Donald Trump: After California's automobile greenhouse regulation

The current administration has decided to go after an Obama-led initiative aimed to tackle automobile greenhouse gas emissions.

The report by Bloomberg states that the rollback of the targets set by the Obama administration will also target California more specifically: according to Bloomberg's sources, California's authority to regulate on its own emission targets will be revoked. Under the Clean Air Act, the state of California has been granted a waiver which allows it to not only set carbon emissions from tailpipes, but also require automakers to sell electric vehicles at specific numbers. This waiver is the target of the Trump administration, reports Bloomberg. 

On top of depriving California of its right to set its own emission targets, the proposal, which is expected to be released within the week, will indefinitely freeze the fuel economy requirements to the 2020 standard - these correspond to a fleet average of 35mpg for automakers. According to Obama's ambitious plan, the 35mpg figure would rise to 50mpg by 2025, something that the current administration is clearly trying to avoid. 

As Jalopnik points out, the potential attempt to undo California's prerogative will likely trigger a court battle. Indeed, any lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency can take years to be decided. A state of limbo, in which California enforces different standards than the rest of the US will likely see manufacturers choose between three unattractive options: producing two sets of vehicles to match the respective requirements of California and the US, adhere to the stricter standard, which means they will not benefit from the administration's proposal, or stop selling vehicles in California altogether, which is highly unlikely, given that the state is the nation's biggest market. 

As Pail Cort, attorney for Earthjustice told Bloomberg, "the law is very clear about California’s authority to set these standards, and for the EPA to try to narrow it now means they have an uphill battle.” Earthjustice is a non-profit environmental law organisation, whose latest lawsuit against the Trump administration was filed a week ago. 

The decision to rollback the Obama-era regulation does not come as a surprise, given the political climate; it does raise some questions though. The most important question is why. According to Bloomberg, the federal agencies are expected to claim that the proposal will allow drivers to replace their decrepit cars at lower costs than it would have been the case under Obama's stricter emissions standards. Of course, no account of potential increase in purchase price vs lower gasoline consumption has so far been provided by any agency. Given that the validity of the reason provided is debatable (to say the least), it would be interesting to hypothesise on the real reasons behind this choice: a rollback would indirectly punish progressive automakers that are moving towards an all-electric future - undoubtedly, the most acclaimed EV manufacturer, Tesla, is a through-and-through American company, and Michigan-based Ford has promised to add 40 electrified vehicles to its fleet by 2022.  

Andrew Kyprianides