American automakers are trapped between the regulatory-crushing Godzilla that is President Donald Trump and the green-energy monsters that pervade California’s state political system.

The nation’s car industry is unsure whether to promote traditional, fossil-fuel using vehicles (which are becoming exceptionally cost efficient to run in the era of fracking), or bend to excessive political pressure and force more electric cars onto the market.

The signals to automakers couldn’t conflict more: California, with the nation’s largest auto market, is stepping up pressure to stay on track with the state’s ambitious climate goals. The Trump administration is moving to free the companies of such obligations and even has threatened to strip California of its power to impose existing requirements within its borders.

At stake: Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to get 5 million electric vehicles onto California’s roads by 2030, as well as the kinds of cars that drivers nationwide will be able to buy over the next decade.

Carmakers are left to gamble on how aggressively to follow California’s blueprint as the Trump administration tries to undermine it.

A significant legal battle is brewing, as Trump’s administration seems poised to challenge the authority of one of the most aggressive regulating bodies in the nation: The California Air Resources Board.

Any attempt to prevent California from setting its own clean air transportation standards would provoke “a war with many states lining up on California’s side,” Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said Friday.

…CARB was created in the 1960s under Gov. Ronald Reagan. In 1967, federal law specifically allowed smog-choked California to set stricter standards.

Since then, automakers modified the cars they sold in California to meet the rules, but standards were effectively unified by the Obama administration as part of the federal government’s auto industry rescue during the Great Recession.

The Trump administration is considering giving automakers permission to backtrack on their commitments to achieve certain improvements in gasoline mileage and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Manufacturers now argue the requirements are too inflexible and technologically too hard to meet.

The new federal emission rules are slated to be released in April, and new economy rules will be issued March 30. Business analysts anticipate that this particular set of Obama-era requirements join many others already dumped in the trash-bin of history.

But if Trump softens the federal rules, California will have to decide whether to keep its stricter regulations unchanged. Doing so would force auto manufacturers to deal with a patchwork of regulation. Bill Wehrum, the assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said the Trump administration is working closely with California to avoid that.

Nichols said she hasn’t yet seen anything concrete from the Trump administration about its plans. She added that she’s “not yet ready to release our battle plan” for if the federal government does try to revoke California’s special authority.

“The EPA would have to take unprecedented legal action to try to revoke that waiver,” Nichols said in the on-stage interview at BNEF’s summit. “Our best legal judgment is that that can’t be done.”

I have chronicled the toxic effects of CARB on the state’s businesses in my blog, Temple of Mut:

Given the fact that President Trump likely views California’s #Resistance movement as a personal challenge, and EPA head Scott Pruitt is no fan of either incompetence or over-regulation, I wouldn’t be too sure the California waiver isn’t on the chopping block. This is especially true as Trump prefers honest business people over pompous bureaucrats.

#Resistance vs #Counter-resistance: Who will win?


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