The Trump Administration’s attempts to scale back Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions regulations isn’t going smoothly lately, with much of the auto industry rejecting the proposal, the State of California ignoring the proposal, and even the EPA is reportedly struggling to scientifically justify said proposal.
Other than that, things seem fine.
New details of just how disorganized and dysfunctional President Trump’s plan to dramatically scale back regulations enacted by the previous administration have been reported by the New York Times, and things apparently are getting very sloppy.
BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen voluntarily agreed to a compromise proposal with the State of California last month, effectively ignoring the federal government’s plans and instead recognizing California’s legal right to establish its own emissions regulations, which at least 12 other U.S. states currently also comply with. That compromise deal essentially delays the Obama-era regulation deadline by one year to 2026.
The news now is that Mercedes-Benz is reportedly expected to join those four automakers in publicly and voluntarily agreeing to the compromise, along with another, confusingly anonymous automaker the Times mysteriously granted anonymity to, according to the report:
In addition to Mercedes-Benz, a sixth prominent automaker — one of the three summoned last month to the White House — intends to disregard the Trump proposal and stick to the current, stricter federal emissions standards for at least the next four years, according to executives at the company.
Together, the six manufacturers who so far plan not to adhere to the new Trump rules account for more than 40 percent of all cars sold in the United States.
“You get to a point where, if enough companies are with California, then what the Trump administration is doing is moot,” said Alan Krupnick, an economist with Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan energy and environment research organization.
The current administration is so concerned about everybody backing up California’s compromise that it called General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota to press them to not comply with the State’s proposal, the Times claims. However, as that Times quote reports, one of those already appears ready to defect and become the sixth automaker to agree to the compromise.
The reason may have something to do with there being no legitimate backing to Trump’s proposed rollback, again from the Times report:
At the same time, staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department, which are writing the rule, say they are struggling to assemble a coherent technical and scientific analysis required by law to implement a rule change of this scope.
Several analyses by academics and consumer advocates have questioned administration’s claim of benefits to the public. An Aug. 7 report by Consumer Reports concluded that Mr. Trump’s proposed rollback would cost consumers $460 billion between vehicle model years 2021 and 2035, an average of $3,300 more per vehicle, in car prices and gasoline purchases. It also found the rollback would increase the nation’s oil consumption by 320 billion gallons.
A considerable portion of automakers in the U.S., 17 of them to be exact, publicly protested the proposed rollback when it was first floated. Among other concerns, including recognizing climate change and pollution are potentially catastrophic PR nightmares, these automakers don’t really want to sell vehicles in the U.S. built to multiple standards. They want one standard. It’s cheaper that way.
Also, improved gas mileage can be marketed competitively against rivals to offer more value to customers, and most of the other markets these automakers build vehicles for are pushing ahead with rational emissions regulations that will require the companies to do the work anyway.
So, with the EPA reportedly struggling to find scientific rationale for the rollback, which is legally required to make the changes, California rightfully flexing its legal right to maintain its emissions issues with its own policies, which automakers will have to comply with considering the massive automotive market represented by the states that abide by California’s regulations, and the majority of the automotive industry flatly rejecting the changes, the Trump machine is understandably devolving into slight chaos. Again from the Times:
Late last month, in the days immediately after the deal between California and the four automakers was announced, White House discussions ranged widely about how to respond.
At one White House meeting, Mr. Trump went so far as to propose scrapping his own rollback plan and keeping the Obama regulations, while still revoking California’s legal authority to set its own standards, according to the three people familiar with the meeting. The president framed it as a way to retaliate against both California and the four automakers in California’s camp, those people said.
I also feel the need to point out that three senior officials tasked with sorting this mess out have left the administration, a fourth senior official has been moved, and it’s all being overlooked by a 29-year old aide from Vice President Mike Pence’s office with limited climate policy experience now, according to the Times.
So yet again, the Trump administration has proposed unnecessary and even potentially costly and damaging policy that impacts a large chunk of Americans and American industry without properly vetting any justification for said changes, and then picked a fight with those that challenge the move, only to have it all devolve into a very public shitshow of even greater consequence than just not doing anything at all, or focusing effort and energy on much more necessary and time-sensitive issues like infrastructure, healthcare, gun control, economic stability and accountability, education, industry, or anything else that’s objectively more important than increasing oil consumption in the U.S.
Meanwhile, most of the automotive industry is already well on its way to accomplishing the targets set out by the Obama administration’s regulations, as the Times points out, and has zero interest in creating a split regulatory system in the U.S. In this case, rejecting a cut to regulations would actually benefit a U.S. industry. What a time to be alive.