FRESNO – California should be permitted to enact the world’s toughest vehicle-emission standards as part of its effort to combat global warming, a state attorney told a federal judge Friday. “Congress wanted California to be an innovator,” California Deputy Attorney General Mark Melnick argued in U.S. District Court in defense of regulations seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. At issue are tailpipe emission standards for greenhouse gases approved in 2004 by the California Air Resources Board. The rules are designed to cut polluting exhaust from cars and light trucks by 25 percent and from sport utility vehicles by 18 percent. A coalition of automakers is challenging the rules as a de-facto mandate on fuel-economy standards, which can be set only by the federal government. The state Attorney General’s Office has urged U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii to rule immediately, while automakers want to proceed to a trial that is scheduled to start Jan. 30. California’s attempt to limit tailpipe emissions is a key component of a broader state effort to reduce its emissions of gases that contribute to global warming. The state wants to cut the amount of such gases to 1990 levels by 2020.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe Christmas Truce of 1914 proved that peace is possible“The so-called carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emissions standards, or whatever label California puts on its standards, are in fact fuel-economy standards,” said Andrew Clubok, an attorney representing the lawsuit’s main plaintiff, Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep Inc. “The only way to reduce carbon dioxide is to increase fuel economy.” Some European countries and Japan already have higher fuel-efficiency standards than the U.S. But automakers say those stricter benchmarks can be met because drivers in those countries have smaller cars with manual transmissions, both of which use less gas. They said the technology does not yet exist or cannot be applied practically to the larger vehicles generally used in the U.S. In addition, Clubok argued that the California regulation would “massively” increase the cost of vehicles, eliminate some types of trucks used by farmers, lead to more highway fatalities and cause more air pollution. He said drivers of fuel-efficient cars often drive more, spewing other nonregulated pollutants into the air. A decision in the case could have national implications. Ten other states have adopted the stricter California standard, which caps greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles beginning in 2009.