Opinion: Foolish president! Carmakers are smart to ignore Trump’s auto emissions rollback

Clean car standards
More carmakers are considering abandoning the Trump administration’s rollback of fuel economy standards.
(Los Angeles Times)

It looks like more carmakers are going to side with California in the President Trump versus the Golden State standoff over clean-car standards. That’s good news for anyone who cares about breathing and not baking the planet.

Last month, four of the world’s largest automakers — Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW — announced they will, in effect, ignore the Trump administration’s plan to relax fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. Instead, they reached a deal with California to voluntarily make their vehicles more fuel efficient.

The New York Times reported this week that Mercedes-Benz is preparing to join the California deal. Another unnamed auto manufacturing power is also planning to reject the Trump rollback and “stick to the current, stricter federal emissions standards for at least the next four years,” according to The Times.

Neither company has announced that they are indeed bucking the Trump plan. But the president certainly thinks they’re going to, if his tweet Wednesday morning is any indication.


The carmakers are foolish? While Trump is encouraging companies to keep pumping out gas guzzlers, many of the world’s leading economies are demanding innovative clean-car technology. China, the world’s largest auto market, plans to ban the sale of new vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel in the coming decades. France, Britain, Norway and India have also pledged to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles. Clean cars are the future and Trump is clinging to a fossil-fuel past.

As for the president’s other assertions, they are just wrong.

Consumer Reports, the nonprofit consumer advocacy group, analyzed the Trump administration’s proposal and found the fuel economy rollback would cost consumers an average of $3,300 per vehicle in purchase price and gasoline usage. Academics have already debunked the idea that dirtier cars are somehow safer.

And the assertion that rolling back fuel economy standards will have “very little impact on the environment” is a dangerous lie.

The world is already feeling the effects of global warming in more extreme weather events, including prolonged droughts, endless wildfire seasons and unprecedented heat waves as well as severe hurricanes and floods. Cars and trucks are the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States cannot address climate change in a meaningful way without cleaner cars.

Nor can Southern California and other smoggy regions across the country clean up their dirty air without reducing vehicle emissions through the development of more zero and near-zero emission cars. The clean-car standard is one of the federal government’s most important environmental and public health policies. There’s nothing foolish about automakers rejecting the Trump rollback.