U.S. automakers want something from President Trump. No, it’s not lower fuel economy requirements. Environmental Protection Agency czar Scott Pruitt gave that assurance last month. And it’s not a roll-back on emission limits either. That’s in the works as well.
America’s top car makers want Trump to accept that climate change isn’t a “hoax” and that the standards his administration puts into place must take that environmental threat into account.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), the industry trade group that represents auto leaders like GM, Ford and Volkswagen,has sent a letter to President Trump urging him to consider the environmental implications of his changes to EPA rulings.
“Climate change is real,” the automakers told Trump.
“Automakers remain committed to increasing fuel efficiency requirements, which yield everyday fuel savings for consumers while also reducing emissions — because climate change is real and we have a continuing role in reducing greenhouse gases and improving fuel efficiency,” said David Schwietert, the organization’s executive vice president of federal government relations.
While this may seem like a “pinch me” moment for environmentalists, there was a larger, economic reason for the organization’s words of caution: the implications of being caught between two different regulatory systems that don’t see eye-to-eye.
The state of California’s own automotive standards are expected to be stricter than the federal guidelines and automakers are currently scrambling to figure out how to address both the federal requirements and the ambitious goals of eco-conscious states.
As of 2016, California had far outpaced other states in the number of vehicles on the road. But that number is quickly changing, says Capitol Tire, which notes that it’s now states with large swaths of rural areas that consistently show more vehicles per capita. California’s home-grown emphasis to decrease emissions and beat climate change impacts falls in line with its effort to tighten up mileage standards – and reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
From the automakers’ standpoint, state and federal disagreements over emission and mileage standards can be a nightmare for car manufacturers, especially when the disagreements end up in court battles. Earlier this month California and 16 other states as well as the District of Columbia sued the EPA over the rollback of greenhouse gas emission regulations for vehicles, setting off what will probably be a protracted session of appeals all the way to the Supreme Court.
Still, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra isn’t mincing words to the EPA. "My message to the EPA and Administrator Pruitt is simple: Do your job. Regulate carbon pollution from vehicles," he said during a press conference. "We are not looking to pick a fight with the Trump administration, but we are ready for one."
And that’s probably why the AAM is now speaking up. Designing new vehicles can take years, if not decades to accomplish, so consensus between regulatory agencies is critical to the corporate bottom line. Ignoring more efficient fuel economy strategies (which prompted consumers to purchase smaller vehicles and leave less economic choices on the lot during the 2008 recession) and all-out battles with the state that often sets many of the standards that other states choose to follow doesn’t bode well for an industry that knows that economics, just as much as climate change, drives the number of cars on America’s roads.
Photo: Flickr / Nayuki
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.