As California continues to deal with vehicle emissions and its impacts, the Trump administration attacks its ability to set strong vehicle standards. Flickr: photos_mweber

Trump Administration Just Can’t Stop Lying About Vehicle Standards

, senior vehicles analyst | September 19, 2019, 5:25 pm EDT
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Today, Secretary Elaine Chao (Department of Transportation) and Administrator Andrew Wheeler (EPA) officially released their attack on California’s Advanced Clean Car standards, which reduce global warming emissions and tailpipe pollution from new cars and require manufacturers to sell a minimum number of electric vehicles in the state. 13 other states and the District of Columbia have signed on to this program, but the Trump administration is now revoking California’s waiver to administer this program.

This action is disastrous on many levels, but one thing that struck me during their announcement today was the blatant willingness to lie the administration has shown with regards to this program. While we’ve heard many of these outright falsehoods before, it’s worth taking a look at some of the nonsense they are trying to sell the American people.

Artist’s rendering of Administrator Andrew Wheeler at today’s press conference. (No one was harmed, although some pants may have caught aflame.)

Andrew Wheeler pulls an EV switcheroo

Much of the administration’s false claims about the current standards rely upon a lie about the technology needed to meet them. We’ve already pointed out that plug-in electrification isn’t necessary to meet these standards (though it certainly is a good thing), and we’ve got a new blog series showing exactly what tomorrow’s gas-powered vehicles could look like under strong standards, but Andrew Wheeler doubled down on this, claiming that 1) analysis shows that manufacturers would need up to 50 percent electrification to meet the 2025 standards and that 2) these vehicles cost $12,000 more and people don’t want them. This is absolutely FALSE and was designed to deceive the American public.

The “electric vehicles” Andrew Wheeler describes are vehicles deploying mild hybridization like the Ram 1500 pick-up and Jeep Wrangler, which boast new “eTorque” systems. With more than half a million of those vehicles already sold this year, it’s hard to argue that consumers don’t want them. And last I checked, Fiat-Chrysler didn’t suddenly jack up the price of these vehicles by $12,000 when they added this mild hybrid system.

What Andrew Wheeler is trying to do here is use the public’s lack of familiarity with new technology like plug-in electrification to lie his butt off about the difficulty in meeting the standards they’re working to undo…as he’s already done previously. These standards are strong, achievable, and cost-effective…and they already form the basis of One National Program.

The administration’s proposal has severe consequences for climate change

Another canard Andrew Wheeler pulled out today was the nonsense that this will have a minimal impact on climate change. This, of course, fails to acknowledge that this rule is part of a bigger picture—delaying action for five years pushes us off the trajectory on which we need to be and halts investment in and deployment of technologies that we desperately need in order to address climate change. It also fails to acknowledge the global nature of the automotive industry today, and the way in which the United States, second in new vehicle sales only to China, can help either push or hinder the global marketplace’s adoption of more efficient vehicles.

Incredibly, the administration walked out as one of their spokespersons for this rule Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California, who then proceeded to talk about the impact of wildfires in his district, absolutely failing to make the connection between wildfires and climate change. A surefire way to make things worse for his district is limiting consumer choice of more efficient cars, trucks, and SUVs and increasing fossil fuel use, both of which this administration’s action today will accomplish.

California is not in this fight alone

One of the most annoying things this administration continues to try to do is pretend like California is somehow usurping federal control, when this is patently false. This fails to acknowledge both the states who, like California, are pushing for stronger standards to protect their citizens, and the power granted these states by Congress, a right which the Trump administration cannot just will away.

California’s own efforts to reduce emissions from passenger vehicles predates federal action, so in writing the Clean Air Act Congress wisely gave California the go-ahead to continue to fashion its own emissions rules under Section 209, provided these rules are at least as stringent as the federal standards. That continues to remain true, and in Massachusetts v. EPA the Supreme Court even specifically noted how this right extends to global warming emissions.

Congress further gave states the right to adopt California’s standards, under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act, and 13 states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s strong global warming emissions regulations. These states recognized the adverse impacts that global warming emissions holds for their communities and adopted the standards as a way to try to address this tremendous issue.

The Trump administration cannot magically sign away authority explicitly granted by Congress to the states to protect their citizens.

This action is about as strong as the paper it was printed upon

The thing I thought the most while the administration was putting forth this proposal was this: just because you say the same thing repeatedly, does not make it true. It seems that Andrew Wheeler has not yet learned this lesson, and apparently it is going to take legal action to compel this administration to do the right thing.

But as I said before: California is not in this fight alone. UCS, states, and other organizations will be lining up with California to protect the legal authority granted to it by Congress, authority which protects its citizens, increases consumer choice, and reduces fossil fuel use. And if this stack of lies is the best this administration can come up with, this is a fight we can no doubt win.

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