Trump’s war on science and the environment was recently dealt a setback in the form of an agreement between a group of American, Japanese and European automakers and the State of California.
Four automakers from three continents have struck a dealwith California to produce fleets that are more fuel-efficient in coming years, undercutting one of the Trump administration’s most aggressive climate policy rollbacks.
The compromise between the California Air Resources Board and Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America came after weeks of secret negotiations and could shape future U.S. vehicle production, even as White House officials aim to relax gas-mileage standards for the nation’s cars, pickups and SUVs.
California’s head air pollution regulator invited the Trump Administration to join the agreement. I don’t know whether she was being tactful or naive. To no one’s surprise, the Administration instead doubled down on its proposal to roll back mileage regulations.
Interestingly, the automobile companies approached California, not the other way around.
In a joint statement, the four automakers said their decision to hash out a deal with California was driven by a need for predictability, as well as desires to reduce compliance costs, keep vehicles affordable for customers and be good environmental stewards.
“These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” the group said.
The deal comes as the Trump administration is working to finalize a huge regulatory rollback that would freeze mileage requirements for cars and light trucks next fall at about 37 miles per gallon on average, rather than raising them over time to about 51 mpg for 2025 models — the level the industry and government agreed to during the Obama administration. The proposal also would revoke California’s long-standing authority to set its own rules under the Clean Air Act, a practice the federal government has backed for decades.
It is hard–no it is impossible–to defend the rollback that the Trump Administration is intent on pursuing. Requiring cars to be more fuel-efficient is self-evidently a desirable goal: it would improve public health, combat climate change and save consumers money at the gas pump, all without compromising safety or inordinately burdening manufacturers.
The companies that are party to the agreement with California represent approximately 30% of the market, but that share could grow significantly if other automakers join, as observers anticipate. The Post reports that just last month, Canada pledged to align its gas-mileage targets with California rather than with the Trump administration.
The idiocy of that administration becomes clearer every day.
The transportation sector has emerged as the single-largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, and the future gas mileage of the auto fleet will have a profound effect on the nation’s carbon footprint. According to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, the Trump administration’s plan to freeze mileage standards between 2020 and 2026 would increase greenhouse-gas emissions by between 16 million and 37 million metric tons in that period. That is the equivalent of adding between 3.4 million and 7.8 million cars on the road.
Trump officials have consistently rejected the idea that the federal government should adopt policies aimed at weaning Americans off fossil fuels. NHTSA’s own analysis of its proposed mileage freeze projected that the increased greenhouse-gas emissions from the move would not make a major difference, because the world was on track to warm by seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century anyway. (Emphasis supplied)
We’re dying anyway, so let’s allow our donors to make money now.