By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Just like you hunt for that Energy Star tag when examining a fridge or washer, people in California can now duck under the hood of any new 2009 model car to get an at-a-glance emissions rating.

The Environmental Performance sticker, mandated to begin on Jan. 1 for all new model cars, will include two scores, one rating the car’s smog emissions and the other its greenhouse gas output. The air pollutants for the latter include carbon dioxide emissions, which make up the greatest volume of greenhouse gases. Gas engine cars emit nitrous oxides, methane gases, hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and other emissions.

High mileage cars are almost always considered more environmentally friendly, because they consume less gas overall. But the new labeling system takes a closer look by deconstructing what actually comes out of the car’s tailpipe. Not surprisingly, the winners in this competition are all-electric vehicles that emit no carbon pollution, though one could argue that charging the electric battery required some use of “dirty energy” if the electricity was powered by, say, coal plants.

The all-electric cars are followed in the rankings by hybrids, many of which score a 9 on the ten-point scale (with ten being the top score).

To see the list of top cleanest cars on the new bifurcated ranking system (which replaces previous emissions notifications), visit the California Air Resources Board’s website Drive Clean.

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