You’ll never believe why…
President Donald Trump prevented California from setting its own emission standards for vehicles on Wednesday, starting off a fight that is probable to last well beyond the presidential election in 2020.
“The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, noting that the move will lead to “older, highly polluting cars” being replaced by “new, extremely environmentally friendly cars.”
The widely anticipated move arises as the White House is also preparing to roll back the rigid Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, president Barack Obama set. Using its power to set emission objectives, California had set even tougher requirements that effectively needed the automotive industry to start rolling out zero-emission vehicle fleets, including plug-in hybrids, pure battery-electric vehicles, and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
California has already made legal attempts to prevent such a move and has been joined by other states that have taken on more stringent orders from California.
“There will be very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new U.S. Standard, but the cars will be far safer and much less expensive.” Trump wrote. “Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business.”
Originally, California was given power to set tougher norms as a recognition of bad air quality in towns like Los Angeles. Responding to reports that the White House was preparing to follow through on plans to eliminate that waiver, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement warning the move “could have devastating consequences for our kids’ health and the air we breathe, if California were to roll over.”
The administration is engaged in a “witch hunt against California and carmakers,” said the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group, picking up a phrase that Trump often applied to the Mueller investigation into possible collusion with the Russians.
The Justice Department announced earlier this month an antitrust investigation into the agreement reached with California authorities by four vehicle manufacturers — Ford, VW, Honda and BMW — that would have them adhere to more stringent emission and mileage norms than the Trump administration is expected to set under the amended CAFE directive.
The president directly attacked the July deal with California, issuing a tweet that said, “Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well, because execs don’t want to fight California regulators.”
The Environmental Protection Agency, one of the two agencies charged with regulating federal mileage standards, initially derided the agreement between the automakers and the California Air Resources Board as a “PR stunt.”
On Tuesday, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud criticized it again, insisting it “does nothing to further the one national standard that will provide certainty and relief for American consumers.” Abboud also claimed that California regulators “continually refused” to work with the White House to reach a “common sense solution.”
The debate over the current federal fuel economy standards dates back to well before the 2016 elections. While the auto industry reached a compromise early on with the Obama administration setting a target of 54.5 miles per gallon for 2025, the deal called for a “mid-term review” that would explore whether the target remained feasible. With the rapid shift from passenger cars to less fuel-efficient pickups and utility vehicles, a number of automakers began pressing for a rollback, a request the outgoing administration rejected.
Initially, some of those manufacturers supported the Trump administration’s plan to stage its own analysis. But the preliminary revision jointly revealed by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year went well beyond what was expected, and received little industry support.
In June, 17 automakers sent a letter to the White House urging the White House not to pull back as far as had been proposed on CAFE.
A number of surveys, including one by the non-profit Consumers Union, have found strong public support for increased fuel economy goals. In recent days, administration sources have indicated that the final CAFE revisions will see less of a rollback than as outlined in 2018.
“While the White House clings to the past, automakers and American families embrace cleaner cars. The evidence is irrefutable: today’s clean car standards are achievable, science-based, and a boon for hardworking American families and public health,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement Tuesday.
While the industry has shown support for mileage increases, a number of carmakers are more supportive of eliminating the California waiver, arguing that there should just be one fuel economy and auto emissions target nationwide. The agreement the four automakers struck with California in July saw the state compromise, but only slightly. The deal would essentially see the Obama-era emissions and mileage rules pushed back by just one year.