Clean-car dominoes keep falling. This week, it’s Canada, with Oregon next.

On Wednesday, word came that the Canadian government and the big automakers have signed an agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from new vehicles. The previously announced target of a 25 percent reduction in new-car emissions by 2010 has apparently been nixed. In its place is a specified number of tons of gases that automakers must keep out of the atmosphere through improvements to new cars, as McLeans reports.

The number of tons, according to one report, is roughly equal to the old 25-percent target. Unfortunately, that’s a hard claim to assess, because the details of the agreement are still secret.

The 25-percent target has always been important, and ambitious—more ambitious than the 30-percent emissions reduction written into California’s clean-car standards because the latter standard has a deadline of 2016. The year 2010 is just around the corner in a gigantic industry that takes many months to usher new technologies into mass production. So even if this agreement turns out to be watered down, it’s likely that it at least matches the California standard.

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  • And that means Canada is firmly on board, as are seven northeastern states, in the march toward clean cars. Soon, the territory of clean cars will have outflanked and surrounded the US heartland, in a pattern familiar from the “United States of Canada” map that became famous after the US elections in November.

    The missing links in this semi-circle are Washington, where the domino is more than halfway over, and Oregon, where the domino is teetering. And Oregon is holding hearings on clean-car standards as I write. The Oregonianeditorializes today in favor of clean-car standards.

    With Washington and Oregon on board, more than one-third of the North American auto market will be in the clean-car empire. And that’s probably enough to flip the entire North American market over to cleaner technology.