California Vows to Work Toward National Emissions Standard (While Voting to Keep Its Own)

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
california vows to work toward national emissions standard while voting to keep its

California regulators voted on Friday to mandate an adherence to Obama-era federal vehicle emissions standards for cars sold in the state, regardless of Trump administration efforts to weaken the standards. It’s the latest salvo in a war between the Golden State and the current administration, which aims to strip California of its ability to self regulate its automotive emission rules and roll back the corporate average fuel economy for the entire country.

However, the Trump team doesn’t appear to be completely ignoring the environment. In a 500-page environmental impact statement from the NHTSA on the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026, numerous inclusions acknowledge the existence of climate change. But the takeaway from the report is that the NHTSA doesn’t seem to feel that passenger vehicles will make much of a difference.

Theorizing the environmental impact of emissions standards through 2100, the paper claims warmer temperatures and higher sea levels will be an issue we’re forced to contend with regardless of whether or not the economy rollbacks take place. Basically, we’re in for a global catastrophe and the NHTSA doesn’t see any way to stop it. The report might as well say, “You’ve played yourselves. We’re all doomed, V8s for everyone,” followed by a series of graphs showing how none of the proposed emissions strategies would be enough to save us from drowning in hot sea water by the end of the century.

While it’s safe to say automobiles play a significant role in polluting the atmosphere, they’re a relatively small fry when compared with international shipping, energy production, and manufacturing. Simply using less energy in the home and buying fewer mass-produced goods that are shipped in from other countries would likely have a greater environmental impact than purchasing a slightly more economical automobile.

Cars still play a role, however, and California is dead set on advancing its own agenda to keep the old emission standards while encouraging its populace to adopt more electric vehicles — a tactic embraced by Europe and China.

According to Reuters, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) affirmed a provision in its greenhouse gas vehicle regulation during its monthly meeting that says only cars meeting the current federal standards for model years 2017 through 2025 comply with the state’s standards and can legally be sold there. However, the Trump administration proposed halting federal fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026 earlier this year. In the proposal, the administration claimed stricter emissions standards make vehicles more expensive, less safe, and are in direct opposition to consumer preferences.

A dozen states and the District of Columbia now follow California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles. But, unlike California, they lack the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s waiver to set their own guidelines (to better cope with the smog that’s plagued the region for years). California is also one of 18 states that filed a lawsuit in May against the the EPA’s determination that existing fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for the model years 2022 to 2025 should be revised.

Officially, the Golden State is working with federal regulators to establish a national standard. But, unofficially, it appears to be doing everything it can to maintain its autonomy. In a statement, CARB Chair Mary Nichols said the state would “continue to work to keep a single national program,” but noted that Friday’s vote “ensures that California and 12 other states will not fall victim to the Trump administration’s rollback of vehicle standards should its proposal be finalized.”

Automakers are desperate for a single national standard, as servicing two markets within a single country would prove exceedingly complicated. Assuming California and allied states get their way, manufacturers will likely tailor product lines to meet those standards to a large degree — as there’s no penalty for average economy that exceeds the proposed national standard.

Join the conversation
2 of 20 comments
  • DavidC99 DavidC99 on Oct 02, 2018

    This article, along with most others, conflates fuel economy, pollutants harmful to human health, and so-called greehouse gases, all under the icky-sounding term, "emissions." The CAFE law was passed in the early 1970's as a knee-jerk reaction to the Oil Crisis, it had nothing to do with emissions. The regulation of particles and gases that are directly harmful to humans - real pollution - has been very effective. Although, I believe we have passed the cost-benefit balance point in that area. Some people are using the CAFE law as a club to limit greenhouse gases, in particular, CO2. Yes, they are emissions but they are in no sense pollutants. Their contribution to "climate change" is not nearly as certain as its supporters claim. I believe the CAFE law should be repealed entirely - the federal government has no business regulating the efficiency of vehicles, appliances, or light bulbs, among other things. Producers will respond to consumer demand for efficiency as needed. Existing CAFE rules have resulted in cars that, while getting better mileage, are more expensive to buy, insure, maintain, and repair due to the complex technology needed to meet the law.

  • THX1136 THX1136 on Oct 02, 2018

    Where is the true objective reasoning in the argument as presented?

  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.
  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.