Let's make the air dirtier

The Trump Administration in Washington, D.C. wants to roll back federal clean-car standards. Their plan will allow automobile manufacturers to make cars that pump far more pollutants into the air than would otherwise be the case.

The issue has triggered action in several state capitals including Albany. As the Trump administration gets closer to rolling back federal clean-car standards, state senator Jen Metzger, a member of the Senate Environment Committee, joined 199 legislators from 14 states in calling on the auto industry to oppose the rollback.

 “Since 2016, the transportation sector has been the number one source of carbon emissions in the United States,” explains Metzger in a press release. “The climate crisis demands that we set high standards to reduce these emissions while incentivizing innovation that will lead to clean, green transportation. While the Trump administration is taking us backwards on this issue by gutting Obama-era standards, New York must be the leader in moving us forward.”

The letter sent by the legislators to the automakers said, in part, “Increasing emissions at a time when scientists are warning us that we must do everything we can to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, is a reckless u-turn that poses a grave threat to the health and future of the constituents we were elected to serve.” The letter said the rollback could result in an additional 2.2 billion metric tons of global warming emissions by 2040.”

While some automakers have asked for “flexibility” in terms of emission standards, they were not prepared for the kind of change proposed in Washington, and do not want it. When the issue started heating up last spring, Bill Ford, executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, and Jim Hackett, its president and CEO, penned a blog post that said, “We support increasing clean-car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback. We want one set of standards nationally, along with additional flexibility to help us provide more affordable options for our customers.

“In addition, at Ford, we believe we must deliver on CO2 reductions consistent with the Paris Climate Accord. We already have charted a course for our future that includes investing $11 billion to put 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicle models on the road by 2022 as well as responsible development of the self-driving car.”

One suspects that President Trump doesn’t really care one way or another about the actual issue of emissions. Instead, he sees it as political theater that will benefit his standing with his base, because, in attacking emissions, he also gets to attack the biggest, bluest state of all: California.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is allowed to set its own emissions standards and has been doing so for many years. Thirteen other states, including New York and Pennsylvania have adopted those standards. Officials from the Trump Administration had been talking with members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in an attempt to come up with some sort of compromise.

That discussion ended on February 21 when the White House issued this statement: “Despite the administration’s best efforts to reach a common-sense solution, it is time to acknowledge that CARB has failed to put forward a productive alternative” to the standards the Trump Administration is proposing. The administration said it was ending the talks and would issue new rules in a few months that would roll back the standards, while ending California’s ability to adopt standards more strict than those set federally.

That prompted a release from Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a member of the U.S. Environment and Public Works Committee. “This administration’s negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been superficial and scant at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst. While I am deeply disappointed by today’s confirmation by the administration that these negotiations are over, it’s difficult for me to understand how that is the case if discussions never seriously began in the first place.”

An analysis of the proposed Trump Administration rollback by M.J. Bradley & Associates, LLC

(www.bit.ly/cleancarrollback) would essentially freeze emissions standards in 2020, and not increase them at all in the following years. “This analysis indicates that rolling back the current U.S. climate pollution and fuel economy standards in this way will cost the average American family as much as $500 per year after 2025. Families in every state stand to lose money due to higher annual gasoline costs.”

The question of whether California may continue to adopt emission standards more strict than federal ones will undoubtedly end up in the courts. If the Trump Administration wins, we will all have to live with dirtier air.


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