On Monday, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota said they were intervening on the side of the Trump Administration in its fight with California over that states’ right to set its own emissions policy. Since the 1960’s California has set its own emissions policies, and has a specific allowance to do so instead of being limited by EPA regulations. However, under the Trump administration the EPA has sought to eradicate California’s emissions policies.
So far several automakers, a long list of other States, and many environmental groups have sided with California in this battle. The New York Times is predicting this fight will reach the Supreme Court, and it will have far-reaching repercussions on environmental policies and states rights issues.
Last Summer, the Trump administration moved to cancel the Obama administration’s plan to upgrade the CAFE standards. Last Fall and Winter, the EPA and California were in “negotiations” over whether California would continue having the right to set its own emissions policies. California, by the way, described those “negotiations” as one-sided demands from the EPA, leading California to simply ignore the EPA. In September, California and the aforementioned collaborating organizations announced their joint effort to fight the Trump Administration. Minnesota later announced they would join that fight on the side of California. In October, the Trump administration moved towards reopening Fracking operations in parts of California.
The Trump administration has taken many other similar steps, earning itself a strong reputation as doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry. Their stance in this case certainly undermines the goal of clean transportation powered by clean energy.
In the New York Times article, it is said the automakers are led by the Association of Global Automakers, and their stance is that “the federal government, not California, has the ultimate authority to set fuel economy standards for passenger cars and trucks.”
As we said above, California has a strong precedent in setting its own emissions policies. It’s effort in this area began before the EPA existed, and California has had explicit permission for over fifty years to set emissions policies. Those policies are well enough developed that many other States have adopted those policies.
A result of those policies are the various hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles made by many automakers. So let’s think about these three automakers and what they’re doing about electrified vehicles:
- General Motors: Remember Who Killed the Electric Car? Rightly or wrongly, GM and their move to crush (literally) the EV1 played a significant role in that movie. While GM today is building what seems to be a very nice electric car (the Chevy Bolt), they have a very mixed history in this regard.
- Fiat: The Chairman of Fiat/Chrysler has famously begged customers to not buy the Fiat 500e because of how much Fiat loses on each unit sold.
- Toyota: This company strongly stresses the Prius and other hybrid vehicles, and has resisted selling even plug-in hybrids. Yes they sell a Plug-in Prius, but have hobbled it with a ridiculous poor electric range and marketing messages about how you don’t have to plug it in. Yes, they have sold an electric version of the RAV4, but it was strictly limited to 2500 units, precisely enough to earn enough ZEV credits to continue selling cars in California.
In other words, the automakers that have sided with the Trump Administration are not the strongest advocates of electrification.
California and its allies have a strong position. As the NY Times article says: “California and the other states maintain that its authority to set standards on tailpipe pollution was granted lawfully by Congress as part of the Clean Air Act, one of the country’s foundational environmental laws, and that its revocation would be unlawful.”
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