By on October 25, 2018

California and 18 other states plan to formally vent their grievances over the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel economy standards at 2020 levels on Friday. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have called for public comments on the matter, with the deadline taking place at the end of this week. Apparently, California wants its voice to be the last one heard.

“They are grossly derelict in not trying to move the dial forward in cleaning the air and the environment,” California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “The situation continues to get worse and requires action now, and not for us to stand pat.”  (Read More…)

By on October 5, 2018

California is considering a formal, public counter-proposal to the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the existing fuel economy requirements for passenger vehicles. Gearing up for the launch, the state has requested that automakers present detailed information on their future products and explain why they’re seeking relief from fueling mandates they previously agreed to adhere to.

“They’ve never submitted to us any information that would back up those claims in any detail to help us craft a solution,” Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, (CARB), said in a Thursday interview with Bloomberg(Read More…)

By on August 7, 2018

fairfax line assembly factory general motors, Image: General Motors

President Donald Trump was obsessed with U.S. employment long before being sworn in as Commander-in-chief. In fact, the jobs rhetoric played a major role in swaying traditionally democratic voters in states like Michigan. The promise of manufacturing positions, the kind of work American used to be known for, was too tempting for some living in the Rust Belt to ignore.

“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” he told Detroit’s auto workers in March 2017, referencing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy. “We’re going to help the companies, and they’re going to help you.”

Those fuel economy rollbacks are now fast approaching, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency released their official proposal last week. But will it truly help bolster employment rates in the United States? The answer depends largely upon who you ask. (Read More…)

By on August 3, 2018

The Trump administration’s ongoing endeavor to replace existing fuel economy mandates with something easier on automakers is a hot topic, but the issue has more angles than a rhombicosidodecahedron. One that took a backseat during much of our coverage is where the oil industry fits into all of this. We figured it was pretty obvious because, every time we heard the word “rollback,” our minds automatically added the cash register sound effect.

Car manufacturers aggressively lobbied for more lax corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards since Donald Trump took office. But so has the oil industry; it just wasn’t doing so quite as openly. So what exactly does the federal government’s fuel economy rollback mean for Big Oil? Don’t act as if you didn’t already know.

Cha-ching(Read More…)

By on July 25, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

Andrew Wheeler, the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the United States needs a single standard for fuel efficiency for cars and trucks on Tuesday. It’s a sentiment shared by Mary Nichols, head of California Air Resources Board, but it’s likely to put the two at odds. Wheeler said the pair shared that singular goal based off a meeting held last week, but California isn’t seeking the same benchmarks as the current administration.

The state objects to the EPA’s plan to weaken Obama-era efficiency targets, and is currently in the midst of a political and legal battle with the agency. However, Wheeler confirmed that, under his watch, the group would continue seeking a “50-state solution.”  (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who spearheaded the Trump administration’s initiative to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards for light vehicles, has resigned. Even after assuming the position, Pruitt remained a tough sell as head of the EPA. His stance on climate change was uncharacteristic of any modern-day environmentalist and he seemed utterly bent on corporate deregulation to bolster profits and stimulate the economy.

Then came a flurry of scandals stemming from frivolous spending habits, improper use of authority, and possible business ties that would inhibit his ability to act in an unbiased manner. Numerous federal investigations were launched into these matters.

While a number of the impropriety claims came from political opponents actively hunting for gaps in his armor, let’s face it, Pruitt hasn’t been making things particularly difficult for them.  (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

Despite the growing animosity, both California and the Trump administration are still willing to discuss the country’s changing emission regulations. The state is currently heading a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming it “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in overturning the previous administration’s decision to maintain Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

While the proposals issued by the current administration will eventually see those targets rolled back, a final decision has not been made. The White House claims it wants to maintain an open dialogue with the Golden State, hoping to reach an agreeable solution, but the California Air Resources Board has argued it doesn’t seem to be acting on those assertions. Meanwhile, EPA head Scott Pruitt maintains that the state will not dictate federal fueling rules as automakers beg the government to do everything in its power to ensure a singular national mandate.

It’s an ugly situation, which makes news of a new round of meetings all the more surprising.  (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

The Trump administration has enacted phase two of its plan to revise Obama-era rules designed to cut pollution from vehicle emissions. In a proposal sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its intention to rescind the California waiver that separates it from the federal standards the state uses to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

Since allowing California to set its own emission standards would effective split the country’s auto market, the EPA has been clear that its ideal solution would be to cut a deal with the Golden State. Agency head Scott Pruitt previously said California “shouldn’t and can’t dictate [fueling regulations] to the rest of the country,” but acted in a manner that suggested a compromised could be reached.

This was followed by a lawsuit filed by 17 U.S. states, along with the California governor’s office, California attorney general, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), alleging that the EPA had “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in its decision to roll back the previous administration’s decision. While the odds are good that the Trump administration wasn’t ever interested in bending to California’s more stringent pollution policies, this was likely the point of no return — squashing any hope for meaningful negotiations. (Read More…)

By on May 29, 2018

Several science advisers for the Environmental Protection Agency claim the agency has ignored its own research in order to rationalize the push to relax corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) targets.

A group within the Science Advisory Board has recommended reviewing the EPA’s justifications for the intended rollbacks, including the agency’s conclusion that Obama-era auto efficiency requirements must be changed because they are too stringent. It’s hoping to take the agency to task and force it to show evidence that upholds is proposal.

While EPA head Scott Pruitt sides with the President and automotive industry by indicating the current standards are too strict, very little scientific research has been cited to support the claim. In fact, the revision seems to hinge mainly on the belief that automakers might not be able to adhere to the standards approved by the Obama administration in its final days. “Obama’s EPA cut the midterm evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high,” Pruitt said in April.  (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2018

Despite pressuring Donald Trump to lower corporate fuel economy mandates since practically day one of his presidency, automakers are now urging caution. The U.S. Transportation Department has drafted a proposal that would freeze vehicle requirements at 2020 levels through 2026, the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead administrator made a public case for rolling back mileage targets, and the White House seems ready to help car companies lower the bar.

Automakers seem to have won, so why the change of heart? (Read More…)

By on May 11, 2018

sergio-marchionne

Ten automotive executives met with President Donald Trump this week, hoping to find ways to increase domestic production and mitigate the coming changes to corporate fuel economy regulations. The meeting, held in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, included General Motors’ Mary Barra, Ford’s Jim Hackett and Fiat Chrysler’s Sergio Marchionne. While a large portion of the event was spent discussing the administration’s attempt to roll back established fuel economy rules, Trump was focused on returning manufacturing jobs to the United States.

The president noted that FCA’s decision to spend $1 billion in order to expand truck assembly in Michigan made Marchionne more appealing than his contemporaries. “Right now, he is my favorite person in the room,” Trump said.  (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2018

America’s gas war is heating after 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to redefine U.S. vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency rules through 2025.

In April, EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the existing standards for model year 2022 to 2025 vehicles should be revised. The suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, alleges the EPA acted unpredictably, failed to follow its own regulations, and was in direct violation of the Clean Air Act. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claimed the “Trump administration conducted a phony study” to justify altering emission rules to appease automakers and the oil industry.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui of California and Paul Tonko of New York are demanding the EPA hand over all documents related to the study that resulted in the proposed changes to fuel economy standards.  (Read More…)

By on April 27, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt spent the majority of his Thursday being raked over the coals by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee before a second (even uglier) exchange with the House Appropriations subcommittee. The majority of the time was spent addressing concerns surrounding Pruitt’s expenditures — things like unnecessary first-class travel, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, and his 24-hour security team. There were also discussions about alleged death threats against Pruitt and EPA staff, his overall conduct, and even a little bit on environmental policy.

Those discussions, however, saw some subcommittee members accuse Pruitt of championing the profits of oil companies and automakers over the wellbeing of the planet. The EPA head spent the duration of Thursday defending his actions, including planned regulatory rollbacks on fuel economy. He also supported the automotive industry’s proposal to abolish 87 octane and replace it with 95.

As ugly as the day was for Pruitt, Republicans occasionally hopped on the mic to gently support him. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said, “I think the greatest sin you’ve done is, you’ve actually done what President Trump ran on.” (Read More…)

By on April 23, 2018

During the Trump administration’s year-long quest to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets, it attempted to give automakers in violation of the current standards a break by delaying the scheduled increase of penalties. The logic here is that the federal government is reassessing the Obama era standards, so it lumped in the new fines that were supposed to go into effect last July.

Those penalties represent an increase of $8.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon a new car consumes above the minimum fuel standard. But with the new targets in quasi limbo, the updated fines were not being applied.

On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled the Department of Transportation cannot do that. Since the old rules are technically still in effect, the court ruled that automakers are still subject to the fine.  (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2018

Now that the Environmental Protection Agency has officially confirmed its intent to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the opposition has kicked things into high gear, mobilizing for the coming battle.

In one corner you have the White House and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seeking lowered emission mandates. They claim the Obama administration created unfeasible fueling regulations, noting that the public regularly opts for less-efficient trucks and SUVs and largely ignores the purchase of electric vehicles. In the other corner you have a handful of Senate Democrats, environmental groups, and a bunch of blue states led by California lawmakers. They all say the preexisting rules are not only feasible, but essential for the good of the nation.

If you’re wondering which side of the highly partisan issue is correct, we’d argue it has almost everything to do with your point of view. Both sides can make a fairly strong case, and will do just that as the battle heats up. Fortunately, this may not end up being a legitimate civil war — if the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is to be believed.  (Read More…)

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