Gas War: Justice Department Drops Antitrust Probe Against Automakers Siding With California

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
gas war justice department drops antitrust probe against automakers siding with

The United States Department of Justice has ended its investigation into Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW over a presumed antitrust violation stemming from a deal they made with California to adhere to regional emission rules. Their agreement technically circumvents the current administration’s plan to freeze national emissions and fuel economy standards — established while President Obama was still in office — at 2021 levels through 2026. Under the California deal, the automakers promised to comply with pollution and gas mileage requirements that are more stringent than the federal standards suggested in the rollback proposal.

But the probe also looked like retaliation from the Trump administration against automakers publicly siding with the state causing the most trouble in the gas war. Under the deal, the automakers promised to comply with pollution and economy requirements that are tougher than proposed federal standards. Despite the corporate promise being as empty as an Oscar speech, it was still an affront to the current administration’s efforts to tamp down lofty efficiency targets put in place just days before it came into power.

While the Justice Department hasn’t explicitly said why it closed the investigation, it’s presumed that it simply didn’t find anything that it felt violated antitrust laws. California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday that he wasn’t surprised by the decision, stating that the “trumped-up charges were always a sham, a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to prevent more automakers from joining California and agreeing to stronger emissions standards.”

Frankly, we don’t even think the two sides are having the same argument anymore.

California has focused on combating climate change and pushing new technologies while the Trump administration said it’s committed to maintaining jobs, lowering the cost of automobiles via deregulation, and providing consumers with choice. They’ve both been jerks about getting their own way, too. However, the validity of their respective arguments likely hinges upon your own personal perspective.

California offered tons of pushback against the whole rollback thing, going to great lengths to ensure its continued self-regulation while getting as many other states to adhere to its targets as possible. In September, the state’s authority to set auto mileage standards was revoked. The issue will likely be tied up in federal courts for years, as the Golden State isn’t going to go down without a struggle — and has been extremely litigious throughout.

Since the rollback proposal still has not been finalized, it’s not clear how drastic it will ultimately be. The Environmental Protection Agency previously suggested halting existing efficiency mandates in 2021 (with previous drafts issuing the freeze a year earlier), with nothing set in stone. The president said in December to expect the final draft within the next 12 months, noting that he anticipated continued legal problems from California.

Now that seems like a very safe assumption.

[Image: CC7/Shutterstock]

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  • Jkross22 Gavin Newsom may not be aware of the fiscal problems of the state he leads, as his focus is on criticizing other states. It's actually better that he has someone shining a laser light on a map so he can stop making things worse here. Just lace his hair gel with some catnip and have him hit himself trying to get to it. Things in LA are getting so bad that even the leftists and progressives are showing up to LA city council meetings with mirrors to protest, well, everything - gas prices, the homeless pandemic, the house pricing pandemic, the crime pandemic. It shocked the City Council that their subjects dare attempt to ask for accountability. The Council president insisted that people with mirrors be escorted out, lest the council be reminded of their incompetence and hubris. That being said, there is no connection being made between the way LA subjects vote and the results it yields. Never underestimate the stupidity of the typical CA voter. The state is a basketcase but voters keep electing the same retreads every time.
  • ScarecrowRepair Too much for too little, unless you treat it strictly as a toy.
  • DedBull Mk2 Jettas are getting harder to find, especially ones that haven't been modified within an inch of their life. I grew up in an 85 GLI, and would love to have one in as close to stock configuration as I could get. This car isn't that starting point, especially sitting 3-4 years in the NY dirt. It's a parts car at best, but there might still be money in it even at that price, if you are willing to take it down to absolutely nothing left.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I bet it has some electrical gremlins as well. Nonetheless it might make an interesting El Camino pickup truck conversation with one of those kits.
  • GrumpyOldMan "A manual transmission is offered, as is a single-clutch auto. "What is a single clutch auto?