GM, Toyota, Hyundai back Trump opposition to tougher California fuel standards

by Chris Reed | November 4, 2019 10:14 am

Smog hangs over the Los Angeles basin in this WikiMedia photo.

The Trump administration’s efforts to bend California to its will on a variety of fronts have been mixed at best. Last week, for example, a panel of judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed[1] yet again that federal funding to state law enforcement agencies couldn’t be linked to their assistance in deporting illegal immigrants. Judges have ruled[2] for the state and against the federal government in cases involving other immigration issues and environmental policies.

But the White House can claim a substantial win on vehicle emissions. Last week, many of the largest automakers in the world sided with President Donald Trump in his view that it’s not good for the U.S. economy for the nation’s largest state to have tougher rules on vehicle emissions and miles per gallon than those set by the federal government.

General Motors, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia and Fiat Chrysler are backing Trump’s attempt to end the waiver that California has had for more than 50 years allowing it to set tougher standards on emissions for vehicles sold in the state. Twelve other states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – have adopted[3] the Golden State’s rules.

The fight was triggered by the Trump administration’s decision to scrap rules set by President Barack Obama that required automakers to have their vehicles average 55 miles per gallon by 2025. This led California Gov. Gavin Newsom to reach out to automakers to seek their voluntary compliance with tougher standards, winning support[4] in July from Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW for a plan under which their fleets would average 50 miles per gallon by 2026 – weaker than what Obama wanted but much tougher than Trump’s rules, which would set 37 miles per gallon as the industry standard.

Newsom said then that he was “very confident” other automakers would accept California’s standards. Instead, the largest automakers in the U.S., Japan and South Korea have sided with Trump in filing arguments with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is considering a lawsuit[5] from California and 22 other states seeking to uphold the Obama administration’s fuel-efficiency rules.

The automakers and the National Automobile Dealers Association said that they needed “the certainty that states cannot interfere with federal fuel economy standards.”

Newsom, Brown decry Trump’s global warming skepticism

Obama, Newsom and most climate scientists see requiring higher gas mileage standards as the easiest way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that build up in the atmosphere and cause global warming. Vehicle emissions in recent years have passed power plant emissions as the single biggest generator of greenhouse gases.

Trump rejects the conventional wisdom about greenhouse gases. As the New York Times reported[6] Saturday, he has “directed the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back nearly every federal policy designed to curb the heat-trapping fossil-fuel pollution that is the chief cause of global warming.”

In the report, Newsom told the Times that the state’s recent history of devastating wildfires was directly related to climate change.

“We’re waging war against the most destructive fires in our state’s history, and Trump is conducting a full-on assault against the antidote,” Newsom said.

Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, framed the issue even more dramatically in testimony[7] to Congress last week.

“The seas are rising, diseases are spreading, fires are burning, hundreds of thousands of people are leaving their homes,” he said. “California is burning while the deniers fight the standards that can help us all. This is life-and-death stuff.”

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