Questions about automakers’ intent intensify

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, May 14, 2018

After a White House discussion with President Trump on fuel economy standards today, automakers expressed appreciation for “the President’s openness to a discussion with California on an expedited basis.”

Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and John Bozzella, CEO of Global Automakers, issued the statement saying the administration “will soon issue a range of proposals for future fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations.”

Meanwhile, 11 House Democrats pressed automakers to clarify their positions on fuel efficiency rules.

Their letters — sent to the U.S. subsidiaries of BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen — are the latest tactic by environmental advocates to needle manufacturers into supporting the Obama-era targets.

“It is our hope that, if you are advocating for a drastic rollback of existing policy, you will be honest with the American public about your intentions as well as the future financial and public health risks that such advocacy entails,” they wrote.

Automakers urged Trump to take a more moderate approach to weakening the standards today, arguing for more flexibilities in the rules rather than an all-out rollback. They say they want to continue to improve fuel economy every year and want to avoid a war with California.

Environmental and public health advocates have been pressing car manufacturers for a more detailed proposal. They call the flexibilities automakers are asking for loopholes that could erase just as much of the emission and fuel economy benefits as the Trump administration’s proposed freeze.

The letter was led by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), a former member of the California Air Resources Board, which has vowed to stick with the Obama-level requirements for vehicle exhaust and sue the Trump administration if it goes through with a rollback. He was joined by Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

Yesterday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent similar letters to major automakers asking them to “speak out against the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back these standards and stand by their agreements made in 2011.”

Ford shareholders also asked the company to clarify its intent yesterday. A group of them plan to ask GM the same at its next shareholder meeting.