“Oh, woe! Alas, alack! Please, Mr. Trump, don’t roll back auto emissions rules too much, sir. Just a little bit. That’s all we’re asking.” That’s the message US automakers are sending to Washington these days as the Trump maladministration prepares to release new exhaust emission rules that will take this once great nation back to the heady days when you could smell unburned hydrocarbons pouring from the tailpipe of the car in front of you.
Two-Faced Car Companies Beg For Mercy
Right after the coronation of the Jackass In Chief (who tweeted yesterday that the moon is part of Mars) in 2017, top executives from the car companies all flew their Lear jets up to DC to plead for relief from the crushing burden of the exhaust emissions rules they all agreed to in 2011 when they went to Capitol Hill to plead for bailout money from Uncle Sugar.
The problem is, California is not backing down from its commitment to reducing exhaust emissions. In fact, last month, after EPA head Andrew Wheeler unilaterally broke off talks with California, CARB chair Mary Nichols said her state will respond to any relaxation of federal auto rules with more stringent anti-pollution requirements on everything from fuel to the refineries producing it.
“CARB will be exploring ways to ensure communities get the reductions of air pollution they so desperately need to keep the air clean and breathable — and continue to fight climate change,” Nichols said, according to a report by Automotive News. “That might mean, for example, tougher requirements for low-carbon fuels, looking at tighter health protective regulations on California refineries, doubling down on our enforcement efforts on mobile and stationary sources — and might lead to an outright ban on internal combustion engines.” (Emphasis added.)
In other words, unlike the rest of the world which continues to kowtow to the ravings of the lunatic in the White House, California is prepared to stand its ground and protect its citizens from the health risks associated with burning fossil fuels. The federal government, on the other hand, cares more about profits for fossil fuel companies than the health of its citizens.
A Bifurcated Market
California and the 13 other states that subscribe to its exhaust emissions rules comprise more than 40% of the new car market, which puts the car companies in a real bind. The upshot for automakers is that if the schism between Washington and Sacramento can’t be healed, they will have to build two different versions of every vehicle they make — one for sale in California and those 13 other states and a second for the rest of the country.
17 US automakers (not including Fiat Chrysler) signed a letter to the alleged president this week which read in part, “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,” according to the New York Times.
Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House, said in an email to the Times that the impasse is solely the fault of California, which has “failed to put forward a productive alternative.” Translation: California refused to knuckle under to the demands of the Neanderthal in the Offal Office whose idea of negotiating is to slap his opponent upside the head with a brick.
California Governor Gavin Newsome received a similar letter. In an e-mail to the Times he said, “A rollback of auto emissions standards is bad for the climate and bad for the economy. I applaud the automakers for saying as much in their letter today to the president. We should keep working towards one national standard — one that doesn’t backtrack on the progress states like California have made.”
Absent some resolution to the impasse, the conflict is headed for the courts, where it will likely remain tied up in litigation until the US tricentennial in 2076. The automakers don’t really care about killing their customers with tailpipe emissions. What they really care about is making money — something that will be harder for them to do if the US market is split into two regulatory emissions schemes.
The uncertainty of costly litigation is what scares Detroit the most. It would be nice if they admitted their products kill people, but that may be a bridge too far for them. The Trumpian rollback plan has a certain poetic justice to it, one embodied in a Toyota ad campaign from a long times ago that focused on the phrase, “You asked for it, you got it!” Boy howdy, did they ever! It’s hard to feel much sympathy for them. They called the tune and now it is time to pay the piper.
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