Fearing 'Instability,' Automakers Urge National Compromise On Emissions

Seventeen automakers from around the world have signed separate letters to President Donald Trump and California Governor Gavin Newsom urging them to reach a compromise on tailpipe pollution standards that could be applied nationally.

“The carmakers are addressing a crisis that is partly of their own making. They had sought some changes to the pollution standards early in the Trump presidency, but have since grown alarmed at the expanding scope of the administration’s plan,” writes  Coral Davenport for the New York Times in breaking the story.



“Mr. Trump’s new rule, which is expected to be made public this summer, would all but eliminate the Obama-era auto pollution regulations, essentially freezing mileage standards at about 37 miles per gallon for cars, down from a target of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The policy makes it a near certainty that California and 13 other states will sue the administration while continuing to enforce their own, stricter rules -- in effect, splitting the United States auto market in two,” Davenport continues.

The letter to Trump, which begins and ends with flattering thank yous for his support of the auto industry and “American workers and their families,” makes the case that his plan could lead to  “untenable” instability and litigation. It states: “We strongly believe the best path to preserve good auto jobs and keep new vehicles affordable for more Americans is a final rule supported by all parties -- including California.”

The letter to Newsom calls for “a compromise ‘midway’ between the Obama-era standards that require annual decreases of about 5% in emissions and the Trump administration’s proposal that would freeze vehicle emissions requirements at 2020 levels through 2026. The automakers are making a last-ditch appeal to try to revive talks in order to avoid years of uncertainty over what rules they will face,” Reuters’ David Shepardson reports.

“Official projections show the administration’s plan would increase daily gas consumption across the United States by about 500,000 barrels a day, worsening greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the rise in global temperatures…. That could lead to a nightmare scenario for car companies, where they would have to produce different vehicles for a divided U.S. market -- one class of smoke-belching cars that would meet the Trump administration’s scaled-back standard, and cleaner vehicles for California and the states that follow its regulations,” Anna M. Phillips writes  for the Los Angeles Times.

“Dan Becker, director of the Center for Auto Safety’s Safe Climate Campaign, said the letter shows automakers want weaker standards and more loopholes. ‘Had they sent this months ago, maybe it wouldn’t be too late. But now they’re closing the garage door after the gas guzzler has fled,’ Becker said in an email,” writes the AP’s Kathleen Ronayne.

“California has ‘failed to put forward a productive alternative, and we are moving forward to finalize a rule with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles,' said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman,” Ronayne adds. “Newsom, in an emailed statement, said a rollback of the standards would be bad for the climate and the economy.”

The signers of the letters are: Aston Martin Lagonda, BMW North America, Ford, General Motors, Honda North America, Hyundai Motor America, Jaguar Land Rover North America, Kia Motors America, Mazda North American Operations, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Nissan North America, Porsche Cars North America, Subaru of America, Toyota Motor North America, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Car Corp. Missing is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is dealing with issues of its own.

An FCA statement, however, says: “Our position on one national program and the mid-term evaluation remains unchanged. It was made clear when we were one of just two automakers to testify last September at hearings held by the EPA and NHTSA,” Jamie L. LaReau and Eric D. Lawrence report for the Detroit Free Press.

“The thing is, these automakers are welcome to use the same fuel economy and emissions standards across the country. By sticking to the stricter standard that have been on the books for a number of years now, any car that meets CARB standards will also meet the national standards. This seems like a no-brainer to me,” Bradley Brownell opines for Jalopnik.

“Oh, it’s almost like the automakers are still interested in rolling back EPA regulations, but not quite enough to spark California and other states into a bifurcated automotive standards market. It’s a real thinker.”

Or a real stinker, depending on your POV.

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