrogen oxide emissions. Both deadlines have since been extended to 1977-78 by the Energy Emergency Act.

Kain said yesterday that the study group also recommended levying "some kind of financial penalty" on auto companies which failed to meet their suggested deadlines. He said this would "spur the industry on" to discover better emission-control devices.

James A. Fay, professor of Mechanical Engineering at M.I.T. and one of the report's authors, opposed the committee's majority recommendation to delay the federal standards.

"I just don't think there was enough evidence to support that point of view," Fay said yesterday. "The health benefits of putting catalytic converters on cars now would far outweigh the economic gain in waiting to develop cheaper technologies later," he said.

Ingram said that "both Dr. Fay and myself looked at the same data and obviously came to different conclusions." He added that one current study proposes an auto pollution-control program which would be $2 to 3 billion cheaper than the catalytic converter technology, "if we would wait a few years for that program to develop."

Ingram was referring to a National Academy of Science committee report released last month which suggested several ways Congress could modify its current legislation on emission-control technology.

Both Kain and Ingram, as well as John R. Meyer, professor of Transportation and Distribution, were on that committee.

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