The rest of the world is driving towards new technologies, but U.S. state governments are rolling back EV incentives and on March 15, Donald Trump took the U.S. a further step away from reducing transportation emissions. Following pressure from U.S. auto companies, and in the name of creating American jobs and reviving American manufacturing, the White House announced that the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will re-open the evaluation of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards for light-duty vehicles manufactured in 2022- 2025 . Never mind that the EPA, in the waning days of the Obama presidency in January 2017, had already issued its official Determination to leave the standards in place, stating that they “are projected to reduce oil consumption by 50 billion gallons and to save U.S. consumers nearly $92 billion in fuel cost over the lifetime of MY2022-2025 vehicles”, with minimal employment impacts. The New York Times compiles some of the U.S. reaction to the announcement, quoting Harvard’s Robert Stavins, who states that rolling back the Obama-level regulations would make it impossible for the United States to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement. A sample of U.S. concerns appear in: “Trump Fuel economy rollback would kill jobs and cost each car-buyer $1650 per year “ by Joe Romm in Think Progress ; DeSmog Blog “Trump Takes Aim at Fuel Efficiency Requirements, Prompting Concern US Automakers Will Lag on Innovation” ; and the Detroit Free Press, reporting on a lead-up Trump speech in Ypsilanti, Michigan , “Trump visit puts UAW politics in crosshairs” http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/2017/03/14/trump-visit-puts-uaw-politics-crosshairs/99165906/ (March 14). The Detroit Free Press states that autoworkers were bused in to the Trump event by their employers, with Fiat Chrysler and General Motors offering their workers a day’s pay as well. No immediate reaction to the announcement came from the United Autoworkers union, although the DFP article states: “UAW President Dennis Williams has repeatedly said he disagrees with Trump on health care, immigration, the environment and most other major issues. But Williams supports Trump’s desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) …..”
In Canada, where Unifor represents autoworkers, president Jerry Dias spoke out in “ Auto workers union takes aim at Trump’s examination of fuel standards ” in the Globe and Mail (March 16), and in a CTV News report . He states that “ he would fight any attempt to roll back environmentally friendly regulations in the auto industry following Trump’s announcement”. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change was in Washington on March 15th, meeting with EPA head Scott Pruitt, but her reaction was guarded and diplomatic, as reported in “As Trump eyes reprieve for gas guzzlers, Canada looks to China ” in the National Observer and in “Trump targets fuel-efficiency standards” in the Globe and Mail (March 16). Traditionally, Canadian fuel emissions standards have been harmonized with the U.S. , as a result of the strongly integrated auto industry. For example, at the end of February, Canada released its proposed regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, and according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, Canada continued to follow the U.S. model. Similarly, Ontario announced a Memorandum of Understanding on auto manufacturing with the state of Michigan on March 13, pledging cooperation on regulatory standards as well as technology and supply chain management.
Harmonization will be more difficult after Trump’s announcement on March 15, just as Canada and Ontario are reviewing their own revisions to fuel emissions regulation . Ontario reacted to the Trump announcement with a pledge to continue to cooperate with California and Quebec in the Western Climate Initiative – read “Ontario plans to team up with California against Trump on climate change” in the National Observer (March 16). California won the right to set its own fuel emission standards in the 1970’s, and today, fifteen other states voluntarily follow California’s tougher standards, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and the New York metropolitan area – translating into more than 40% of the U.S. population. “The Coming Clean-Air war between Trump and California” in The Atlantic surveys this latest conflict between California and the Trump administration . A press release from Governor Gerry Brown called the fuel standards announcement “a cynical ploy” that puts politics ahead of science, and pledged that California will fight it in court.