U.S. automakers have always been reluctant partners in the nation’s efforts to reduce air pollution and improve fuel efficiency. There have been struggles for decades between the carmakers and the government in setting Corporate Average Fuel Economy (or CAFÉ) standards. During the Obama administration, some of the most demanding fuel economy and emissions standards were mandated.
However, within days of the 2016 presidential election, the auto industry went to work trying to dismantle those regulations and the process is well underway. Although the industry always claims to want steady progress on fuel economy and emissions, they fight tooth and nail against having to actually do it.
Much of the problem is that despite the health and safety benefits of greener cars, the public mostly focuses on other things. When gasoline is cheaper or at least when people get used to higher prices, they want larger and faster cars and trucks with all sorts of fancy features. Fuel economy and low emissions are low on the list.
The main force pushing the auto industry in the right direction has been and continues to be California. That state accounts for 13% of the country’s automobiles and it has been committed to slashing emissions and electrifying vehicles for a long time. As a result, Detroit has been forced to make vehicles that meet California’s stricter pollution standards.
The Trump administration is now trying to eliminate California’s authority to set greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, California along with 16 other states is suing the Trump administration over its decision to weaken fuel standards. There is a battle underway for greener cars and cleaner air.
Photo, posted March 12, 2018, courtesy of Truck Hardware via Flickr.